I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was experimenting with some new disciplines – in 2-week increments. These disciplines involved the integration of regular aerobic exercise into my life, specifically into my mornings, and the re-introduction of regular writing and business building into my mornings, some evenings and on weekends. I was trying to find 10 hours a week for that work in the hours when I am not at my day job.
You might recall that my original morning schedule ran along the lines of:
5:45 am-6:30 am: prayer/reflection/meditation/journaling
6:30 am-7:00 am: write/create
7:00 am-7:30 (really it ended up being 7:45): exercise
7:45- 8:45 or so, breakfast and get ready for work.
I also dedicated an hour on three weeknights and 7 hours on the weekend to my writing/business.
The first four to six weeks of this journey I felt both an amazing level of generative, exciting, expansive energy and, at the same time, constant anger. I thought I might get emotional whiplash from all the pulling back and forth from one to the other.
The anger I felt had to do with:
1) committing to a fairly rigid schedule, which part of me just hates on principle and
2) in this schedule nothing felt like enough.
I never felt ready to be finishing my prayer/reflection when I saw that it was time for writing. I never felt finished with writing when it was time to exercise. I must admit, I didn’t long for more time to exercise (though I did start to wish I could include some strength work) but getting back at 7:45 caused me to feel rushed getting ready for work – especially if I took the time to make myself a healthy breakfast and lunch.
Every section of my day felt as if it ended too soon. Every transition from one activity to the next felt rushed.
Still, I kept the schedule going for a few weeks finding emotional support to stick with my commitments mostly from books and podcasts produced by people who have traveled their own paths of growth into uncomfortable new ways of living. It also helped that I only committed to 2 weeks at a time. And I could see the positive results as well.
For some of you (especially if you have young children at home) this specific schedule may sound luxurious – and I know that in many ways it is. I generally don’t need to be at work before 9:30. My commute isn’t 2 hours, as is the case for way too many people in Los Angeles, where I live. I don’t have young children at home anymore. You can’t understand why I’m not just grateful for my lovely life. Others of you may actually get energized by days when you move quickly from one activity to the next, so you don’t understand what I’m talking about.
In either case, I hope you’ll read on, because I’m guessing you do have an idea of how uncomfortable it is (or might be) to grow into a new way of living in the world.
Maybe you’re feeling a nudge towards that discomfort right now.
Maybe you’re IN that discomfort right now, as I am, and you wonder whether you’ve taken the wrong path.
You wonder whether this new way forward is just too hard. You wonder whether you are inherently unsuited for this new path that one part of you feels SOOO compelled to follow – and another part of you really, really hates.
I’m a HUGE fan of following your desires and sometimes not liking what you’re doing is often an important indicator that you need to go another way. But it’s not that simple is it? Just “do what you love” and you know you’re heading in the right direction?
I decidedly do NOT love getting up at 5:45 am. And I do not love following a rigid schedule, but…
1) I’ve felt a clear sense that I am being drawn to a new chapter, a new way of being in the world that involves a deeper dedication to writing and creating.
2) I’ve felt a clear sense that if my body isn’t cared for I will not have the ability — emotional or physical — to do my work in the world, either at my day job (where over 300 children and their parents and over 100 staff depend on me to provide support, care and leadership) or through my writing/speaking/creating/coaching.
3) I’ve felt a clear sense that a new level of discipline about my time and schedule is part of this new chapter, even though being more relaxed about time and schedule over the past few years has been very, very good for me.
So, in this case it doesn’t seem as if my anger is telling me to quit my plan. It doesn’t seem as if the discomfort is a sign that I am heading in the wrong direction.
In the book What to Remember When Waking, poet David Whyte used the metaphor of living in a new frontier to describe times like this. You’re out on the edge in the wild places and, “You don’t feel at home there. As yet you don’t recognize this new home. As yet it doesn’t feel like your place.” It’s a threshold, a wilderness, and “you have to learn how to live there.”
When I heard these sentences as I listened to the audio book, I was so encouraged by the “as yet.”
“As yet you don’t feel at home there. As yet you don’t recognize this new home.”
Because “as yet” indicates that someday, perhaps, I will feel at home in this new way of being.
And you might note that the image of frontier that Whyte puts forward isn’t one that draws us to conquer the new frontier, to tame it, to shape it into a place of safety for us. It calls us to live in the discomfort of this unknown place until we can recognize it as our new home. Until we can adjust to it, not it to us.
In my case, several years of avoiding rigid commitments and scheduled disciplines has offered a lot of healing to the driven, people-pleasing, anxious parts of me. It seems that for the next chapter of my life, that way isn’t going to work. I’m crossing another threshold. Exploring a new frontier. I have the sense that my capacity is increasing, my capacity to manage a fuller schedule while still nourishing my needy body and my sensitive soul, my marriage and my children, all at the same time. But I don’t HAVE that capacity as yet.
David Whyte seems to think that feeling out-of-place and uncomfortable is just part of the deal when we’re exploring a new path in the world. Nothing to worry about, nothing to fight against.
I’ve found that thought helpful. I’m hoping you will too.
Even as I surrender to the discomfort, I’m not ignoring my desires and preferences. I’ve adjusted my plans a little. For the next 2 weeks I’m trying out an hour of writing, a slightly earlier wake up time and a little less exercise. And I’ve started intentionally transitioning from one activity to the other just a little more slowly—in order to ease the whiplash.
We can be kind to ourselves in the midst of the discomfort of exploring new ways to be in the world. We can make fires and warm cups of tea in the wilderness.
But we can’t get to the new amazing place where we’re meant to live, to be the people we are meant to be, to make the changes in the world that we want to make, without feeling uncomfortable.
So, let’s hold onto the hope of “as yet.”
As yet you don’t feel at home in this new place. But you will.
Here’s to thriving.