As busy as I've ever been, swimming in the Void.
I’ve been unemployed for a few weeks now. “I’m keeping busy,” is the casual retort when people ask how I’m doing, and it’s true. My days have been filled with exploration and networking and interviews, from which a few interesting things have percolated. Nothing has emerged quite certainly enough, however, to quell the storm cloud of apprehension on the middle-distant horizon of my mind.
Saying ‘yes’ to the unknown
My job was a secure base and a known quantity. The company was the “devil I knew.” The layoff was both a tragic ending and a new beginning. While I grieved the loss of day-to-day interactions with some truly excellent people, I also felt a whole universe of possibilities open up. The freshness of the unknown excited me so much that when an offer came at the last minute to pivot to a new team and stick around at the company, I looked over the hiring manager’s shoulder at that ever-expanding view and said a brazen, “No, thank you.”
It wasn’t the first decision I’ve made while my brain was out to lunch. The last five years of my life have been about putting down my hyperrational pro/con lists and choosing with my gut. It didn’t make logical sense to leave thriving and exciting Denver behind to travel. I didn’t do it because it was “smart,” I did it because something from just over the horizon was calling me and I had to figure out what it was or let its echoes haunt me forever. I followed my instincts out of the city and into the world in a decision that I called “choosing not to choose.”
Later, I came to Asheville at the beginning of the pandemonium not because this artsy weirdo little city checked any of the right intellectual boxes, but because something whispered through the trees and told me there was something here for me.
Consciously choosing to step away from the safety of my job wasn’t the “smart” choice. My rational mind loved the corporate gig. The long-term security made the challenges worth it. It helped me fulfill lifelong dreams. I traveled and connected with fascinating people. I purchased a home with a down payment funded by vested stock options. I filled a chest freezer with cuts of beef from a local grass-fed farm and funded my book with those steady paychecks. Stability had its trappings, including a certain confidence that, since paychecks would continue, financial choices mattered less.
Still, when the layoff was announced completely out of the blue, I felt something in my gut that felt more like a tingle of adventure than the dead weight of a curse. At that moment, my craving for order was overridden by some deeper impulse that saw a growth edge and growled, let’s do something different.
And this is radically different. Bailing on a steady paycheck in the middle of a recession with a mortgage and a penchant for organic food and cashmere is, to the rational mind, not the move. It is, however, an unmistakable signal to the universe that I’m ready for something else. Heck, maybe something bigger.
Now, weeks into it, I am drifting in the liminal space of that horizon and grasping the reality of uncertainty. I can hear the distant calls from the shore, but none clearly enough that I can lock onto a direction and follow. Right now, it seems, my job is to float.
I hate it.
It’s not (just) bubble baths and soulful window gazing. It’s “keeping busy.” It’s building and re-building a website so it depicts an author promoting a book. No! A freelancer open to exploring new gigs. Wait! Actually, a professional content strategist looking for her next great opportunity! If the Internet was an honest place, the homepage would just be a running tab of the things I’ve done to stay busy and distracted in this twilight zone of productivity.
Boxes of shoes, purchased in an act of self-soothing, heavy lug soles indicating my subconscious desire to attach myself to the ground so I don’t just float away.
New recipes, cooked with a dash of resignation and a sprinkle of is this my life now?
Ideas float by and I grab them and scribble them like epiphanies into a notebook. I’ve consulted many of my psychic friends to ask them what they think I’m supposed to be good at as if they know any better than I do.
I’m good at writing, sometimes golf, and running away.
A quest for a clarity
All of the busyness helps me avoid the process of processing.
I desperately want to skip the step of having to recognize that my life was irrevocably impacted by something out of my control. I want to just slide down the silver lining into action planning and optimism, but that means failing to properly acknowledge the pain of being laid off.
Even though it wasn’t my fault.
Even if it is an invitation to try something new and exciting.
A massive life change thrust upon me still requires reconciliation. I’m not doing myself any favors by sitting in the muck and pretending I’m not. Navigating it means feeling my way through, so here I am. Breathing in the void. Acknowledging the cosmic soup of anger, grief, terror, and excitement that comes with major life changes. My mind reels.
Hilariously, I have been invited to give a talk about clarity at my publisher’s fall retreat in Cedar Rapids. I look forward to the event for so many reasons - community, open-hearted connection, like minds, the idyll of autumn in the Midwest. And crafting this talk is an opportunity to discover some clarity for myself.
Clarity emerges through persistent recognition of and alignment with values. When I act in alignment with what matters most to me, I re-orient myself toward my true north and I can better sense those little nudges that guide me toward great things.
When I felt confused and overwhelmed in Colorado, I would go walk a few miles at the Wild Animal Sanctuary. The high desert wind in my hair and an up-close-and-personal encounter with a literal tiger would always remind me of what I’m after.
Autonomy. Beauty. Creativity. Purpose. Truth.
Committing to the truth of my situation - both the beauty and the pain of it - is the way through to the other side. I can release the fear-driven impulse to stay busy for the sake of it and bring my actions back into line with my values. I take myself for walks. I commit to creative practices. I make food for my loved ones. The murkiness begins to subside and clearer waters emerge.
The opportunity to approach a crisis by re-aligning with my higher self is its own blessing.
I failed to notice until just now that my last day of work was just five days shy of the one-year anniversary of losing my mom. Maybe I missed it because it was also one week after I gathered with friends and family to celebrate the launch of my book.
Do you believe in coincidences? 🤔