“How do you handle the feeling that you’re in a line of work (or life) that is not the one you’re meant to be in, but have absolutely no clarity about what it is you ARE supposed to be doing, and no matter how much you pray for guidance–anything at all–to help you figure out your next step, none seems to come. How do you handle that feeling of being trapped but having not a damn clue which direction to go?”“Do you think you should try and MAKE things happen, or will they happen anyway?”
So, I’ve two different answers and I’m going to connect the two in a few.
The response to the first question is really simple: Stop what you’re doing. Just stop.
(Now is the time to insert one of the following: “Well, Ingrid, that’s just not possible/feasible/responsible…” or “I could never do that because…” or “But, what would I dooooooooo?”—each delivered, of course, in it’s own voice. You know exactly how you sound saying each of these. In fact, to get you into practice for the homework given later, say each of the out loud. Seriously. Go ahead.)
Not necessarily forever. But, take a few weeks or months off from work or life as you know it. Call it a mental health break, sick time use, vacation (a two-week vacay doesn’t cut it. You know what happens then), sabbatical, or resignation. But just stop. This first question is one of those quintessential mid-life crisis questions. Some find the solution in a high-horsepower sports car, others ashram hop. Finding the answer to this question is pretty much why sabbatical was designed.
The more time & energy you spend, doing more in the space (here = physical space & energetic space) where you don’t feel you should be, the more stuck you’ll feel. The more stuck you feel, the more hopeless a graceful exit. It’s like trying to swim through quicksand; thick, gunky, and blinding.
Remember Fred Flintstone’s feet running and running like pistons but his stone car wasn’t going anywhere? Feel like that? Then it’s time to put on the brakes. Just stop.
I’m aware that many people feel they are not in a position to walk away from their job, spouse, other life situations that make you feel like you’re leashed. It’s easier to do than we typically think. We’ve created or bought stories about it that stall us when we think of it. Ever read someone’s story of chucking it all for nothing (or everything) and thought, “That’s nice. How adventurous! But, I could never do that.”? I’ve heard all of the reasons and my response to each one is, to quote Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you.” It’s one of our notsobrilliant stupid human tricks to over-complicate things in our head long before they occur. It really is quite simple. You just do it. Doubt all you want if you’re making the ‘correct’ decision and then do it anyway.
Here’s why: you need to create space between you and the root of the stuck, the sticking spot. You may be able to feel it or get a sense of it a little through the gunky, blinding, quicksand but until you create a way to hear the conversation with yourself (see first paragraph: if you didn’t say those three sentences out loud to yourself, do it now. And listen to your own voice. Know it. Not in terms of having a conversation with someone else where you want to make sure you’re heard. I want you to listen to the sound of your own voice so, when you’ve created the space, you’re hearing those things you think you don’t want to hear!)
You need to be confident in that voice in it’s use for, as an expert in, you in as much as you are confident in that same voice in its use for others & expertise in other areas.
You need to be able to hear your answers to: Is this the question I’m really asking? Or are there different questions to ask to bring yourself to the ‘where do I need to or want to be’ answer.
I think the answer is really simple. If you are feeling stuck and not knowing which direction to go, ask yourself. And, then listen to your own voice, your own response. The clarity that comes with the answers is necessary and simple. Most of the time, though, we complicate even that. Pretty much because it is so simple that we don’t want to believe the answer to our quandry. I mean, “It couldn’t be that? Could it?”
It’s also a lot easier to trust the answer you get than you think. Because, if you don’t already consciously know it, somewhere in your blessed little being, knows the answer. You may fight it. “That doesn’t make any sense!” “I can’t do that!” “No one will understand.” “What if I fail?” “I’ll lose [fill in the blank].” But every fiber of your being will vibe when you hear it, get it, see it, feel it, know it and bloody fucking own it and take the step to move into that direction that’s meant for you. It may have been obvious all along but couldn’t be seen through the gunk. Or, it may have been obvious but you were so busy, that by the end of the there was no space for the things, activity, or people that bring you passion, purpose, joy, grins, sweaty pride in yourself and those around you.
We tend to have these grandiose ideas about what our purpose or passion is supposed to be. It’s often locked up in the impression of ‘how we should do things so that life will turn out like it should’, right? Like doing those things, being like and doing the grand things those people we revere do. Because it couldn’t possibly be something as simple as what we’re interested in, how we want to get dirty in the world, or cleaned up in the world, or boring to others, right?
Side bar: Interesting isn’t it how that/these/this are directly associated with the roles we consider ‘less than grand’? We don’t imagine the clouds parting to shine on and bless the school janitor or garbage man & certainly would never ascribe those as a ‘calling’ or ‘purpose’–never mind that most of us don’t understand the importance of their, say, purpose.
Ask yourself. Out loud. Not in what direction you should go. Ask yourself where you feel excited, in what tasks do you find yourself dancing to the tunes in your head? What makes you feel fulfilled at the end of the day/duty? Where do you most feel in your groove? In the yum? In the mind-space where even when life’s the shits, you feel the magic moving behind you? What makes your heart sing with anticipation? Your belly jiggle with the internal “HOLYSHITICANTBELIEVEIMDOINGTHIS’ awesomeness? Where does your curiosity lead you? The answers are already known. If they weren’t you wouldn’t know you were in the wrong space.
The universe, god, gods, and Rand-MacNally are not going to give you this direction at this point. They’ve actually been pointing to it for ages–neon signs, opportunities, yellow brick roads, road blocks, directional arrows, exclamation points, stop signs and question marks have all been ignored because they didn’t look how you thought they should (fucking expectations). And are now in the process of giving you the universal single eyebrow raise when you ask. At this point, looking elsewhere for answers to some of life’s questions isn’t like using google. It’s more like searching your entire place for those damn reading glasses only to have someone point out to you later that they’ve been on top of your head the whole time. Only the scale is larger with more significant consequences.
And then, you need to do something about it. Remember Fred’s feet? If you decide to either sit around, you’ll find yourself stuck again. If you find yourself trying to MAKE that something happen, it’s prolly not going to go in the fashion you think you want. And, you’ll feel stuck. Again.
All you need to do is start taking steps to get into your groove. Left foot, right foot. It’s like wishing to win the lottery but not buying the fucking ticket. It’s not going to happen without you. You put in the effort–whether it’s Frankenball baking (sadly, I’ll not be able to have them), leather working, quilt making, accounting, mowing the grass in the perfect pattern, writing, planting, painting, preaching, teaching, programming, fishing, dishing the news, dancing the rhumba, zumba-ing, building that car or house or program, hiking, moving to that other place you’ve thought about for decades, applying for that management position, taking the placement exam, going back to school.
Just stop what you’re doing the stuckedness stuff.
And, then start doing, dancing in your groove.
And watch it all unfold like magic. You’ll never feel stuck again. You will know when you’ve got one foot in the groove and the other not. You’ll know how to get back on track, too. Just ask.
My own choice may be perceived as at the more dramatic end of the spectrum but when I asked myself, the response didn’t lead to much of an internal discussion. It went something like this
Me: What the fuck am I supposed to do, dammit? Me: Duh, Ingrid. Me: Fuck. I knew that already, didn’t I? Me: Ayup. Me: Well, how the hell do I do that? Me: Duh. Me. Fuck. I knew that already, too, didn’t I?
My stuck-ed was being in a very small physical space that when I first moved in was called my Cottage Cocoon. Two hundred square feet that may not have had a kitchen but it offered protection, warmth and stillness in the chaos moving about me. Last October, after fighting what I’d already known for a couple of months, I made the choice to leave the cocoon that was feeling like she was kicking me out of the nest. I was listening to her (yes, buildings and such speak to me) and every fiber of my being. Even when I was arguing with myself, I was listening. And I knew I had to leave. It was my yoke, the thing that kept me from going where I needed to go, connecting with people I needed to find, and taking my work to others. No, silly. Not like that. The focus on “I gotta do what I gotta do to pay rent”, not I gotta do what I gotta do to do what I gotta do–if you know what I mean.
I made the actual decision to leave the place while making a dump run of all things. And, of all things, at the same time I made that decision, I was sent an email by a client that simply said, “Would it be useful for you to stay at our place while we’re in New York the month of November?” Why, yes. Yes, it would, indeed. Thank you.
And so began the journey of the past six months. Has it always been comfortable? No. Sleeping in my car sucks. Disappearing myself over and over again from places sucks. However, because I’m free from worrying about making the rent, I’m free to go where visions lead me, where people ask for me, where places call to me. And I watch it all unfold from a place of knowing that, even if I’m afraid (oh, yes), if I put one foot in front of the other, all that I need is provided.
You can know that, too. I don’t recommend anyone else intentionally make themselves homeless. What I do recommend is that if you’re feeling stuck, without direction or know you’re not where/what you’re supposed to be, stop doing the swimming in the quicksand. Just stop. Full stop. All stop. Create space away from it and ask yourself. Yourself knows. It may not make sense to anyone else. It doesn’t need to.
Stop. Ask. Listen. Trust. Then, do. With all you’ve got and in partnership with all that’s holy. Go balls to the wall–even if it’s a slow bounce–just do.