The next step

Today I feel utterly depleted. I spent the whole of yesterday ruminating about what to do about the realization I had come to in my last blog: that I need to leave my job. Since then a fierce battle has been going on inside me: Fear and anxiety have joint forces and are building a huge, seemingly insurmountable wall, with chain-link wire and bottle shards cemented on top of it, around the tiny seed of hope and trust that, if I really did leave my job, everything might just fall into place.

That’s not how the brain works, of course. At least not mine. My brain – that same brain that has brought about the blog post I’m referring to, mind you – is now doing everything in its power to stop me from doing precisely what it had itself suggested: leave my job. What is stopping me? What is stopping my brain?

Fear. Huge, huge fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of falling. Fear of failing. Big time. Fear of regretting a decision that is life changing. Because once I take it, I cannot take back.

There is an element of realism in it, though. Fear always points to danger. And that’s perfectly reasonable and good, in a way. Of course, I can’t just quit my job, have a sabbatical  (because that’s what I’m really longing to do) and simply hope and trust that things will fall into place. Something has got to happen. First, I’d have to relax and recover from the stress and exhaustion of the past years. But then, eventually, I’d have to figure out a way to live. To be. To eat. To sleep. To feel safe.

I do have the means to pay for my living for about a year. That’s my life savings, though. When those are gone, I’m done for. I have no security net. No wealthy parents to fall back onto. No lottery win. No secret recipe for success. I do have a lot of resources other than that. I’m determined. I’m driven. I’m disciplined. Hard-working. But if I don’t know where I’m going, what is all of this worth?

Brandon Champney, who has turned into one of my favorite bloggers over the course of the last few weeks for his quiet thoughtfulness, said something very wise and encouraging in response to my last blog:

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.

I can feel in some fiber of my body that he is right. That maybe I’m not ready to handle more than just the next step. I do have a lot of trouble accepting that the next step is all we need to see, though. It’s my old urge to control speaking up here, very loudly. How can I take such a huge decision without knowing what’s going to come next? I can’t. I’m not a born risk taker. Or, maybe I was born one, but I’ve turned risk-averse in the course of my life that dished up some very unsavory surprises for me when I so wasn’t ready for them.

Then again, maybe, Brandon is still right. In a different sense than I originally thought. Maybe the next step is not leaving my job (just yet). Maybe the next step is just to focus my attention on what empowers me, what makes me feel good, what ignites my passion in the middle of all this turmoil. It’s blogging. Amongst other things. But very much so at the moment.

Blogging has become a weirdly independent expression of a part of me, feelings and longings, that desperately want to be seen and heard. I had bottled them up and kept a lid on them for so long that, now, with the pain and pressure becoming to strong, they bubble up. Or rather, shoot up and out with full force.

It’s like they know this is their one and only chance, their moment. Like they have to use this window of opportunity before it closes and never opens again. This whole dynamic reminds me of the image of a ball or balloon filled with air that, when pressed under water, will shoot up with incredible speed and power whenever you only so slightly loosen your grip and let it slip out of your hands.

Well, my balloons are all up on the water now. The good thing about it is: the pressure is off. They’re free to roam about. The not so good thing about it is: they’re swimming and floating all over the place, helped by the fact that the surface of my inner ocean is rather stormy at the moment, with the waves going high. It’s sheer chaos. My fear is desperately trying to catch them, take them prisoner again and push them back under water. To shut them up basically.

But no luck. I don’t think they will ever give up their new-found freedom. I’ll have to learn to live with them unsuppressed, over water, to get them to come back to me on their own, stay close to me. Integrate them. Make my fears and anxiety like and trust them rather than take them prisoner.

How do I do that?

By calming the waters, I guess. By trying to have my waves settle. And by coaxing the balloons to come closer, voluntarily.

So I guess, the next step is not to leave my job just yet. My next step is to try to calm my fear and my anxiety by telling them that I will not do anything that jeopardizes their and my livelihood, so that they don’t feel the need to go after my balloons, chasing them away. My next step is also to try to get into touch with my balloons – my trust, my hope, my passions – and to connect with them, align myself with them.

Hopefully, once I do manage that, the next step after that might just become clearer. And hopefully I will be able to handle it. After all, fear is not a scary monster, even though it oftentimes feels that way. It’s more of a chicken shit, really, that does have something important to say and means well. It just doesn’t always get the message across in proportion.

 

“Inside out” is a very wise double-layered movie, I remember now. I should watch it again to remind me of how cute and lovable Fear really is, sort of, and give it a big hug.

Oh yes, and I should get Joy back to the panel and take over control once in a while.

me

12 thoughts on “The next step

  1. I wanted to leave my job of 13 years and thought what better way than to get layed off…and my turn came to get on the unemployment line and I couldn’t be happier. Took 6 months off and I’m working again. Send your resumes out while you’re working. Something good will come your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your encouragement. It’s good to know that I’m not, was not, the only one in this situation, even though it sometimes feels that way. They only thing that’s stopping me from sending out my resume is that I can’t really seem to muster the energy to go straight from one job into another. I’d so love a break. But I’ll probably have to wrap my head around the fact that I can’t have both, a sabbatical and my life savings. Unless I win in the lottery, that is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I might need a few months off, but maybe you’re right, and I could build in a break. I tended to think about this in black and white, sabbatical or job. Fear kind of narrows your creativity range 🙂 Many thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great and so true! BTW– blogging is what ultimately helped me open doors and “get in touch with my balloons” to eventually get me out of my career. Check out the book The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It is a great philosophy that points out the way to real change– how people really do it, and it fits in with what you write about today– one step at a time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. Yes, blogging is weirdly powerful. It’s a bit like being your own shrink. 🙂 I’ll check out The Slight Edge. Had a quick look already and it sounds like a very thoughtful and practical way forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I identify with what you’re going through. I knew I needed to make a change, but felt trapped until the kids were fully launched and financial questions were settled. But it took years, and that takes a toll on a person. Still, you’re dealing with it head-on now. The infuriating thing is that we can’t really know how things will work out. We only can see that in retrospect, so the only thing we have to go on are those feelings about what seems fulfilling, what’s energizing and empowering, and latching onto that with trust that following these powerful scents will lead us out of the wilderness. It has for me, and I’m finally doing what I really wanted to do. It feels great. I posted a Cheyenne saying yesterday that always helps, and makes me smile: “Stay calm, have courage, and look for signs.” Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much, I love that Cheyenne saying. So true. And I do feel that despite all of this turmoil I can see some signs in the fog and try to keep following them. Like weird synchronicities of things or people that suddenly keep popping up everywhere, even though I have never noticed or known them before. It gives me hope what you write about your own journey. And yes, waiting for too long, takes a toll. I can tell already. And I’m determined not to tolerate it longer than I have to. Working on a way out. Good luck to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ‘By calming the waters’ I really like that. I used to be always plotting and planning 5 steps or more down the road, getting frustrated that I couldn’t do the last step first. When I got sick, I just wanted a fix…go start to the last step. It has taken me time, and still a daily reminder, to stop fighting myself, I know intuitively what I want and need to do yet the fear and worry about ‘what’s next’ has me not listening. Pause,breathe, what small step can I take today for tomorrow? than…chillax :). Can’t wait to read about, ‘you’re next step…’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “stop fighting myself” I like that. It’s soothing to know that we are not alone struggling with the not knowing, not being able to fix things. I’ll try to learn to chillax a bit more 🙂 And I’ll keep you posted on my next step… Good luck with yours, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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