Stop, take a moment, and breathe
I’ve been thinking a lot over the past month about where I was this time last year. I can’t seem to get it out of my head these days–how some things change so slowly, how some things don’t change at all, how fast a year can disappear and show you, in the vanishing, all of the things that have happened.
There was a time last fall when I was 100% convinced that I was going to go back to school. I wasn’t going to abandon writing, not entirely–I’ll write and do this other thing, I won’t stop, I can do it all!–and at the same time I was so fed up with writing, so ready to have something else on which to focus my energy, that part of me was ready to do exactly that. It felt like such an indulgent, wasteful, unimportant thing to be doing. Why was I wasting my time over words when I could go back to school and maybe learn to stop and start a person’s heart? Why write to a nebulous, maybe-they’ll-read-this-or-maybe-they-won’t audience when I could spend most of my time doing something useful, maybe even something where I could put my communication skills to better use and really truly make a difference in someone’s life while I was doing it? Why why why?
Why. Why. Why?
I had no answer to this question. I had no answer in the summer, I had no answer in the fall, and I had no answer in the winter, even as things slowly started getting better. The very act of not having an answer was infuriating, especially as things started getting better. Once I had more energy I flipped into okay-put-your-head-to-this-and-work-hard-and-everything-will-get-solved mode.
But I worked hard, and I still did not get the full-time job at the hospital (thank you, union seniority clause), and the old year kicked over into the new and I took stock of things and saw how much I’d accomplished even in spite of being sad and said well, just work harder at applying to other jobs and things will somehow be okay, hustle, hustle, things will be fine, and they were not fine, they were not fine even as the year began to show its magic hands, and then my full-time contract ended and I was faced with the prospect of a drastically reduced income and no prospects that I could see, and then my grandfather died and I let everything go, put my life on hold, went back to stay with my parents and did nothing but be present with them for a week. I didn’t think about work, I didn’t think about writing, I just made dinners and lunches and scanned old family photos and sat on the couch with my dad.
And halfway through that week the FOLD interview happened, and by the time the week was over I had a new job, and the week after that was filled with exciting training sessions and new conversations and suddenly I was only at the hospital part-time again and it was wonderful.
When I got back to work and started cobbling my FOLD-and-hospital-life together everything resumed, more or less. But suddenly I didn’t care about the hospital as much, suddenly there was room to breathe, and the stories that I’d been working on in the fall (even as I was planning to leave them, and pursue another career) started speaking to me in louder voices, and I went back to them and dove in and bit by bit, things started making sense again.
I am still parsing the lessons of that week, that in-between week when I didn’t do any thinking for the future but did exactly what was needed of me right there and then. That week when I was fully present in the world, talking and loving and being. That week when I let everything go, just for a time. It is maybe not connected at all to the things that came after, or maybe it is. I have always been a person who believed in signs, and I suppose it’s a natural part of recovery that I would revert back to this way of thinking after having been divorced from that for so much of last year. But regardless of whether it’s true or not, it seems to me that things in my life really started coming back together after I was forced to take some time out and just be. When I was forced, really, to not take a leap of faith so much as step out over the precipice and stare down at the faraway bottom.
It was a cozy bottom, for sure. I was at my parents’ house, I wasn’t starving, I wasn’t in any immediate danger. But I also wasn’t hanging on, at least not anymore.
Sometime after this, I started tithing. I talked a little bit about a few posts ago, and I won’t say much about it here other than to note that there was a moment, shortly after staring at that faraway bottom, when I decided that I needed to stop thinking about my life in terms of lack. How could I remain convinced that my life was missing so much when I could let go of it all, even if just for a moment, and be okay? Wasn’t that something? Wasn’t that, in fact, a lot? And so I decided that I would act as though I had more than enough money, even in the face of diminished income, so much money that I could, in fact, give it away and not be hurt by this at all. I would act as though I had so much in my own life that I could afford to give, and keep on giving, even in the moments when I was nervous, when I thought otherwise. Fake it ’til you make it, as they say.
(Let us pause now for a moment of obligatory hokey-ness, a moment of this-can’t-be-real-it’s-just-a-bunch-of-airy-fairy-New-Age-bunk, etcetera, etcetera. I know. I understand. I feel exactly the same way.)
Since I made that decision, my life has overflowed with abundance. I am not suddenly rich, I have not suddenly won the lottery, I am not facing any life-changing income prospects, or anything earth-shattering like that. But a year ago it felt like I was holding on to everything so tightly and life just kept on slipping through my fingers, and now it feels like I’ve let so many things go and suddenly there is so much around me, all of the time.
All of which is leading up to a small bit of excitement. After thinking about it for a number of months in to this new year–thinking and weighing and trying to figure everything out, thinking and hoping and slowly but surely realizing that at some point you have to stop thinking and just make the decision to jump, just like I had to make the decision to act as though my world was more than enough in order to truly believe it–I am taking a leave of absence from my hospital job. It starts in just over three weeks, and I am so excited, and so happy.
It’s only temporary. It will mean a drastically reduced income and will pretty much ensure that I’ll be in my house for the duration of the summer, but there is a freedom in there that I’ve only recently been able to realize, in much the same way that that week of being present at my parents’ place allowed me to realize the freedom that happens when you stop gripping the edge of things and just let yourself let go.
Three days after I got confirmation of the leave of absence last week, the hospital job sent out its yearly vacation pay. I’d totally forgotten about this, and so opening up that notification, seeing those unexpected numbers in my bank account, felt almost, in actual fact, like winning a mini lottery. At any rate, it will make the next few months a little easier.
And I keep breathing, and letting go, and life just keeps on happening, and I am so grateful for all of it.