October 23, 2012

Space To Do Nothing

Life is busy: work, home, relationships, appointments, creative activities, errands, exercise, etc. Most days there is too much busyness and not enough space. We tightly cram our days and there isn't space for life to happen (e.g., helping a friend in need, spontaneous fun). And there's little space to simply be--to do nothing.

I've recently made a career-changing decision that has no detailed what's-next plan. Yet my ego desperately wants that plan. Ego wants me to do and plan. One of my recent ego stories: there's no space for you to let this process unfold; you must know right now what you'll do for money in September; without money you are not enough; without a job you are not enough; if you really think your creative path might make you money, then you must start writing a book right now; you must blog interesting material every day; you must do more to be enough.

Hmmmm. Let's do a fact check on this ego story: the entire story is lies. These fear-based lies are how ego and doubt thrive; if I ignore the lies, then ego is weakened (and my true, wholehearted self is strengthened). Yet my habituated pattern is to listen to the doubt. So my current life path is to plaster that particular habituated groove and re-groove new paths.

Right now I want to groove a path of doing nothing. Well, still serve my students and carry on with life, but allow space to do nothing. I'm tired. At the end of a long day, I can simply enjoy a nice meal, share stories with Mark, and then sit in my big, comfy chair. Just sit. Maybe write in my journal or read a book. Or maybe just sit. Sit and watch my list-making mind think of all the things I could do and purposefully not do those things. My priority for right now: doing nothing. It's what my heart and soul need.

October 19, 2012

Be Brave

In June I connected with my 3 life-long best friends. During that lovely weekend, I found a delicate yet bold necklace that declared, "Be Brave." The message resonated with me deeply; it touched a spot of tenderness and growth in my heart--the part that began to trust myself.

Through years of self-reflection, therapy, and meditation, I've gained insights, changed habits, found happiness, and explored creativity, yet I've experienced an underlying discontent (beyond the basic level of difficulty that is life). Although I knew it was time to be brave, I wasn't sure where this path would lead. In the first weeks of a new academic year the path became clear: leave academia; take my gifts and skills to a new career. The biggest aha moment was when I realized I didn't have to be an academic. For so long--most of my life--academics has been a strongly-held identity for me. School was a place where I achieved and excelled. It gave me a feeling of enough-ness and of control. When things were difficult in my life, I felt I could change, save, or control  via hard work in school. Now I realize I don't have that kind of control. (In fact, I never did.) 

Although my role as a college professor was extremely rewarding for many years, it does not define me. And recently it has drained me. So I stepped outside the academic box. And when I allowed that space, my world grew huge. I saw all the many ways I can serve the world and my own passions. I took the leap: next September I will no longer be in academia (with no back-up plan in place).

When I told my colleagues, there were 3 themes to the responses: "I'm surprised, but actually not that surprised," "I'm sad for Lawrence, but happy for you," and interestingly, the most common response, "I admire your courage, bravery, and honesty." I didn't expect the last reaction, yet it poured in from people--from very different people. This was indeed my be-brave path.

There's a reason Brene Brown's TED talk, "The Power of Vulnerability," has over 6 million hits. She talks about vulnerability, shame, and taking risks. These are topics our society squelches in many ways. Our current level of societal discourse (e.g., news, social media, politics) is often judgmental, not open to vulnerability. So there's any undercurrent of uneasiness. People recognize they want to be true to themselves, take risks, make changes, yet it doesn't feel safe--we don't want to be vulnerable. But someplace deep in our hearts we believe the words of Brene: "Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love." 

To be brave is really to be vulnerable. It's not brave or courageous if we don't expose some part of ourselves. I think the more brave acts we witness--even small ones--the more courage we gain to tell our stories, be ourselves, and share our passions. The reality is we're all vulnerable. And that real-ness is often what connects us. We only need be brave enough to share, even just a little. Or to occasionally take a big leap:

October 13, 2012


For much of my life, I boxed myself into corners: to-dos I must accomplish, outward appearances I must provide, happiness for others I must generate, long hours I must work. These were all corners of my own making, but it took time to understand my role in the process. I began to question the box-myself-in route. I realized there is not one path; there are multiple paths that weave together and apart. Years ago I read a line from Jen Louden and it stuck in my head: "We always have choices, especially when it feels like we don't" [italics mine]. The times when I feel most rigid--when my ego unequivocally boxes me into a corner--that's precisely the time to question. That's the time to open my mind and think of choices; even if it's a micro-choice, it's always there.

On Wednesday, October 3, I sat in the hallway of the Provost's office. My heart raced with anxiety. My ego strongly doubted my decision. My true self was at peace. It was time for me to leave academia, to leave Lawrence. No seeds of doubt. A bold choice made after years of self-reflection. (BTW, ego doesn't like bold choices made from the heart.)

On my way home from work, I thought it appropriate to take photos--to document the Day-I-Resigned. The fall colors were amazing. I appreciated the space to pause, look around, and rest in my heartfelt decision. I lay under a tree. The wind blew and a gorgeous shower of leaves fell to the ground. 

I felt relieved, free, and playful. Life is an interesting journey. Along that journey, we always have choices. Choices as wide ranging as laying under a tree or quitting a job. I'm glad I've made time to know myself--to suss out what's ego and what's me; to understand choices made for immediate comfort and those made for sustained happiness.  

In "Summer Day," Mary Oliver asks, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" My response: live authentically, make heartfelt choices, be kind, know myself, love people, laugh, listen to others and myself, create, be grateful, share my joy, make connections. What will I do next September? I'm not yet sure. But I trust in myself.