I’ve been noticing a few things awry these last months.
First, a subtle gnawing in my belly that can satisfied only by sweet things. I’ve found myself buying extra cakes, baking more and heading to the fridge after meals to fill my belly with nectar.
Second – an insipid compulsion to purchase things. Not giant new things that are spiralling us into credit card debt. But a slow re-cluttering of my wardrobes with op shop clothes. A need to buy things for our daughter that make her momentarily happy. A habitual buying of coffees and meals out despite having food at home.
Third – I’ve been noticing a deep discomfort with being on my own with my feelings. A habit that I, as a compulsive personal development junkie, thought I had long since banished to the depths of Khazad Dum (shout out to all you Lord of the Rings fans).
I have been filling this discomfort with reality TV… on the surface a benign past time that helps me switch off from busy days of running two businesses and mothering. In reality, an indication that I am trying to process emotion through the medium and drama of other people’s lives.
I’ve learned from my many years working on this stuff that my previous approach of honing in on the symptoms (in this case, the soothing behaviours) and embarking on radical detoxes only works to make me feel more awful than I already clearly do (as evidenced by the soothing behaviours).
And so instead I’ve been trying to bring mindful awareness to the situation AS A WHOLE, to understand why exactly I’m trying to soothe myself at this moment in time.
I’ve been asking the question ‘where is the sadness’.. and letting it sink into the depths of my soul during meditation…without necessarily expecting an immediate answer. Coincidentally for me, eating sweets is almost always correlated with an unprocessed sadness.
I know that there are many layers of protection to get through before the truth is revealed to me, and that the layers will only be dissolved through patience. compassion and forgiveness.
I’ve been seeking support – to understand whether the sadness is my own, or some other, perhaps ancestral sadness that is only now coming to the surface for healing. Sometimes sadness can come up from something that happened years or decades before.
I’ve been soothing myself – as often as I need to – and not judging myself when I need to. Removing the soothing behaviour without understanding the cause can leave a big old gaping wound that can feel even more uncomfortable.
And slowly, the big picture is revealing itself to me. A picture of an mal-alignment. A conflict between my values and priorities.
In part, the soothing is coming from a place that is not even bad at all. As a perpetual striver, I tend to feel most vulnerable when I arrive at the destination I have been striving to get to. And in the past few months, things have been, on the surface, incredible.
The huge, massive, insurmountable dreams that I have craved for so long have manifested.
I live in the country surrounded by nature, great community and stellar friends. Tick.
I have a business that I adore.. helping women in the service sectors to get re-energized and inspired so they can make their own unique impact in the world. Tick.
We have enough money to travel, to eat what we want, to explore and to pay our rent. Tick.
I have a baby who now, thankfully sleeps more than she used to. A little kid who is so happy and healthy and full of life that thinking about her when I’m away from her makes me want to weep with joy and gratitude.
But here’s the thing about my personality – I love the journey and could take or leave the destination. I only was able to contextualise this feeling after listening to this podcast episode from Straight and Curly.
Yep…. this is a true existential crisis of white, educated, female privilege.
But it doesn’t make it any less real for me.
Having this personality trait – the striver – makes mindfulness both challenging but extremely important for me. It reminds me to stay present, to celebrate the little things and to quieten the mind so as not to get overwhelmed by the many big visions and actions I want to take…. like all the time.
And so the sadness, in part, I believe is fuelled by a wound with life itself. A deep acknowledgement and knowing (from all my mindfulness work) that chasing external things will not sustainably satisfy me. And the reconciling of this knowledge with my understanding of what makes me tick – which is achievement, growth and evolution.
The sadness reminds me that, in fact, this is progress. Perhaps you could describe where I am now as the place between seeking external validation for all I do and the finding of that instrinsic validation all on my own.
A veritable no woman’s land for someone who has been taught to strive, compete and always, always, be moving.
And so it is that I find myself having achieved all that I wanted to, but with next steps either not appearing in full view or been obscured by fear (I believe it’s probably the latter!).
This is a precarious place to find myself in – as it makes me incredible susceptible to adopting and merging with OTHER people’s visions of success.
Cue – the saga involving whether or not to buy a house (read all about it here).
This is dangerous as I find myself fixated on getting these external versions of success, and confused as to why I keep sabotaging myself from getting them (the reason, of course, is that they don’t actually reflect my desires or values, and so they feel empty and frankly unmotivating).
During these phases of not knowing next steps, or being too afraid to take them, it is wise to learn to lean into the feeling of deep discomfort. It’s essentially like standing at the top of a very windy hill without your undies on.
I know from experience that with time, things will reveal themselves. And in the interim, my job is just to respond an interact to the opportunities that arise. To test and see how they feel in my body. To not make any rash, inappropriate moves (as has been my speciality) in a panic of ‘BUT I HAVE NO DRAMA OR STRESS IN MY LIFE AND I MUST CREATE IT BECAUSE WHO AM I IF I AM NOT BUSY OR STRESSED?’
Truth be told, there are elements emerging. Visions so massive that, if I’m honest, I’m shit scared of them.
Visions of creating a sisterhood of impact-driven women who want to change this world for the better, but want to do so honouring and respecting their bodies, minds and souls.
Visions of international retreats – where we look at incredible, innovative social development models. Where we channel precious dollars and jobs to people who need them. Where we reconnect with OUR unique value propositions as disruptors and social innovators while learning essential self care and feminine wisdom to keep us doing this important work long into our old age.
Visions of books and more babies and farms with a horse all to myself.
Visions of trips around Australia, trips around the world, precious time spent with family and loved ones. Long, balmy nights on a deck drinking wine and cooking incredible food.
Visions that if I’m honest with myself, are calling to me from underneath all the soothing. And perhaps the soothing is just my way of ignoring them because I’m too scared to disrupt the comfort I have created.
And so as I stand here – no knickers and all – I wanted to let you know that if you’re soothing, that’s totally cool. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t slap your wrist because your whole essence oozes ‘unnecessary existential crisis’.
Just wait. And notice. And try and accept.
And gradually, the whole picture will become clear.
And the beauty is that when you understand what’s going on, you can tackle your soothing from a place of deep understanding and forgiveness rather than a place of conditionality and frustration.
So now that things are beginning to becoming clear, here’s some actions I’m planning on taking, because I know that being in the flow of life requires both periods of reflection followed by periods of action, followed by making space for the rebound of that action.
First, I’m going on a 30 day shopping ban. This may sound counter-intuitive, but I know that this will help me UNCOVER where the misalignment is between my values and my spending habits. It feels motivating, rather than fear inducing and so I know it’s right for me to understand why I’m reaching. For more info on this, you can head to Cait Flander’s beautiful blog on mindful budgeting.
Second, I’m going to TEST how opportunities feel in my body before I commit to them. During these times, it’s essential that I have a clear view of my desired feelings and values – so as to ascertain whether the things I choose to engage with I’m doing so because they are leading me closer to where I want to go, or whether I’m doing it out of fear. So I’ll pop my values and feelings on our fridge and in the bathroom – as well as in my wallet and on my phone.
I’m also going to remember that these times always pass, and often leave in their wake more clarity, commitment and passion than was there before. I choose to see this discomfort as a gift, an opportunity for learning about how my values and priorities have shifted without my noticing.
Lastly, I’m going to be kind to myself. That means gentle movement, some nutritional support to manage the sugar cravings, lots of meditation and lots of grounding, nourishing things like baths and walks. It’s the end of winter, and I’m keenly aware how quickly soothing can be transformed by sun, by changes in my menstrual cycle and by a week of eating lots of vegetables and drinking water.
Ps – want some support learning what your cravings are saying? Let’s have a 15 minute chat and see if working together might create some clarity for you xx