I love the sweet illusion of control that my plans and schedules provide. I love less when the sweet illusion of control that my plans and schedules provide is challenged by reality’s different plans and schedules.
I’ve been so much looking forward to this moment when, after months of quarantine and homeschooling, my kids would be back to school and I’d have peace to work on all the beautiful projects I’ve been putting off for way too long. (I know so many of you are reading this still or again being locked down and with many projects on hold while taking care of your families; I’m writing to you from the other end. Hang in there, dear ones. And be wiser than me when it’s over.)
First day of school in France: I drop my kids off and without looking back even once, rush home; I’m not feeling enthusiastic. I am enthusiasm. I’m freedom, focus, bliss. I’m an adult in a kid free house and I can do whatever I please for as long as I please without answering a single question. After weeks of nonstop parenting I’m finally going to get back to the work that lights me up and that makes me feel on purpose (don’t take it personally, offspring).
I’m not feeling enthusiastic. I am enthusiasm.
At my desk and still with unclouded reverence and excitement, I open my laptop, my heart, my mind, breathe deeply into the feeling of anticipated glory – and:
Nothing happens. Absolutely nothing.
It feels as if someone had dropped me off naked in the middle of a desert and all I can see is sand and hot air. Trying to orient, but it’s noon and the sun beams down from right above me. I’m starting to feel uneasy. It’s too silent here.
After one hour of nada I arrange some things in my mailbox, make a list, a coffee, another list, another coffee, then scroll through Instagram for the rest of the day while secretly waiting for my kids to get home and ask me something.
Not that much worried and not against an opportunity to practice self-compassion while failing at my life purpose, I end the day planning for the next one: this time, instead of goals having to do with “getting back to work” I schedule more humble tasks having to do with “getting back in touch with work”. Notice the educational finesse?
Three weeks later: I still haven’t done a thing except starring at different walls of our home, just the way I’ve been starring at them since last March. I think the moment has come where I need to acknowledge that something doesn’t work as I had planned.
It’s too silent here.
It seems there are projects and drafts I can’t just pick up as they were. They haven’t changed in these past months. I must have.
Have you ever been cooking something for a whole day and then lost appetite when it was finally ready? I’ve been anticipating this moment so much – but now that the roast is out of the oven and we’re ready to go, I feel my appetite has changed. Maybe I’d rather have sushi. Or how about a cake?
While I don’t know a lot right now, one thing I do know for sure: every living thing – plant, animal, human, idea, project, relationship, dream – has cycles and stages, seasons that might not always obey our own agendas, but are better respected in their natural unfolding – otherwise the thing dies, bites back, loses center, fails or breaks. I’m wondering: what if my mind (that tends to be stuck at times, indeed) has been stubbornly sticking to all I would have wanted last spring, while my heart, and all life in the northern hemisphere have casually moved on towards summer, fall and winter?
My head still insists that now is the time and space to blossom, expand and fly, push through all the things I had scheduled, but there is no life in that space anymore – it has turned into a desert. My mind cares about unchecked boxes and to-do-lists; but the rest of me doesn’t as much. The rest of me has shed a few dead leaves, turned inwards, and looks at wisdom gained from colder days.
What season ARE YOU IN? What season ARE YOU really IN?
We’ve been striking the sails and letting go of so much in 2020. And while we all agreed that “things will never be as they were before”, we still might secretly be anticipating the moment when ‘this’ is over with the expectation of picking up projects, relationships, dreams just where we’ve left them. Are you? It’s ok. I certainly did more than I had realized. Be sure though: we all have changed in this past year – and the full extent of that change won’t be showing until the moment you’re able to really hit the seas again. Leave a little room in your post-quarantine agenda to explore that.
Do I insist now and get done at all costs what I had in mind, so I can feel the “success” of a checked off to-do-list while failing at listening to what’s emerging from beneath and what may be way more interesting and important? Do I go into a story of failure and beat myself up for not following through? Not really.
Here is my post-quarantine plan B: leave boxes unchecked that feel empty by now, be honest about what’s changed in me even if it takes time to uncover, and, regardless whether it feels odd or scary: be ok with empty hands and an empty stomach for a while. Willing to trust wherever my true, most authentic appetite leads me next. Willing to honor my season.
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Images: Arun Clarke (butterfly), Logan Weaver (neon writing) // Unsplash