Sunday, September 25, 2016

Finding My Flow

This morning I went to yoga class at the studio where I used to work in Ferndale. When I woke up this morning to go to class, I thought about how I used to get up every Sunday morning to go to the studio. I am not a morning person by any means, and yet I would happily pop out of bed at 7:30 AM, put my hair up in a ponytail and drive to Ferndale to open up the studio. I enjoyed being a part of the peaceful atmosphere and getting to know all of the students.

I started working there right after I left my corporate job in May of 2015. I was still finishing my yoga teacher training and I wasn't really sure what I was going to do next. Working there gave me a sense of purpose and it kept me connected to the yoga world, which was where I wanted to spend my time and energy. And when I met Mark Johnson, it became part of our Sunday morning routine. Whenever he would spend the weekend with me in Michigan, I would go to work at the studio and he would sit in the coffee shop down the street and read a book until I was done. 

When I started spending more time in Ohio, I knew I would eventually have to give up my job at the studio. I was no longer able to commit to being in Michigan every single weekend. And even when I was in Michigan, I wanted to use that time to visit with family and friends, or get caught up on things at my house. Being a worrier by nature, I was concerned about how and when I would leave. But when the time came, it all felt really natural. 

In fact, all of the transitions I have had since I left my corporate job have felt the same way. A natural progression. I have worked in more places in the last year and a half than I have in the previous ten years of my life. I have taught at four different yoga studios in Michigan, plus one in Ohio. I trained for one day to work as a yoga therapist at an eating disorder clinic and quickly realized that the job just wasn't for me. I wrote for three different clients on Up Work before finally getting my own writing clients. And I started my job at Anthropologie when I moved down to Ohio.

My job at Anthropologie has played a similar role in my life as my receptionist job at the yoga studio. It gave me a place to focus my energy and it grounded me in my new life in Ohio. And someday soon, if my writing business continues to thrive, it will be time for me to leave that job too. I remember when committing to a job seemed like such a permanent decision. Even though I usually stayed for only three or four years at any one company. Now my employment situation is much more fluid. Every job I have is just a temporary resting place on the way to something else. 

While many people might find that lack of stability stressful, I have made my peace with it. In fact, I think I am starting to enjoy the idea that all things in life are temporary. It makes my choices seem less risky and the outcomes less serious. And I feel more connected to my life than ever before. 

I used to feel like things would happen to me and I had to respond to them in some way. In many cases, I convinced myself that I didn't have much say in the matter. I had to do what was expected. I had to make the right decision. This attitude was cultivated in me from a young age. If a boy asks you to a dance, you say yes. Even if you really don't want to go with him. If you are offered a job or a promotion, you have to take it. Even if it does not make you happy. It is just what you do. It is the responsible thing to do.

So it is not surprising that I felt disconnected from my life. As if it was separate from me, as opposed to me being a part of it. Of course I made choices along the way. I had to apply for all of those miserable jobs before they were offered to me. And I allowed myself to stay way too long in those unfulfilling relationships. But as I was doing those things, I was operating under this veil of ignorance. I didn't know that there was another way to live. I didn't know that I could just shed all of those expectations and try to do what I really wanted. I didn't even know what I really wanted to do.

Today I see things so differently. My life is no longer something that is happening to me. It is no longer a battle I have to fight to get to the outcome I want, or the outcome I have convinced myself that I should want. It is not a negotiation or an endless series of compromises. My life is constantly flowing like a river, and I am floating along with it.

I was cleaning my house this weekend and I came across a book I had purchased about two years ago called Midlife Mojo. It is a 'call to action' book for people in their 30's and 40's who are feeling like something is missing in their life. It promises to help you discover your true calling. Like most books on my shelf, I started reading it but never finished it. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed that I had filled in one of the exercises in the first chapter. I could not believe what I had written there.

The exercise helps you to examine your current situation in life and identify the things you would like to change. The author asks a series of questions to guide you through the process. Here are two questions she asked and my exact responses to each question.
What would you change about your life to make yourself happy?  I would probably live in another state. Have a job as a writer. Have a live-in boyfriend or husband. Maybe a child. 
What is the one thing you want more than anything in life? In other words, what is your heart's desire for yourself?  I want to be happy and have a simple, stress-free life.
Here I am, less than two years later and I am living the exact life I described in that book. I moved to another state. I am working as a writer. I have a live-in boyfriend, and although we do not have a child together, he has a wonderful daughter. I am happy. And I am definitely living a more simple and stress-free life. And that is pretty amazing.

What is even more amazing to me is that I didn't consciously try to do any of these things. I didn't create a master plan with tasks and timelines for how to get here. I just followed the path that was laid out for me. When I sat down and did that exercise in the book, I was clear about what I wanted to change in my life. And without even realizing it, I set an intention just by writing those words on the page. Even though I never finished reading that book, I placed that intention out into the universe and allowed it to apply its infinite organizing power to fulfill my intention.

I truly believe that if I had sat down and created that master project plan of how to get here, I wouldn't be where I am today. I would have forced solutions onto problems instead of waiting for the solutions to spontaneously emerge. I would have jumped at opportunities that were not right for me, just because of the pressure to make something happen. I would have spent time worrying about all of the details and trying to make my life play out exactly the way I wanted.

Sometimes I still catch myself worrying about the details or trying to make things happen. But I do that a lot less often than I used to. Now I try to wait to do things until it feels right. And although I still like to daydream about what might happen in my life, I don't try to plan nearly as far into the future. Because I know that "future me" will be much more equipped to make decisions when the time comes than the version of me who is living here in the present.

In the book Codependent No More, Melanie Beattie talks about a time when she was driving down a dark road during a storm. And she wasn't sure how she was going to get home. Even though she could only see a few feet ahead in any given moment, she realized that she could see as far as she needed. As she says in the book:  Go as far as you can see, and by the time you get there, you'll be able to see farther.

Five years ago, if I read this blog I would have said something like "Well, that may have worked for that person, but it would never work for me." Then I would have proceeded to give a long list of reasons why my life was so different from the other person and why I couldn't possibly make the changes they had made. 

Maybe you are reading this blog right now and thinking the exact same thing. And of course, you can think whatever you want. All I can tell you is that I was just like you. And somehow I managed to find my flow.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

On My Mind, Day 7: Faith, Hope and Luck

This is the final post in my week-long commitment to writing for one hour every day. I have learned a few things during this past week. First, I have even more respect than I already did for people who write blogs and social media posts for a living. The idea that there are people who are on deadline to put something out there each and every day is pretty amazing. It takes a lot of insight, creativity and perseverance to just keep on writing.

Second, I learned to be patient and forgiving with myself as a writer. There were days I really looked forward to my hour of blogging and there were a few days when I was a little stuck. Some of the things I put out this week had a lot of insight. And other times it was more of a log of my daily activities and events. I always used to feel like I had to have a lesson at the end of each of my blog posts. But sometimes it is enough to just share a story and let others take whatever they need from it.

Finally, I was reminded that I do enjoy the process of writing. Even if no one reads it. I could just keep a journal of all of these thoughts and there would be a zero percent chance that anyone would ever see it. But I choose to put my thoughts, experiences and observations out here instead. I like the idea of expressing myself in a forum where there is even a small chance that someone might stumble across my words at just the right time in their life to help them move along on their journey.

I have been inspired by so many people through books, podcasts, social media posts and other forms of creative expression. The podcast where Brandon Stanton talked about his creative process is a huge part of what inspired me to dedicate this week to my writing. 

I have no idea where this path will lead. But I do know that I won't get to wherever I am supposed to be unless I am true to myself. Just over a year ago, when I left my corporate job I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next. Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that what I really wanted was to find a way to support myself that did not involve me taking another corporate job. Although I have had my struggles, I sit here today much closer to that goal than ever before.

Last night when we were driving around town on my birthday adventure, we drove past the University Hospitals building where I had interviewed for that grant writing job back in May. As we drove by, I thought about how different my life would be right now if I had taken that job sitting on the cube shelf. I just don't think I would have been happy there.

If I had taken that job on the cube shelf, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed my June getaways with Mark Johnson nearly as much. And I wouldn't have been able to take three weeks off from work in July to help my Mom recover from her knee surgery. And I would have been working downtown in the middle of the chaos of the Republican National Convention. And I would have been walking back and forth from one building to another on the hospital campus every day in this oppressive heat, with my hair frizzing out to epic proportions. 

Even though I was really afraid to say no to the security of that job, I had faith in my inner voice which was screaming at me not to take it. Since I started listening to that voice, I have had some wonderful things happen in my life, including meeting Mark Johnson. And I have slowly started to decompress from years of stress and anxiety. 

And I had hope that something better would come along, if I could just be patient and let things play out. And lucky for me, they did. I put myself out there on Linked In and let people know that I am available for freelance writing jobs. And I set my intention to make just enough money writing that I wouldn't have to go back to an office job.

Then out of the blue I got a note from someone I used to work with years ago, offering me a chance to write for her. That work, combined with the other clients I have now, might just get me to the point where I can financially support myself through my writing. One year ago, I could barely imagine that it was even a possibility, and now it might become a reality. I am so lucky. So truly lucky that all of these things have started to fall into place for me. 

I feel like this is the beginning of another phase of my life. And I can't wait to see what happens next. I won't be writing in my blog every day anymore, but I will make a commitment to write more often and share whatever insights, experiences and lessons the universe sends my way.

And if you ever want to share your thoughts with me, just leave me a note in the comments section. I would love to hear your story.