this too
Friday, May 13, 2005
  Stagnation or gestation?

One of my first tasks in the new job at the university was assisting O, who was sending me increasingly worried e-mails about the delays in obtaining his UK student visa. I was able to help. Yesterday O successfully defended the PhD thesis he came here to write. As we drank champagne, I felt so happy for him… and so cold at heart for myself. In these three years and nine months, he’s birthed a fat book and a new self. And I?

I came here thinking this would be my last job – a destination or a bridge. The first time I’d worked in a large institution with defined career structures. Since they seemed, unlike the employer I was fleeing, not to be hugely ageist, this might be a last chance to make it into management and a decent income. If that didn’t work out, at least it would be a congenial place to make a living while I built up a freelance business on the side, a berth until I was equipped to sail for somewhere new.

Option 1: no. Too late for me to take to bureaucracy. I fumed and tore my hair and realised I was not equipped to climb its ladders.

Option 2, the bridge to somewhere else, is the vision I still hold. But three years and nine months is a long time to be in transition.

I can make excuses, some of them good ones. It’s been a time of growth, of study, therapy, cultural epiphanies and new friendships, grasped from London before I leave it. A time of quietly building experience and contacts in the work I want to do, and more success there, in a small way, than I could have hoped for.

But I’ve run out of excuses. I was sure I’d be gone before my 50th birthday last year. When I wasn’t, I stopped setting deadlines – if was more important than when. Perhaps, though, I also stopped believing.

Now, I think: I must go. Just GO, or you never will.

And I think: and what if I go, and I find I’ve brought myself with me, myself with all my stuckness, and somewhere else is just the same as here? I cannot go until I know I won’t do that. The real journey is inside, before I go.

Am I on that real, crucial journey inside, not ready yet for the next step? Or am I making excuses?

I’m moved to write these thoughts by Andy, whose writing often strikes deep chords, especially what he wrote here and here. I won’t draw parallels. Everyone’s life, and heart, is so different. Well, perhaps just the obvious one:

Change is so hard. To be able to think and write about it is a blessing and a help. But when does it become a substitute for action? And if one of the things you want to do is write, it’s even more confusing.
In my view, the real journey is always inside whether you go or stay. That's a given. Following my heart, my passion, is so difficult. Family, society - life has taught me to be very, very careful of that and never to trust my intuition. Am still continuously learning what it is I want and who I am!

You write with your heart. I am sure in the last three years and nine months you have done things that are worthwhile too. It's sometimes hard to see what you've accomplished especially when you are comparing yourself to others! I do that a lot so I think I understand that feeling.

There is no advice. Only support and a listening ear, reading eye. Change is terrifying but, hey, you'll always have *you* with you!
'Never to trust your intuition'? Tamar, that seems an incredibly dark lesson. I have never thought my problem was anything but not trusting my intuition enough. What else can you trust? Do you think as poorly of other people's intuition as you do of your own? I cannot really believe we are such poles apart on this. I think it must be that we define intuition differently. Rational observation tells me: give up! now! But intuition says, no, you are you, you have a unique strong spirit that will not give up, as everyone does, and that is worth pursuing, trying to give it more space...
I jumped into the unknown, three years ago, partly from avoidance. The approach part was an inner feeling (intuition? I don't know) that I had to let go of a security that kept me impotent. I'd buried the creative parts of me in a job I kept for dollars, status and lack of vision for the next firm step in another direction.

I leapt, trusting I would not hit the ground. There were times I saw it rushing up to meet me, but as it turns out, the past couple of years have brought rewards that justify the risks I took, and it sure feels good.

I can imagine you might have the same initial rush of euphoria followed by the oh-my-god-what have I done feeling I had; then the peace of having done the hard, right thing. I hope this works out for you.
Oh dear - I see I wasn't clear. I was *taught* not to trust my intuition.

My greatest joy is, in fact, trusting my heart and intuition lately - and *not* listening to those voices of my childhood - to some of my most influential family members' *version* or *reality* of me, which USED TO BE so destructive for my soul.
Ouf, Tamar I'm glad that's what you meant. Not trusting your intuition seemed so at odds with everything in your blog!

Fred, thank you. As you may imagine, I've been riveted by everything you've written about your own decision - and inspired by it, as it gave you the space to create and share so much beauty through your writing and photos. It's also made me realise, of course, that the unequivocal good I see in your choice is much more complicated for you and, because you are a thoughtful responsible person, you constantly continue to question yourself. I'm not naive, I think, about me or my life ever changing *totally* or things ever becoming simple!
I have no answers or transferrable wisdom...but boy, I know the struggle you're talking about. I think anyone who's a curious, always-growing lifelong learner is naturally going to feel these "stuck" places. We're trained to think that it's all about "arriving," about getting to a job/place where we can sit back & coast. So when we *do* reach those goals (or especially if we don't reach them), we sit back & wonder, "Okay, now what?"

Change is frightening...but it's also exciting. Unless we're willing to take some sort of risk, we'll never reach the next step, wherever that is. And the next step/risk doesn't have to be a huge just has to be forward movement. If you're grappling with these questions, the ball is rolling. In my experience, once the ball starts rolling, it will continue to roll of its own accord: after a certain point, you won't be able to stop it.
I read this last night, in Paul Watzlawick's book 'The Situation is HOpeless' ....

"Any idea, when firmly held, nurtured and cultivated, will eventually create its own reality."

It taught me to go back and examine what ideas I cultivate and nurture inside. Not what dreams do I hold out for, or believe myself to be striving for - but what, in reality, do I feed and grow inside, what thoughts do I return to again and again?

Looked at that way, I saw a very different pattern of guiding impulses in the last few years of my life. Thoughts of inadequacy, fears, loneliness, dread. And, yes, they were the ones which had been steering me.
I've played the options game too, many a time, until it turns into an endless treadmill and I feel like a hamster in a wheel, forever trying to go forwards and forever staying in the same place.

Some people have very clear ideas about where they want to go in life; they whole being becomes focused on their goal, and when that happens it seems that they often achieve it. But there's always a cost along the way, a sacrifice to be made. But I'm not built like that, and it sounds to me as though you aren't either.

So planning and goals aren't the only way.

In any case, one thing I've noticed in recent years is how chance events have a habit of overturning plans, unless you're prepared to steamroller on through. I think that how we respond to these chance events - which may or may may not truly be chance, depending on your view of the universe - can be key to allowing the future to unfold in a way that aligns with our own innermost desires. So I'm left wondering about your "time of quietly building experience and contacts in the work I want to do, and more success there, in a small way, than I could have hoped for." Are there any clues in there?

And as to going... well, as you know, the same thought occurs to me often. The trouble is, in may case I know I'd be going in order to move away from something I perceive as negative, rather than moving towards something positive. And that tends to leave one in a neutral place. Move far enough from the negative, and its influence reduces making life just bearable and so momentum of change also reduces. But move toward something positive and the closer you get, the greater the power of the pull and the change accelerates.

So are you moving away or moving towards?

Incidentally, there's a book by Robert Fritz called The Path of Least Resistance which is all about creating, and creating change. Its a while since I read it, but those thoughts above have their roots there.
Oh, gosh. There's stuff we leave, and stuff that gets clarified and affirmed by leaving, and stuff we take with us because it's just who we are and it's OK, or because we're still working on it. I'm quite certain there's never a perfect solution. But it's good to leap. I waited too long, both to become a writer, and to move my physical location. Now both have happened, after painful and long struggles and anxieties, but neither is "complete" - and that is OK too. I say to trust your intution and remember that it's also allright to make a mistake and have to change course again a bit; what's important is to help the process of change and transformation that you feel in your heart become an acted-upon reality. It seems to me from reading your words that you do have a strong sense of yourself and that you can trust those inner voices to guide you.
At 50, some decades ago, I launched myself into still another startup with the enthusiasm of a carousel rider hoping to finally grasp the brass ring. After four years of struggle, I extricated myself and went on with life elsewhere.

I just want to say, that there is ALWAYS life elsewhere. If you have given this opportunity all that you can, and it isn't working out for you. There may be something you are missing. I have written a book for people in your position and it is available in paperback or as a free download.

Check out Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day at

I wish you the very best.
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Freelance copy-editor and translator. Keen on language, literature, photography, art, music, buddhist meditation and the countryside.

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