Messy yes, but glorious?

I never thought of Elizabeth Gilbert as an inspirational speaker. Yes, I read her book “Eat, Pray, Love” and liked it. And yes, I also watched the movie and thought it was a fine thing to enjoy with a cup of tea and then get on with my life. But the whole hype about her, how she had become famous and all that had somehow bypassed me. Until this morning. When one of things she said hit straight home with me.

Embrace the glorious mess that you are.

I was watching inspirational videos on YouTube, TED talks mostly, eternally looking for the solution to my problem when I should probably just stop chasing it and wait for it to find me. That’s not how I’m wired, though. When I have a problem, I try to fix it. No faffing around. I just get the job done.

Not this time, though. I feel like I’m in the middle of a monumental life-changing transition, and for the first time in my life I feel utterly and seriously lost. In the last two years my life has kind of unraveled. The solid ground on which I thought it was built has given way to quicksand.

This doesn’t only feel hugely uncomfortable. It’s a truly disgusting, sickening feeling that spreads from my tight chest right through my gut, and deep into my arms and legs which feel like they are going to dissolve and fall off at any moment.

Weirdly, I had a similar feeling before, a few years back when a toe joint infection rescued me from a pretty-close-to-certain burnout. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that this same feeling is resurfacing now, albeit in a different way.

I am at crossroads in my professional life again. This time even more seriously so.

I have a very highly regarded, well-paid, totally safe job that others would die for. It was very tough to get into, and even harder to perform well in it. I’ve managed both. And I’m kind of proud of that, especially given that my family’s educational and professional background didn’t necessarily pinpoint in that direction. I’ve basically worked my butt off and got rewarded.

However, I’ve always, from the start, also had that nagging feeling that something was off, something just didn’t sit right with me. I never felt like I really belonged there, or that I fit in as much as others did.

For years I had been telling myself that this was probably just a side effect of me making my way into a career that was a little bit out of my comfort zone, given my background. I thought and hoped that I would grow into it, grow with it. And to a certain degree I did. I got positive feedback, got promoted, got more responsibilities. But the more I advanced in my job the stronger that feeling became. Which is counter-intuitive, because shouldn’t that have made me feel like I do belong there, do fit in?

Well, it didn’t.

What is even stranger is that this feeling has grown stronger the more I worked on my burnout triggers which, in turn, lead me to work on my relationship with myself and with my family. Because at the source of my professional success, as well as of my near-burnout, are the coping mechanisms I developed in childhood, perfectionism and resilience. I’ve written about both before.

What I have found is that the more I realized what was going on and the more I worked on changing my old patterns of behavior, the more my family shifted with me. It’s pretty amazing to see how my family has responded to my search for a more authentic me. Old roles that I have shed because they didn’t belong to me in the first place have been taken on by those family members where they belong. I can be way more myself in my family now than I ever could before. It’s truly liberating and exhilarating.

On the flip side of this I’m now faced with a bit of a mess at work. Because, as I now realize, I have chosen a job that might be way out of my family’s educational and professional comfort zone, but it was totally in the comfort zone of one of the roles I had previously assumed in my family. I had become a diplomat.

Now what?

I don’t want to be a diplomat anymore. I don’t want to solve other people’s crises, pacify other people’s wars, negotiate between opposing positions. I just want to find peace within myself now. I only want to resolve my own inner struggles. Overcome my own internal contradictions.

Coming back to Elizabeth Gilbert and her quote, I feel really messed-up at the moment. I find myself in a spot where I cannot stay anymore – it’s exhausting me, it’s perpetuating the very same thing that I want to leave behind – but I don’t know where to go either. Or how.

Maybe I’m totally wrong on this. Maybe it’s just my confused near-burnout me speaking. Maybe there is a way to be a diplomat professionally without being a diplomat privately. But deep, very deep down in my heart there is this voice silently, or rather not so silently anymore, begging me to leave. To set myself free. And to finally live my own true authentic life.

I am scared out of my depth about taking this step, because every coping mechanism, and my job is the perfect materialization of mine, serves a purpose: it provides us with a sense of security, safety and control of what is basically uncontrollable: life.

It’s one of the toughest and most terrifying challenges I have ever faced, I think. And I have faced quite a few. I don’t know where to start really. So I watch inspirational videos, hoping for a new straw to clutch onto. Something that gives me direction, or better even, a way out.

Then Elizabeth Gilbert’s “embrace the glorious mess that you are” hit home. It’s not a direction really, also not quite a way out. But at least it’s a little straw. If nothing else, it gives me a purpose privately while I’m still looking for one professionally: to treasure my mess for what it is, a marker of how far I have come on my journey of self-discovery. It does not feel glorious at all, on the contrary. But it just might be. Even if only from hindsight.

me

 

1:33 “Embrace the glorious mess that you are”

Struggle

49 thoughts on “Messy yes, but glorious?

  1. I like your article. I think you are on the right track if I can say that. Many never realize that something just doesn’t feel right let alone do anything about it, and you are. I have also been watching a lot of Elizabeth’s talks and TED talks and whatever I can find that is inspirational. I think it is healthy and good to get our minds on the right track and thinking positively. It’s nice to know others are experiencing and feeling the same things in this life sometimes we may feel we are the only ones. I think you are going to make it. We are only given to see the next step because that is all we can handle and all we need to know. My mantra is to do what you can, when you can, one step at a time.

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    1. Thank you, Brandon, this means a lot to me. I’m so lost for a solution, but at least I’m not lost for words. To be able to share this and to get the kind of feedback you give is truly helpful in this ugly foggy stage of my life. I really do appreciate you taking the time to read and comment in such a thoughtful way.

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  2. I just picked up her book now. I was the opposite. I found her fb posts and columns amazing. Clear. Inspiring. But mostly so damn true. Have you seen her fb post not this? Google Elizabeth Gilbert not this. It’s great.

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    1. I just checked out NOT THIS. Oh my goodness, this is so true. My body, heart and soul are totally in tune with this already, have been for a long time. But my brain is resisting big time. I love her finishing paragraph, even though it scares me witless. “If you keep ignoring the voices within you that say NOT THIS, just because you don’t know what to do, instead…you may end up stuck in NOT THIS forever. You don’t need to know where you are going to admit that where you are standing right now is wrong.”
      I’m very slowly starting to think that staying where I am now might actually be even scarier than leaving without a Plan B…

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      1. Uh, not sure that I’m ready yet. But I might be getting there. As Tina Pocha said in a blog post I just read, it doesn’t have to be a leap or a jump, it can also be a “careful descent . . . down a set of wide, shallow steps . . . with handrails on both sides”. Sounds more like me. 🙂

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  3. Now knowing which way to go is so scary, and finding your “true self” is hard. I think it is also an on-going process. Personally, I’m impressed that you managed to shed your familiar role in your family, and think that speaks well of your ability to be true to yourself in the future as well. Best wishes as you wrestle with these important decisions!

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  4. Thank you very much. I never looked at it this way… Maybe, hopefully, you’re right and the way I managed to shed my family role is a promising sign for my professional self, too. Thank you for your very warm wishes. Same to you!

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  5. Uhm, yeah, you’re probably right. For some reason I had to take this roundabout way to get to this point. Who knows why or how this might be a necessary step without which the next one could not be taken. Or maybe I wouldn’t be prepared for what is to come, or not as well. I try to trust that there is wisdom in it that I will discover later… Thanks for the reminder, yes, all in all, life is a messy but great place. 🙂

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  6. Aw, I have such a soft spot for career change!! It was probably the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I was a dentist for 10 years. It was the wrong career for me, but it was so hard to change for many of the same reasons you explain here. It’s hard to explain to people (or more yourself 😉 ) why you’re leaving such a highly respected, noble, safe career– it’s hard to leave something that you’ve used to define who you are for so long. It’s hard to figure out what to do next! I believe that the upside to the discomfort that you are experiencing is that the pain/discomfort/unease is what will drive you to change. If you are desperate enough, you will have no choice but to change. If you’re happy and comfortable, there’s no reason to change. The only thing that pushed me was my desperation. What drove me was this picture of myself: I didn’t want to wake up one day at 65 years old, sitting on the edge of my bed, exhausted and defeated, shaking my head in regret, mustering up enough strength to get ready for another (most likely miserable) day in my office; and wondering how my whole life passed me by and I’m still here. That’s a powerful image. You can do this! It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!!!

    Oh, and Elizabeth Gilbert… I remember reading eat pray love when I was so unhappy, and it really resonated with me. Maybe that book depends on how much you relate to her story at the time of reading it??

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  7. Oh yes, my degree of desperation is getting higher and higher by the day. I feel like some day the pain of staying will be stronger than the pain of leaving, or I’ll have a burnout, whatever comes first. I so do hope I will find the courage before either one thing happens… Thank you for your encouraging words!

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    1. That’s a great point– the pain of staying will be stronger than the pain of leaving! Wouldn’t it be great if we could be driven by having more happiness instead of less pain?? LOL. But, I guess that’s the way it is. 🙂

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  8. I am a big Elizabeth Gilbert fan. Every time I hear her speak or read her words (books, facebook etc.) I learn something new. She frequently says something that I really needed to hear… Best of luck on your journey! I’ve been there too (a few times).

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  9. I really enjoyed this post and having a look at Elizabeth Gilbert on film – a first for me. It sounds like you will work things out in time. Recognizing that change is needed is the first step. Good luck on your journey.

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  10. I was reading this, nodding my head and feeling the angst in your words. I feel as though I’m on a similar journey, maybe not so much in a professional sense but in a personal way. Finding myself again, finding my purpose after just hitting 50 and feeling at a cross roads in my life/job/family and identity. For me writing has become like therapy and I hope that for you, reading Elizabeth Gilbert and writing this post somehow helped. You’ll find your way, I have no doubt. Sending you warm wishes from down under. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, angst, that sums is up. The dark panicy kind of fear that comes from I don’t know where. I know what you mean about writing having become your therapy, though. I feel similar, it’s like an outlet of previously bottled-up emotions that are now pouring out. Warm greetings and wishes to down under. xo

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  11. I decided to come and check you out and now I understand why my poem resonated with you. I am amazed to find the parallels in your story with my own. I’ve had an amazing career that I wouldn’t trade for anything in terms of the growth and opportunities it afforded me. However, having played various leadership roles, suffering plenty of stress and facing possible burnout on several occasions, I started feeling the stress through various physical manifestations. I also found the more I performed, the more responsibility I was given. Each time I said I should leave, something came up to prolong my stay.

    I’m a believer in universal forces and matters came to a head for me at the end of last year. I too am at a crossroads and it can get scary. I still need to work and I’ve just finished a short term assignment. While my way is not clear yet and I also get panicky, I am determined that I need to take back my life. Just enjoying the time out at the moment and working on my belief that my alternative plans will come to fruition. For me, it has meant rearranging my priorities and values. My journey ahead is still unfolding. You have reached where you are through resilience and strength. I’m sure if you dig back inside you’ll find those reserves to help determine your way forward.

    Good luck my friend! When I find my own way forward,I might share it 😀 Best. Chevvy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, your poem really did hit a nerve. “Taking back my life”, that’s such a perfect way to put it. I feel I have no life of my own left that deserves that name. The slow loss of health, physical and mental, should make me leave but it appears inner resistance is still high. I cannot postpone the decision any longer, though, otherwise my body will take care of it. I’ve made some plans that still need working on. I’m only gonna share them once I go through with them, though… Otherwise too embarrassing 🙂 All the best to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nina, thank you very much for nominating me. I have thought about it quite a bit and have decided, at the moment, not to participate in awards and the questions & answers that go along with them. I hope you don’t mind. I do, however, very much appreciate you choosing me out of the many blogs that exist. This alone means a lot to me, having just started blogging. I also checked out the four other blogs you nominated, all of them really well designed and with great content, so I feel in very good company. Thanks again and all the very best to you and your own great blog!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome!…and it’s okay if you choose not to participate, like I said it’s optional. Thank you for taking the time to respond and to check on the other nominated blogs. You are all great! 🙂

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    1. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment and to follow my blog. Yes, her quote is just so, I don’t know, wholehearted. It’s not about how to improve, or what to do better, or how easy and light things will be. It’s just plain honestly stating that we’re all somehow a gorgeous mess… 🙂

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  12. “Burn out,” love it! It’s a perfect expression for what you’re going through 🙂 It’s like when we get our fingers burned, we pull back and then determine that we can’t do what we did before. We need to do something different. It’s a great time to assess what really matters to us and then find a way to move forward. At the same time, we have to acknowledge the way we feel. Pain (and its counterpart suffering) are an experience of “contraction” in our life, but our soul seeks to experience “expansion.” Perhaps even from where you are, you can find a way for your soul to experience expansion or growth. Not the upward mobility of physical success, but the soul’s evolution. From that place, you will know the right way to go. Take your time just getting clear about what you want most out of life. There’s no hurry – you’ve got a lifetime..Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, yes, I’ll be taking my time to think it through. It’s certainly an important moment, an a huge opportunity for growth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come without fear. But I guess, that’s part of the package…

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  13. I resonate with the sense of ‘free falling’ you describe here. I too am diving deep and surfacing in a new way – as it were – re-entering life as my most authentic self. At its heart, this is a mystery that draws us deeper into all that is. Julian of Norwich held a hazelnut and understood: G*d made it, G*d loves it, G*d keeps it. I think she was on to something….

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  14. I totally resonate with what you’re saying here… I’ve been going thru a similar situation, albeit, I’m not a diplomat, but I’ve transitioned careers in the last couple of years, and it’s very unnerving and uncomfortable. In my previous life I was a successful real estate appraiser, owned the business, made good money, and it’s tough to change when what you ‘do’ becomes who you ‘are’, or how you identify yourself. And what I do now is a complete 180 from what I did before, and it’s forced me to change and grow in ways I’ve never imagined. Before I worked alone, and now I am a ‘leader’ of a team of 1,200+, so I’ve really had to step up and learn how to empower and inspire others to reach their career goals. Not sure if you’ve heard of Hal Elrod and The Miracle Morning book, but it’s really helped me stay grounded and work thru the contradictions of who I thought I was and who I am becoming, and being more open to listening to my heart and intuition.

    And it’s interesting that I no longer identify myself as an appraiser (it’s taken almost 2 years), but I am finally accepting and discovering who I really am, what I want, how I want to live my life, what I’ve chosen to do for work (dōTERRA Wellness Advocate), and being open to letting it happen. I have to admit that sometimes I feel like a fraud, like I don’t really even know what I’m doing, and the negative thoughts creep in and I have to fight them back and keep moving forward. I feel a little sick to my stomach even writing this right now…

    Thanks for your thought provoking words… dig deep, look inside, and you will figure it out. Trust the process and trust yourself, and work from a place of abundance and gratitude. Marti

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Marti. It’s such a personal and heartfelt response that makes me feel so much better about what I’m going through. I particularly had my heart jump a beat when you said it’s “tough to change when what you ‘do’ becomes who you ‘are’”. For me, it’s like I have become what I thought I was, by doing what I was always used to be doing. It takes so much strength and courage and trust that I’ll be safe in the unknown – I can’t put it in words. It’s just such a miserable fearful state. Still, I feel I cannot do the “old me” any more. It’s even worse. I’ll check out the Hal Elrod book. I’m such a sucker for anything that might offer guidance and help along the way at the moment. And you can’t imagine, actually I think you can, how very very much I’m looking forward to getting to where you are right now. This moment when you feel like the “real you” again, a more mature, more authentic version of yourself. Thanks again for you words.

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  15. Not sure I’m quite there yet, but thanks for your kind words. I think we are all a work in progress, and the only comparison one should ever make is in regards to who they were yesterday, focusing on getting a little better each day… working towards being the best version of yourself. (Does that make sense?) Only you can do you better than anyone else on earth! Right?

    Part of the reason I do what I do now is that essential oils have helped me so much. I deal with anxiety, and was taking Xanax, and drinking wine (ugh, full disclosure, not proud of it but it’s true), and I knew I had to find a better way to deal with it. This was 3 years ago, and I have made some positive lifestyle changes (meditation, journaling, eating healthier, exercise… ok, walking) and with the oils I can now manage and control my moods and emotions. If this is something you are open to learning about, I can send you samples and info. I’ve read through your blog and seen your struggle… It appears that you are at a crossroads in your life… you will get through it. I have a few oils and blends in mind that I think would be really beneficial for you, help you with your journey, and make the transition (transformation?) a little easier. They have been life altering for me, literally. Have an amazing day! Marti

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    1. Thanks, Marti, ‘crossroads in my life’ puts it really well. In fact, it feels more like a multi-level highway hub. I read up on the essential oils that you’re working with. I’m definitely open about it, having enjoyed the calming effect of essential oils in baths, as well as high quality incense sticks. It might be a long shot sending this stuff from California to good ‘ol Europe, though. So don’t worry about the samples. I’ll check it out online.

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  16. You write with such clarity and insight, given the pain you’re in. I recognize that “disgusting” feeling that spread through your body when something is really off. It must be a challenge to relate your family and relationships with them with your current situation at work. Thank you for your honesty, as that helps those of us (myself included!) also experiencing career challenges.

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