I’ve been here before

I love getting parcels in the post.

Over the past few years I have done my fair share of online shopping, and it’s always a thrill to arrive home to find a parcel sitting there waiting to be opened. It’s like having a birthday.

Yesterday, my parcel was a book I’d ordered. ‘The Pathfinder’, by Nicholas Lore. In all my scouring of the internet in search of the advice that is going to help me in making some decisions over the coming months, this one has come recommended.

So last night, after I’d come home from work, gone out again to a meeting, then come home again and performed all my evening chores, I settled down in bed for a bit of light reading.

I hadn’t read much more than a couple of paragraphs when I realised: I’ve read this before.

I suppose when you’ve read as many self-help books as I have, you’re bound to start doubling up eventually. Fortunately, I don’t already own it – I must have borrowed it from the library at some point. I don’t think I’ve read more than a few chapters, and I don’t think I’ve attempted any of the exercises with any seriousness.

At any rate, expect to see my trotting out some reflections on the exercises, as I’m planning on working my way through them in the coming weeks. I have a brand new notebook and everything.

The art of staying

It’s all well and good that I am making progress – or at least, think I’m making progress – in figuring out what to do with my life. It’s all well and good that I can acknowledge that I’m not in a place to be able to quit and change now; that I need time and much thought before I can make any decisions.

Because I find myself on the train this morning, trundling off to a job I don’t enjoy or like, with people I can take or leave. And my next three evenings are taken up with meetings and ac5ivities that I once enjoyed and believed in which have now become obligations that I resent.

I guess now I need to look at the smaller details, and figure out how to find enjoyment in situations which, overall, don’t bring me joy. Acknowledge that it’s not forever. That I do have a choice in this and at the moment I am choosing to stay where I am.

I guess this where all that gratitude stuff comes in.

Getting unstuck

Since I started counselling last year, my therapist and doctor have been admonishing me to start exercising. They both believe that exercise plays a huge role in the treatment of people with depression/anxiety. The evidence in support of this is pretty overwhelming, so who am I to argue?

However, getting active is something I struggle with. I have, like most people, a lot of demands on my time. Particularly on the days I work, when I’m up at 5.45 and usually by the time I’ve finished running around after the kids, preparing dinner, getting kids to bed and getting stuff ready for the next day, it’s 9.30 or 10 o’clock at night. I have no intentons of trying to squeeze some kind of workout into those days.

Still, there are the days I don’t work. But although some evenings I may have had the idle thought that I should go for a walk/do a workout/hop on the statonery bike/move my body in some way the next day, by the morning my motivation will have waned, and I can come up with a hundred other priorities that need to be done first. So the exercise just never gets done.

I’ve been reading upon how to get unstuck, however. Because, as I see it, that’s where I am. I’ve reached this crossroads in my life, with no idea of where to go next. At some point I will choose a path, but for now I need to just sit with it for a while. I have plans to strip back my life to the bare essentials. I’m on a committee which has increasingly become a chore that I no longer enjoy. I had told them that I would be prepared to stay on for another year, but not after that. Fortunately our major activity winds down after July and my obligation to them also winds down. Our AGM is next week and I will let them know uncategorically during the elections that I am happy to step aside now, but if not I will not be standing next year. My other obligation is the musical production I’m currently in. I had auditioned for this in November last year, thinking that it would be a good way to get out of the house and do something creative. But I’m not enjoying it. It doesn’t give me the buzz I once enjoyed.

So I will be removing these two obligations from my life in the coming months, and I think that will help to give me the headspace that I need to contemplate any major decisions. And it will give me the time to be able to perhaps try some volunteer work in any fields I might be considering, which I think is going to be critical. Not just so I can see if I like this or that kind of work, but it will also give me contacts in the industries I might be considering.

One of the pieces of advice I read for helping yourself get unstuck was to shake up your routine. Do something different. So I did. Well, nothing groundbreaking, but different to what I normally would do.

Yesterday, I took a walk. I put on my runners, walked my daughter to school, and instead of coming home and doing the housework, I headed up the road. I live in a no-through suburb and there’s one major road that goes through it, does a loop at the end and you come back down again; it’s about a 6km walk. So off I went. There’s no shortcuts back so I was committed to the 6km walk on a beautiful early autumn morning. I just let my thoughts run wild and enjoyed the sun and the sights of my neighbourhood. My plan is to do this walk on every non-work day.

So here I am, killing two birds with one stone; my mental health and my stuckness.

Fantasy vs reality

I’ve been feeling a sense of peace since my lightbulb moment(s) this week. I’m also noticing, since my neck and jaw tension has subsided significantly, that I have sore muscles – the kind you get post-workout. In one sense, I guess, I have been giving them a workout. At least I will have a nicely toned neck and upper shoulders.

I spoke to one of my sisters last night and told her about my (currently half-baked) plan to switch career paths. She is thinking of doing the same thing and when I mentioned one of the areas I have been considering moving into, said she thought I’d be good at it.

But while I’m feeling peaceful and at ease with my decision, there is a part of me that wonders if this is even real. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you may have an inkling that my brain is the mental equivalent of Steve McQueen; it is the master of concocting brilliant escape plans. And I invest a huge amount of mental energy (and time and occasionally money) into whatever my latest plan for escaping my reality is. But there is never any real commitment behind it and eventually it all comes to nothing.

I *think* my current state of mind is different, but I’m not altogether sure. For example, usually when I’m hatching an escape plan I am filled with a manic, desperate energy and I’m furiously researching into courses I could do and wanting to change things *RIGHT NOW*. At the moment, though, I’ve merely ackowledged that my current career is not right for me. But I’m not looking to replace it with anything else just yet; I realise this is going to take time, study and commitment.

I have a job at the moment. Granted, it’s not a job I enjoy but it is part-time therefore allowing me to study and/or do some volunteer work to trial some new career paths. I also acknowledge that I am going to have to free up some time in my schedule in order to be able to commit myself to a career change. At the moment I have 2 other extra-curricular commitments that I’m bound to until July, so I will have to see them out. But rather than piling on yet another commitment (which is what I would do during one of my escape plans), I’m just acknowledging that at the moment and seeing it as an opportunity to really spend some time really gaining some personal insight.

So, you see, I’m hoping that the acceptance of the reality of my situation, acceptance that I can’t change this *RIGHT NOW*, and the lack of furious – but futile – action means that this time it’s real.

Time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, I look forward to reinventing myself.

A theory

So, while I’ve been working today, I’ve come up with a bit of a theory.

This slump/rut/midlife crisis/whatever you want to call it has been going on for a while. A few months now.

I’ve worked hard to get sober, worked hard to combat my depression and now I’ve reached a point where all my efforts seem to have been for nought.

At least, that’s one way to look at it.

I often forget that I am a recovering/recovered alcoholic – because this isn’t my identity any more. A few years ago, I got myself sober, dragged myself out up off the floor and made myself a functioning, employable human again. Did some study, gained some experience, and now I’m back to being pretty good at what I do.

And on the one hand, that seems pretty trivial, but on the other, it’s not. It’s quite an achievement, really.

And I think I’m coming to the realisation that this path is not for me, but it is a path that has served its purpose. I didn’t even think about it at the time, but I chose to go back into work that I knew I could do. And while at times I have been frustrated to be back where I was before I had kids, the fact is that going back to this work  has given me something to focus on besides where my next drink was coming from, as well as life skills and, most importantly, confidence in myself. Confidence to apply for better jobs. And now, confidence to acknowledge that this is no longer for me.

I’ve felt like I was at the cusp of something for a while. I think that’s it. And now it’s time to move on.