Uncertainty and Doubt

Butterfly at Dumbarton OaksI’ve tried writing this a dozen times over the last year at least. So, because I haven’t put pen to paper, or finger to key, I now have a list of items I heave learned over these last two years and so I have decided to try and keep it simply to the ah ha moments.

Two years ago, I left the community and the job where I was happiest and felt most loved. While all my twists and turns up to this job didn’t make sense, where I was made sense. At least it made sense until the day I realized I couldn’t stay. In a moment, everything I knew was turned out onto the ground, knocked from its foundation.

I had so identified with ‘find what you love and do it,’ that I had become what I loved. Which was great, right up to the moment I realized I didn’t love it anymore.  Bring on the tears, followed by more tears and many sleepless nights.

Compounding this sense of dread was having only a vague sense of where I should go next. I only knew for sure I couldn’t stay where I was. The community I loved and felt loved, but I had moved there for the job and it was a small town, with little more to offer a liberal arts major and I was ready for a the city.

I now live in Washington DC with many many recent college grads still finding themselves in new careers, jobs and degrees. Its funny how you don’t realize how you’ve changed until you meet someone where you once were.

At the beginning of all this shifting I had confused my sense of career with my sense of self. Then while talking to the 22 year olds I meet, I realized that while the foundation of my career was shaken, WHO I AM is not an issue. I am a person who will be of service my whole life, who will pursue love, joy, and beauty. I will mess up and screw up along the way. I will make right and wrong decisions and learn to love. How I express and manifest these essentials will also change.

Krista Tippet, in a conversation on pilgrimage with Paulo Coehlo, said, ‘Love is the greatest life long pilgrimage. We are always learning to love. We never really arrive at learning to love. We are constantly changing and learning how to be better.’

Right now I am figuring out how I will spend my days, how those days will sustain me financially. This is not a reflection of who I am. This is not a reflection of my ability to love and to live in the world.

Today I fly to Albuquerque to attend the Living School for Action and Contemplation. It is a two year mostly distance course with two gatherings a year. This paragraph is the primary reason I decided to apply.

The world needs places that equip individuals to serve with compassion, acknowledging our differences while valuing our one-ness. The Living School for Action and Contemplation provides such a course of study grounded in the Christian mystical tradition. Cultivating a contemplative mind through teachings and practices, students deepen their awareness of our common union with Divine Reality and all beings. Students emerge empowered to live out their sacred soul task in their homes, workplaces, and all relationships, within a more spacious stance that is at once critical, collaborative, and joyful.

When I applied for this course, and was accepted, I honestly thought all my financial instability would be cleared up. Something would come along and I would find myself with a certain financial steadiness.

It didn’t happen. Uncertainty still accompanies me on the bus as I travel to another interview and as I press send on another application.

However, self-doubt, uncertainties close cousin, is not a passenger on the bus anymore. Self-doubt, which caused many sleepless nights and tears, has been replaced by a new foundation, deeper than my profession. It has been replaced by a deeper certainty of who I am. For this, I am glad my foundation was rocked two years ago.

Black Dog of Depression and Doubt

Washington Post ApplicationI woke up with the black dog of depression and doubt attempting to make a home with me again. Luckily I had an early dentist appointment, so I pulled myself out of bed..

Once I got home from the appointment I did everything I thought to get going. Had a nice cup of fancy tea, started work and got some exercise. Then I decided to make some pumpkin oat pancakes for lunch. While cooking, I listened to this podcast of Brene Brown speaking with Krista Tippett.

As they spoke about Brene’s research on vulnerability some quotes jumped out at me, “Your capacity for whole heartedness is directly related to your capacity for broken heartedness.” The times when people never thought they would survive, were the moments that so thoroughly defined them. This is often a time when your true strength blossoms.  These are the moments when no matter what you have, you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you just keep moving forward with whatever strength you have. You move forward with whatever hope you can find. She spoke of how hope is directly related to adversity. Those people who faced adversity early in life, especially were blessed with a capacity to find hope.

Another quote spoke to my feelings today, “For most people being brave and being afraid happen in the same moment.” Sometimes I forget that and I think today was just such a day. So when I feel fear and doubt I lose sight of my bravery. Today when I woke up and remembered that I still haven’t heard from two possible jobs, the doubt that had been creeping along the edge of my days decided to sit squarely in my view, begging me to pay attention only to it. It was hard day to stay focused on anything. Luckily a friend reminded me to let the dog pass through but not stay.

A video posted on UpWorthy a week ago talks about the black dog of depression, perfectly framing the specter of depression that so many people live with everyday. Taking this analogy, I decided that I can see my dog as an overwhelming presence, or I can see it as a dog playing fetch with experiences and emotions I would normally not pay attention to, much like a dog bringing sticks and dead birds to their people. I can take a moment to observe, honor, and hold the life that I have in my hands, brought by a loyal friend.  If I do this then I have a chance to learn and know more deeply what is going on for me. I must remember that the black dog of depression can be trained to simply fetch from the depths those emotions and experiences that are deeply affecting me. Those hidden stones and logs that lurk beneath the surface of daily life. My friend Molly, from AmeriCorps NCCC, also wrote recently about struggling with depression in a great post on her blog.

Turns out the anxiety and stress I experienced while submitting the applications for 2 writing internships, is now just hanging on me as I wait to hear word. The opportunities will determine my direction for the next year, and possibly longer.  This intense emotion reminds me of just how important this new direction is to me.

Another reminder in the podcast, reminded me that for whole hearted people the judgement between good work and good you is always separate. I may not get the internships and that does not mean my writing is not good, or that I am unworthy of love and belonging. My family and friends remind me of that love every moment of every day, even if I am far away.

Thank you black dog for reminding me of that love, of that passion for a career that aligns my talents and concerns, of my capacity for broken heartedness and wholeheartedness.