Saturday, May 5, 2012
It wasn't a coincidence that I started this journey in January. New year, new start and all that. Also, I was feeling rather beat up by the usual November-December melee of managing a trade show exhibit (a very extroverted task for an introvert like me) and dealing with colleagues and clients who put things off until the last possible moment -- ignoring the fact that they were not the last link in the chain and the rest of us wound up nearly killing ourselves trying to finish all the subsequent tasks before the various year-end deadlines. Layered on top of that was the yearly barrage of nonstop advertising, multiple conflicting celebratory events, flashy decorations, and pre-packaged cheer that constitute the holiday season. January seemed like the ideal time to begin a winter hibernation, in preparation for the soul-searching work that lay ahead of me.
I had anticipated hunkering down in my jammies for a couple of months, drinking hot chocolate and plowing through sudoku puzzles while the snow piled up outside. Nature had a different plan, sending us the mildest winter we've had in years. So, in addition to my hunkering-down time, I got a head start on forming the habit of taking long walks around my neighborhood. The effect of all this was as stunning as it was immediate. Time immediately slowed to a crawl, but I was not bored. The daily commute and life at the office became a distant memory, just a few weeks after the fact. I placed a few check marks on the mammoth do-list that I had created, but mostly I was content to just be. I no longer needed to devour news articles, magazine essays, and books. My sense of outrage at the long list of social injustices in the world faded to a pastel sense of empathy and kind wishes for those who fought those battles on the front lines. For the time being, I was out of the action, recuperating and rehabilitating in a quiet place.
With the coming of spring, I anticipated the sense of restlessness that other rebooters and retirees have reported. I started to search the web for local events, museum exhibits, street festivals. I gave some thought to when I might start looking in earnest for sources of income. But still, I have no sense of urgency. The do-list is only slightly smaller than when I started, and I'm managing one or two special activities a month. Should I be concerned? I don't want to ruin this feeling of living in a state of blessedness by panicking about what might or might not come afterward.
Bear with me as I put the bird metaphors aside temporarily and talk a bit about gardening.
I have been reading a fascinating book, The Fire Starter Sessions, by Danielle LaPorte. This is another one of those "follow your bliss" books, but Ms. LaPorte does a better job than most about showing you ways to find out what your bliss actually is, and then take specific actions to organize your life around that bliss. I have been taking copious notes, doing the worksheets at the end of every chapter, and writing dozens of journal pages at a sitting. And by golly, a couple of my little mind-seeds are starting to germinate.
These little sprouts are not ready to show themselves to the world just yet, so you will have to trust me on that. I will, however, let you take a peek at the pictures on the seed packets. I have opened a channel of communication with a director of a policy institute here in town that may lead to some paid freelance work when I am ready to take that on. I have the beginnings of an idea for a series of science blog postings on a topic that has received very little coverage in the region between graduate school textbooks and late-night cable TV. And my sister (who is taking web design courses) and I are gradually pulling together an idea for a much more active and professional-looking website than the one I have now.
To be sure, these sprouts are still very tiny and fragile. I'm going to have to plant many more seeds to have a garden that will support me. But these are the sprouts that I have now, and if they are to have any chance at all in the world, I will have to be diligent about feeding and watering them. When they are ready, I will need to place them outside in the sunshine and perhaps build a little shelter around them if a big storm is approaching. Stay tuned for further developments.
Photo of Eranthis hymalis seedling by Nino Barbieri, wikimedia commons (Gnu license).