Most of us have regular opportunities to break out of our comfort zone, a chance to try something new. Whether that is waking up a little earlier to go for a walk, changing what is at the end of your fork, reconnecting with an old friend or reaching out to a stranger, the truth is that most of the time the fleeting chance to embrace the unknown goes unfulfilled. Changing our habit usually provokes anxiety; it’s easier to stay with what we know than to tamper with the unknown.
Sometimes though, we reach the end of the road. The habits or processes once established to make sense out of life no longer serve, and not unlike outgrowing a favourite outfit, there is a point when our patterns are no longer sustainable. This is what I call a ‘breaking point’; a situational disruption that can be awkward, sometimes painful, but wholly necessary in order to land back on your feet in a new outfit that will prove to be far more comfortable for the journey ahead.
As I sit on the eve of making some Big Life Choices, I recall being in a similar spot when I was 33 years old. I’m now 47. At that time, I had just been diagnosed with a life threatening illness and I was given ten years until end stage liver failure. That meant nothing to me, except that I would either die, or need a liver transplant (the latter happened, turns out those bastards were right!).
I was working as a creative director in Amsterdam and very attached at that time to my city and friends, not so much my career which had become increasingly stressful with the diagnosis. I lost the passion for helping Heineken to sell more beer; my interest in emerging technology waned. As I started to go deeply in the direction of health and yoga I have memories carrying glass jars of sprouting seeds from Amsterdam to Germany, Austria and France whilst I continued to push myself into the costume of Creative Director for a little while longer. I did eventually take the L E A P. I left Amsterdam and soon thereafter enrolled in the Jivamukti Teacher Training, then a Thai Massage course, then Craniosacral therapy, and eventually Rolfing. And from there the story unfolds.
Today I once again find myself at a jumping off point. The drop is not nearly so steep, but then, I am 15 years older and less fluid than I was at 33. This time, though, the changes are bigger than me. My son is atypical and needs a school that can support him. We are lucky enough to have found a place, though it will require a move to Surrey. Work in London will be less frequent, but I will gain something wonderful: being closer to nature, observing how my son may benefit from an enhanced school environment that will cater towards his need for speech and movement therapy along with more time outdoors. We will have a compost and a million bird feeders, and maybe even a dog. He will plant seeds and get lost in the heath land whilst I make jam.
Sometimes we reach a place in life where big changes are necessary. Imagine a long journey in a boat with no storms; life without any unknowns. Nothing in life has been worked out to the end from the beginning. We can point the boat in the right direction, learn how to trim the sails, but the winds, the sea… well, that’s left up to something outside our self. If we allow it, a life of practice in remembering this can mean learning to ask What if? What if we invite the potential for good things to happen all the time? What if we do the best we can to look for solutions where there are problems, to help one another make it onto the boat and stay afloat? If nothing more, it makes the moments when are inclined to leap a little less scary.