Headfirst and Whole Hog

I keep putting this off.

I’ve been having a hard time writing lately.  We’ve all been there, this isn’t a wheel I’ve suddenly reinvented.  Procrastination, excuses, extremely urgent Ryan Gosling internet gossip.  There are so many reasons not to write.

As an obsessive-compulsive/workaholic/not-quite-perfect-but-damn-well-trying mom, writer’s block is not something I often have a problem with.  I’m determined to keep writing despite all of the obstacles in my path, and all of my hyper-driven and over-scheduled ways mean that when it’s time to write, writing happens right away.  There’s no time for lost in thought, no time for inspirational web-surfing or broadband brainstorming.  The need to write trumps even the need to clean or to organize or to prepare for tomorrow or for next week.

Lately, though, it is the need to not write that trumps them all.  It is as if the barrier I built up in my brain to keep the task space separate from the writing space has fallen in on top of itself, like the scene from the Ten Commandments when the parted Red Sea turns back into one big ocean of water, tossing horses and soldiers and fish and ships all around in one giant gurgling soup.  Now that soup is my brain.

Closet BlockI start a new job in a few days, and that OCD part of me has been planning for months all of the chores that will need to be completed before I can comfortably inject myself into a new and high pressure (if we count the pressure I’m putting on myself) situation.  My life right now has become one huge project of cleaning out and organizing and making room in my head for this new big experience, my den literally filled with bags and boxes and plastic bins of crap we never unpacked from the last house, piles of old baby clothes and toys that need sorting and sending to charity.  It’s gotten so bad that my daughter won’t even play in here anymore (my husband gave up weeks ago).

So I sit here, alone, surrounded by memories and by yard sale style mementos.  There are linens embroidered by the hands of my almost modern ancestors, and there are nursing pillows from Amazon.  There are family photos, binders of work I completed in both masters programs, binders of all the final essays from each of the classes I taught (I’m a registrar – shouldn’t I know how long I legally need to keep these for?) and nearly a decade of office kitsch (do I throw it out? is it supposed to come with me to the new job?).  I look around and I am overwhelmed.  There is no room here to lay down words on a page.

But I have been in this place before.  It isn’t about having no time or about being too tired.  It certainly isn’t about my den being such a mess – lord knows how grateful I am to have any kind of dedicated space for this work.  It’s about me wanting to withdraw from myself because I am afraid.

I’m afraid I will regret having left a known for an unknown in my job situation, afraid I will find myself overworked, overstressed, and underqualified.  I’m afraid my daughter will have a hard time adjusting to summer school and to preschool, afraid she’ll regress in her sleep and that I will in turn regress in my own wellbeing, which will of course make me more prone to failure at the new job I’m already afraid of failing at.  I’m afraid my daughter will hurt herself or get sick or just be very, very sad in her new surroundings, and I’ll be faced with choosing between demonstrating my commitment to the new job or acting out my love for my child.  I’m afraid of change.

I’m afraid of change and I’m in love with it.  I love the roller coaster feel, the rave-reminiscent adrenaline of excitement and of possibility.  I love make believing like when I was a kid that I’m the ugly duckling heroine of a makeover movie montage, a late bloomer on the verge of finally revealing my true abilities and success.   And so for all of my fear, I’ve gone headfirst and whole hog into this period of transformation.

Happy I finished

In the past month and a half, I did the following:  negotiated a new job; had laser surgery and threw away the contact lenses I’ve been wearing for twenty years; bought a new computer; got a new haircut and a new wardrobe; finished my second masters thesis and degree; turned thirty-five and had a big party; went surfing; starting wearing shorts (and yes, this is actually such a big deal that there will likely be a post on it, like, next week).  And because I needed a big dose of symbolism to go with it, I spent my last day of work running the commencement ceremony I was also to take part in, finishing the morning by walking across stage with the very last of the graduates.

Like I said, headfirst and whole hog.  CHANGE.  I just haven’t quite figured out a way to write about it.  Which of course means I haven’t quite figured out a way to think about it – or as I might tell my therapist, I haven’t figured out a safe way to approach my emotions about this experience, so right now it’s all about the experience itself, about the moment.  Kind of like those raves I used to go to or those dreamy extended vacations – all experience, no interpretation needed.

At some point I may have to allow myself to actually feel what it feels like to be afraid instead of just describing through words and gestures what it looks like.  Until then there are closets to clean out, files to sort through, bills to pay and to shred.  So many boxes to be checked off of my list.

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14 thoughts on “Headfirst and Whole Hog

  1. Anna – best post I’ve read in a long time. Made me laugh (no time for inspirational web surfing etc), made me nod knowingly (all the planning that we do to try and protect ourselves), made me smile (afraid and in love with change) and touched me deeply when you got to the root of it (actually processing change and what it really means once all the logistics is sorted). Aside from the different day to day life I can relate to every single word you wrote … but went completely the opposite way, stopped writing as I couldn’t deal with the emotions, but I did all the justifying (no time etc). You know what though… I think all the “living” served a purpose … it allowed me to get to a place where I now realise what I have been doing and scary as it is I know that now I must deal with it all in baby steps because otherwise all it is is self sabotage ;-). This morning I feel blessed because instead of starting off with all my serious emails I chose the inspirational one. Now I will go and deal with 3 naked girls running around the bedroom because I haven’t laid out their clothes… 🙂

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    1. I’m so glad you connected with this! I love your point that confronting too much change too quickly isn’t courage but self-sabotage – sometimes we need to let things happen naturally, and if our natural response is avoidance that probably means we’re just not in a place to deal well with whatever it is we’re avoiding. From where I’m standing, it looks like you’re putting all of your pieces together quite nicely, and I’ve already followed your cue – this morning I let my own daughter go to school late so we could spend an extra hour snuggling with a giant heap of books. I did finally get her dressed, but will take that lazy morning joy with me all day 🙂

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  2. Firstly – congratulations on the new job!! I think it is pretty natural to be afraid/nervous until you have started and gotten comfortable. After a few days or weeks you will think – ah, I CAN do this and I AM good at this.
    You have had a pretty big month and a half! Wow! Change indeed, it’s almost like you are, not necessarily re-inventing yourself, but taking charge of your life. The mental image I get of you, is that of a strong, independent and grown-up woman. Does that sound patronising? Shit, I really don’t mean it that way but I am actually quite envious – I really need to put on my big girl pants too. I think you kick ass, girl! 🙂

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    1. Aw, thanks! Though I don’t know if I would say I’m taking charge of my life – more like my life has finally taken charge of me. I’ve avoided those big girl pants for a long, long while, so I guess I had a lot of catching up to do!

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  3. Congratulations on the new job! I always figure if I’m freaking out about an upcoming change, it’s probably a good thing. A change that doesn’t shake us up a little isn’t really much of a change/opportunity for growth. You’ll rock it and all of the other changes!

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    1. You are so right! I mean, what’s the point of changing if you don’t go big with it? I imagine you must have gone through something similar when you decided to have your daughter. Starting a new job is one thing, but deciding to create a whole new person has got to be about the most ground shaking change of all. Hopefully I handle my changes with as much joy as you have handled yours!

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  4. I feel as though I am going to be making changes like this next year when I turn 40. I can feel them brewing in me as we speak! Good for you!

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  5. Love this post! (As usual.) I love seeing that messy space which looks like my closets/computer desk/minivan trunk/art studio/laundry room/brain. The relative neatness and cleanliness of the public spaces in my home, all wide open wood floors, sharply contrasting against the cluttered desk, closets and hidden places, it is a fitting metaphor for what we do in our lives, methinks. Good to let it out, proudly show it, and then sometimes just let it go (or at least that’s what I tell myself.) And the picture of you- in the shadows walking into the light, looking sunny and hopeful and young (my god- 35 is so young!!) and holding that graduation cap… now there’s a fitting metaphor to be sure. Congrats! (And thank you for sharing the stuff that we are all thinking in our own ways but maybe can’t find the words to say. I think your therapist should be proud!)

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    1. Oh how I wish I had thought of that metaphor myself – of my picture perfect life as a big red herring to distract the world from the messiness in my closet/brain/soul. Think we can keep it’s origin under wraps if I end up writing a post or two or three using this concept as the core? (err, sadly I think I may only be like half kidding)
      But in all seriousness, what you’ve identified in this photo is so spot on – how we pretend that the messiness of our lives just doesn’t exist. I really do keep believing, though, that so long as I’m fooling myself everyone else will fall in line eventually, and then really eventually, all that messiness will just go away. Because if you ignore something long enough it just disintegrates….right?

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      1. Or maybe it’s that we keep trying to actually be that perfectly clean wide open wood floor. Like if I keep performing (jazz hands, jazz hands, jazz handsssssss) then I’ll actually become perfect. And people buy it (sometimes.) Sometimes I fool people into thinking I’m a rock star. Which creates pressure to be even more TA-DAH jazz handssssss. Maybe I should decide to just be the messy closet more. Just let all my innards hang out. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s middle ground? (And yes, please be inspired by my awesome comments- jazz handssssss. I didn’t invent the words. Write away, sister soldier!)

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