Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Thank goodness...

© Maggie Sawkins 2014 All rights reserved
My art work on Etsy

In a lovely meeting of opportunity and effort, I’ve joined a new tribe. I applied for a third time to a course that I really wanted to do, and have been taken on. We will study, practise and stretch around the skills of entrepreneurship, along others in the creative tribe of 100 young businesses. And I feel at HOME. 

This is relevant because for so much of my life, I haven’t known where I truly am, as Ken Robinson puts it,‘in my element’. I’ve been cloudy in my awareness of what suits me or how and where can I best do my thing. No longer willing to plump for one of the many areas that I could work in, but yearning to occupy ground where I can really use myself, flourish and feel happy.

Some of us find our place in our teens on a degree course, by finding a job that works or moving from one that doesn’t. But some are quietly adrift in the world of work for years, not really finding a place that suits.  We show up (80% of success according to Woody Allen) and will be loyal, most hard-working of employees. Yet all the while, we don't know how to find our metier and natural contribution. As shape-shifters, we adapt as we go, doing our best - often doing really well - yet feeling dreadful and occasionally desperate, as we tread the rat race wheel.

I have very vivid memories of moments when I knew things were really, not good. It was not a living hell - more a slow death eating away at my life energy. Energy which had been squashed so often in order to comply, adapt and endure. 

What I needed then, when the ‘soul-destruction’ of the job I was in was dawning on me, was to stop. All I knew was how to keep going, try harder - too afraid to recognise just how much I was suffering. Eventually something stopped me. I'd submitted a paper on the risks of my current role to my new boss. Eventually when I found myself in tears for the umpteenth time, in my office, I called the employee assistance people and metaphorically held my hands up. I was done, I admitted defeat. 

I know this story (with different elements) is familiar to many. At that point, I was recently married in my 40s, sole earner with an ill husband no longer working. I'd picked up the shortfall and was existing on a cocktail of exhaustion, (steadily doing too much at home and at work), resentment (‘it shouldn't be this way 18 months after marriage…’) and bloody-mindedness: 'I have to keep going'. I started to white-knuckle it each day.

Thankfully, the endurance addiction did bottom out. I could no longer focus on a project, reading didn't make sense and all energy left me. I picked up The Joy of Burnout: read a paragraph at a time, and went to my first Workaholics Anonymous meeting. We are here to thrive not to survive, as Maya Angelou so neatly puts it. 

That was over ten years ago. Lots of interesting work has come along and I've had great opportunities. I’ve let go of bookings that repeated resulted in migraines. There were dealings with the DWP, that'll test anyone's sanity. There was a family health crisis which put us all under stress for months, with three near misses. There were gradual baby steps taken to turn the ship around, whist living on the barest minimum. It's a long story. I'm so grateful people encouraged and supported me. Picking up the paint brush helped and then I started to write... 

This is where you find me.

Through it all I've had lovely awakenings. I've finally been learning the lessons that it's never too late to learn. Life is about enjoying, living each moment. I'm now expert at having fun for free. I learnt to love the birds outside my window, relish my local park and feel each change in the seasons. As a dear friend said the other day, ‘it may not have been easy, but it will definitely be worth it'. I've found new tribes... I'm amongst people who get me. I feel at home most of the time actually. It's all worth it, nothing is wasted.