I have left everything behind and embarked overseas to start a new chapter of my life. I had a good life but it wasn't enough. Something was calling me from deep within. I yearned for something more.
And now? I'm here. The goodbyes and letting go left me emotionally drained and I have really no idea now why I am here. Reality is sinking in. The language is confusing. I feel very much alone. It is one the hardest things I've done and it's only the beginning. The demons have started to rear their ugly heads and I am very vulnerable to believing them.
I want to do so many things. And yet I'm scared. Frozen. I don't know the first step. I want to hide in my room on the 6th floor in a city where it rains most days and where everyone has it tough. I want to shine so others can then feel safe to shine too, but am lost. Groundlessness – with nothing familiar at all.
I know I need to go inwards. But that frightens me because I must move beyond the demons to get to that inner guidance deep within. I'm exhausted physically and mentally and don't know if I have the strength to rely on me. I so want to run to someone- anyone – who will hold me and tell me that I’m not a failure for feeling this way.
Far from home
First and most important:
You are not a failure.
And you are not alone.
This I know to be true.
Read these lines as many times as you need to in order to start believing.
Second: this life, sometimes it is hard.
Relentless, even. And in those times it seems impossible to tell if the hard is external, or situational or entirely of our own making. The voices get loud and layer one on top of the other. The tender and the harsh tones merge into an internal cacophony that leaves us – as you just described yourself – frozen, paralyzed, stuck in a 6th floor apartment or the floor of our closet, or just inside the prison of our own body and mind.
When we are doing something we love – say running or hiking – and we fall and injure a joint, it swells. The body sends more blood flow to the injured area, the tissues fill with fluid and white blood cells and the skin is forced to expand. It is our body’s way of initiating its own healing. But once the initial shock and adrenaline wears off, it’s painful. It's uncomfortable. It sucks. It stops us from continuing our loved activity.
Our natural inclination – ice it, heat it, take an anti-inflammatory to bring down the swelling. ASAP.
But as important as healing is, that inflammation has a purpose. Our bodies – outside of disease – don't do unpurposeful things.
“The inflammatory response is a defense mechanism that evolved in higher organisms to protect them from infection and injury. Its purpose is to localize and eliminate the injurious agent and to remove damaged tissue components so that the body can begin to heal. The pain and swelling can keep the athlete from using the injured part, serving to protect it from further injury”
Just like a fever, swelling is an example of the body acting as teacher – the extra fluid helps stabilize the joint, the pain reminds you to be tender and gentle, and points you – and other healers – to the area that needs care.
You were doing something you were powerfully called to do. The rush and exhilaration of that choice carried you through to here, even in the hardest and most grief filled places. And now you're here. You’ve landed. All that adrenaline is calming down. And now your body and heart and spirit are having a purposeful reaction to your current reality.
It's not bad, it's not a failure, it's not anything that needs external judgement. It is calling your attention, it is asking to be gentle, and it is showing you the area that needs care.
The paralysis is real. The inner-freeze-head-in-the-sand-can't-take-a-deep-breath-to-save-your-life. It's real. The doubt and insecurities and the voices questioning your choices – those are real too. They – like an injured joint – are swelling up to slow you down, to convince you to listen.
They are begging for loving care, gentle attention and a purposeful plan for healing.
Notice I said a purposeful plan for healing. An injured joint that isn’t moved will seize up, the muscles will get tight and weaken. The injured part of the body will experience a sort of paralysis, where any sort of movement is painful and feels unwise.
Much like you just described.
I know you believe you need to go inwards. But in cases like this I'm not always sure that inward is what is called for.
Or – perhaps it is just that the path in often only appears by moving out. To become embodied, to dive deeply into the living reality. To move our bodies (and our spirits and our souls) enough that we release ourselves from the traps we create inside our minds. And if there is a trap I am familiar with – it is the trap of my own mind. The twists and turns and double backs, like one of those impossible mazes I used to take my kids to at Halloween. I can get lost in there forever.
“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”
— Junot Díaz
You could translate the above quote to mean going inwards – and maybe that's even the way he meant it. But to me – it means not going inward – but going IN-TO. Into life. Into the richness. Into the chaos. Into the raw and the noise and the heat and the fear and the humanity. Into the LIVING.
And to me – moving INTO the living means getting OUT of myself. The voices of my deepest wisdom are rarely loud enough to be heard above the noise inside my own head, and they rarely come when give myself over to the freeze or the pull to isolate.
I never know for sure when those wise voices will appear – but I know I often hear them whispering while walking strange city streets, or in the midst of a stand of trees, or over the roar of mama ocean, or when smiling small children, or when I take my feet to the mountain or my hands to the yoga mat. Sometimes they come to me on the open road, windows rolled down and hair impossibly tangled and the music playing so loudly I feel it in my bones. Sometimes they come in the most human and raw and messy of moments – where my humanity mingles with another in ways that are rough and sticky and too complex to put into words.
But once they are whispering, I can tease or coax or nudge them forward, and -if I am ready and willing – give myself over to following where they lead.
The only thing is – I have to get far enough out of my own head and deep enough into my own body – my own lived experience – to hear them in the first place.
You know how to move. You’ve already done the leaving. You said the goodbyes, you picked up life and heart and soul and transported it around the world. You did the brave and the wild thing that so many of us dream of doing and never have the courage to do.
Fuck. That's huge. That’s beyond huge. No wonder you're spinning. To me, to not spin, at least a little bit, would be strange.
Not only did you leave – which is huge and draining – but then you had to arrive.
Oh – how we fail to pay attention to the demands of arrival.
You're in a entirely new place. A place where the language and the soil and the sounds and the tastes and the people are foreign to your experience.
So often in transition we let our thoughts be consumed by the challenge of the endings – leaving a job, leaving a relationship, leaving a country. So much attention to what is being left that we discount the magnitude of the arrival. Of the new. Of the unfamiliar. Of the scary and the strange and the “Oh, what the HELL have I done?”.
Damn – if it isn’t the arrivals that sometimes spin us out, especially because we are so rarely truly prepared for the fullness of their reality. And how can we prepare for something we cannot know or possibly predict? But still, we expect our arrivals to unfold, Hollywood movie style – to be new and exciting and wonderful and filled with rainbows and glitter and unicorns.
Only sometimes the arrival is just as hard as the leaving. And sometimes it’s harder.
And fuck if that doesn't knock us on our asses.
So, of course you are spinning right now, love. It's your soul's way of demanding a period of recalibration – because everything that you knew is not what is. Why wouldn't the feelings surrounding this be just as complex as the experience and the choice itself?
When we take that big of a leap – whether physical location or metal or logistical or emotional – it can take a while before our full beings catch up with our physical bodies, or for our physical body to catch up to our spirit and soul. A period of disequilibrium is frustrating, clearly – but also natural. Expected, even. You used the word groundless to describe how you were feeling – and this makes perfect sense. Your feet have actually not had time to find their new solid ground.
Once, I wrote this passage to a woman who was in the groundlessness of deep heartbreak and longing:
“So let the floor fall out from under you. Nothing big ever happens, good or bad, unless the floor falls out first. Let your longing wind you down through that spiral. And know that falling can be the most wickedly awesome and totally safe thing you’ve ever done. Down, down, down – and when you hit that solid ground you'll know. And you might touch down softly, or you might land in an ungraceful thud. But land you will. And then, when you're ready, you can stretch your shaky legs, stand up, dust yourself off, raise your hands open, toss your head back to the heavens and say ‘Here I am. All that I am, and all that I will be.”
Make no mistake, I believe you will land and you will rise. Because someone bold enough to do what you’ve already done is ready for the demands of beginning anew on this new foundation.
Your old life, as ‘good’ as it may have looked on paper, wasn’t enough. You were yearning for something more. But holy fuck – this more is so much more. It's the biggest more ever. It's maybe more than you were ready for. And you can’t logic or explain or will it away.
So yes, you will rise, but right now you’re deep inside of the more. And it’s not easy.
And that's okay.
That's actually, really, totally okay.
You stepped right into your new chapter you were craving. Full force and brave as fuck. Quite frankly, I’m in awe of you.
But you know, sometimes when I’m entirely hooked on an exceptionally good book and I read my way through an intense transitional chapter, even though I'm eager to go on and find out what happens, I put the book down. I need a pause. I have to give myself time to sink into what just happened and wait till my brain has processed it all. I need to take a breath before I continue – because my brain is so deeply involved in the story that it needs to accept what has just unfolded before I have room to discover what will happen next.
Give yourself the gift of the pause. Let your body and soul and mind and heart find their new equilibrium. You’ve turned the page and the new chapter lies before you, but give yourself time and space to take an infinity of breaths before you begin to read (or write) your way into what comes next. Get out into the world before you, deep into your wonderful human body and allow it the gift of existing in this world. Give yourself a chance to be lost and found and enough silence to hear the whisper when it comes. And it will come.
You don’t have to know the right first step. You just have to be ready willing to walk into the unknowing with all of your hope and all of your fear and all of your doubt and all of your bravery.
Be gentle. Pay attention. Offer purposeful healing. Seek Equilibrium. Unfreeze, slowly. Stretch yourself out into the world. Let your eyes calibrate to this new light and notice how it caresses the lines and curves and soft and hard of you. Allow your mouth to twist and stumble around new shapes. Be so very sensory. Notice everything. From every angle. The way your bones feel. The way you orient to space and time. Invite your whole being into this new way of living, into the totality and wholeness of it. Let it be strange and uncomfortable and painful and stiff. Let it be magical and novel and unfamiliar and entirely wonderful. Follow the whispers where they lead.
“So, grab this world by its clothespins
And shake it out again and again
And jump on top and take it for a spin
And when you hop off shake it again
For this is yours, this is yours
Make my words worth it
Make this not just some poem that I write
Not just some poem like just another night that sits heavy above us all
Walk into it, breathe it in, let it crash through the halls of your arms
Like the millions of years of millions poets
Coursing like blood, pumping and pushing
Making you live, shaking the dust
So when the world knocks at your front door
Clutch the knob tightly and open on up
And run forward and far into its widespread, greeting arms
With your hands outstretched before you
Fingertips trembling, though they may be”
Shine on, love. Shine on.
I can’t wait to know what this chapter holds.
Uncommon Sense is an ongoing series where I respond to comments and questions that stir my heart. They arrive by email, by text, by comment. They speak to something universal in me, and my response comes quick and sure. If you have something stirring in your heart and would like me to respond – please send me your message. I cannot respond publicly to all messages, but I do promise – with everything that I have – that I will honor it and keep it safe.