It’s strange to suddenly not be busy in the middle of a social network where almost everyone else is VERY BUSY. The contrast hit me today when I received from a friend over of those quick can’t-talk-saying-hi-will-get-to-you-later messages that I was always sending people before. It’s not a critique of that friend, because I appreciated that they took the time to respond; I think it’s just been a long time since I’ve been on the receiving end of that message at a time when I wasn’t running around crazy myself.
When I left my job and my former city at the end of last year, I said it was because I needed to “take a break” from the way I’d been working and living. The implication is that in some way I intend to return to that world, albeit hopefully with “better” self-care habits. But at this moment, it’s hard to imagine that I’d want to get back to my former lifestyle, where I always felt pressed and rushed and tired. I’m still tired, but if anything that’s mostly from my holdover habit of staying up all night doing not-so-useful things to “decompress.” In all honesty, I’ve got plenty of time to come home, do a little writing or reading, run some errands, make dinner, talk with my mom, and/or play with my cats, and still get a decent night’s sleep. It’s just that my patterns haven’t totally caught up with my reality.
I thought I would feel more antsy about needing to get “back,” but I’m actually quite happy. I like this pace of life, and I want to keep it. I like having work to do during the day to get me up and moving around, but I don’t feel the need to visit around all the time, and on the days when I am a little more hectic, it’s very tiring and I look forward to not doing that again for a while. I feel rested and peaceful.
I do get, if not antsy, the urge or sense that I should keep an eye out for my “next thing,” what I’m supposed to go to when this is “over.” But I think that pressure comes a lot more from external expectations or perceptions of what I “ought” to be doing with myself at this age, with my level of experience and education. It’s that oft-repeated set of questions, “So what are you doing now? What are you looking for?” I’ll have to answer it again for another group of people at a leadership development retreat in a few weeks. And while I’m very happy with the answer “nannying for my niece,” I also know there’s that lingering question: what does that have to do with pursuing a path as a social justice leader? As if nannies can’t be social justice leaders, because they’re not doing the things that it takes to take on that role. And maybe that’s true, and it’s fine for me to take on a role in the world that isn’t about that kind of public leadership. I truly don’t know. I suppose I’ll learn in time whether I still belong to that world.
Not all the pressure is external, of course. I’ve had many grand visions for myself, as a public leader and speaker and writer; and my most recent lifestyle was part of pursuing those visions as I thought they were to be pursued. Plenty of that is more about glory for myself than service to others, so it’s not a bad thing to step back and reformulate my understanding of what I want to do in the world, whether or not I go back to “leading” as it’s usually understood. I do wonder whether being a leader and living a life that feels this peaceful (not complacent, that’s a whole other thing) are two things that don’t go together. I sincerely hope not, but I don’t have any examples right now to draw on of people who don’t have that running-around vibe in their work and life. Perhaps the peace isn’t a peace of time and circumstances, but some deeper inner peace that makes hectic circumstances somehow not hectic. That’s something I haven’t learned yet.
And maybe this is one of those pause/mountaintop times, and ultimately I do have to go back to the valley but I’ll be able to take things back down with me that change my while experience of the valley into something different. Time will tell. It’s a curious place to be right now, and I don’t totally understand it, but I don’t mind it, either.