Finding value in the space of uncertainty
No one told me it would be this way: regrets, remorse, grief, sense of loss, loss of confidence, lack of motivation. This separation has been the hardest — but its not a separation from a partner, but the change of career.
I still want you by my side,
just to help me dry the tears that I’ve cried,
’cause I’m sure gonna give you a try,
and if you want, I’ll try to love again.
— Cat Stevens
It’s funny how ‘changing your life’ is always used by coaches and therapists to promote their services to help you find your way to the life you want to live. Positive outlooks, new-found sense of freedom and sense of self. However, the other side of such changes are never used in promotional copy: the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that comes with change — these are usually the things that stop most of us from making those bold decisions.
I followed my own advice and did precisely that — I changed my life by ending my career as a therapist, and in the past few months have felt like I’ve had a separation from a lover.
I’ve realised that my identity was so entwined with my professional life, that I got out of touch with the real me. And now I’m taking the time to get to know the person I’ve always been while at the same time stripping away the layers of personae and masks.
Yes, it is dark and foreboding at times. I have those days where I want to stay in bed and wonder where all my drive, creativity, and willpower have wandered off to.
I have resisted the temptation of labelling it ‘depression’, as I’m sure any other clinician may want to do. I don’t feel that in this instance that diagnosis is useful, nor entirely correct. This is not something that needs fixing — rather it is the place to be, to get to know, and experience in all its shadowy gloom. For me, this is not a mental health condition; its just a phase I’m experiencing.
Although somewhat challenging, the depths that I am experiencing is at the same time nourishing a part of me that has been starved for the last few years.
You believe what you see,
All the things that you know,
But oh you don’t know,
The depth of my soul
– Thievery Corporation
In his book Care Of The Soul, Thomas Moore writes:
The void and grayness of depression evoke an awareness and articulation of thoughts otherwise hidden behind the screen of lighter moods.
He suggests that not only is melancholia and sadness a sign of experience, but also a maturing and a gaining of wisdom that allows one to grow as a person. In fact, Moore describes it as a necessary part of living a sacred life.
I’ve devoted a quarter of my life to caring for others’ wellbeing; now I’m putting my energy towards caring for my own. I’ve certainly read, studied, and lectured on these ideas for years — but I haven’t really made the space to live by them whole-heartedly. I haven’t afforded myself the time or space to go deep, deep, deep in an extensive or protracted way. I’ve touched the surface of these depths; but never completely dived in.
Making the choice to leave my chosen career has afforded me the opportunity to do so. And the perspective I have now is refreshing.
It certainly feels like a separation of sorts, a divorcing from my ‘old’ life. So of course there are going to be the sensations of grief and regret; but there is also the revival of the parts of my true nature that have been latent or ignored for so long. I feel like I’m getting to know myself again.
There is still plenty of confusion and uncertainty about what will come next. That’s where I find solace in the I Ching, itself an enigmatic map of uncertainty. In the obscurity of these ancient Chinese symbols, my imagination is able to connect my experiences, my embodied feelings, and all the knowledge of past learnings in order to make sense of the world. In a recent reading, the wisdom I received was to “strive for little things” — sobering advice for someone who always likes to make grandiose plans and look at the bigger picture.
I keep reminding myself that the theme for the Earth Dog year is Presence and Integrity. The alchemical symbol of the mountain wolf to represent this theme is a particularly potent reminder of the power of stillness, calm, and patience in a world that is currently so fast and furious and demanding of every shred of our attention.
I have, for example, removed myself from all social media. I have closed and deactivated all my accounts, and spending very little time online. My choice of reading material is now offline, returning to print books instead of e-books, browsing the shelves of bookstores instead of online stores, and even looking to street press to find out what’s happening locally instead of simply searching online.
Even in the silence, I hear my heart
There is a sense of calm that has emerged from this. And I attribute the emergence of the ‘darker’ thoughts and feelings to this stillness. Having reduced or eliminated the noise from ‘out there’, it has allowed my attention to be drawn to inner aspects of my being that have been drowned out.
Imagine a society where everyone was afforded the space to make their own explorations in this manner. I wonder whether we would have such a continued need for medications, treatments, and courses that all sell the promise of coming out and staying out of these depths.
In this moment, being ‘in the dark’ (so to speak) is wonderfully mysterious. From this emptiness, all things seem possible.
And that is a marvellous thing to consider.
I invite you to consider the following questions, and share your thoughts in the comments section below:
- Do you allow yourself the luxury of darkness, depth, and melancholia?
- When you do, what do you discover?
- Do you judge it as ‘bad’ when it happens, or do you embrace it and stay curious as to what emerges from these depths?