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.

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