I have been avoiding writing this post for a while. After all, am I not the ‘best coach for matters of uncertainty’ whose friends call for advice on how to cope with the uncertain groundlessness of life?
The truth is that since I last wrote here, I’ve been struggling with not knowing ‘how’ and ‘when’; when I’ve learned about the ‘where’, I struggled with the ‘what now’ and ‘what’s next’.
You read it right. It’s me, trying to find the answers that would make me feel ‘safer’ and have the unreal, but comfortable, feeling that everything is under control, and that I would be then in a better position to deal with the unknown future.
The three months following the 2nd anniversary of this blog tested my nerves and my ability to embrace the uncertainty of my life. It was also a period full of uncertainties around the political future of my country, of human rights, social justice and inclusion. All I knew was that I wanted to have a more meaningful job given everything that is happening in the world, the rise of intolerance, hatred, fundamentalism. I was happy with my mobility, but felt like my purpose in life was skipping through my hands.
Then one day I received an email. Followed by a job offer. A volunteer position, in an international organization, working with population affected by years of conflict in their home countries.
I said yes, but the restlessness remained.
Since I moved to this new country, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs; another way to say that the past few months haven’t been easy. Not sure if it is the place, the job, the lack of intimacy. All I know is that I have been feeling a bit under the weather, more than I’d usually feel. I’d never thought I would have a hard time adapting to places and people – after all, I’m a water person with water signs, and water is the most adaptable of the 4 elements, isn’t it?
I wouldn’t qualify the city where I’m living as a hardship place, but there’s a combination of factors that turn it into a difficult place to be.
To start, work is not ideal. It’s hard for me to work alone – don’t people know that’s the reason why I’d rather have two Masters than a PhD? I’ve been craving teamwork for so long, and here I am, a team of one again, feeling stuck and procrastinating to make decisions and prioritize among the endless tasks I have to tackle daily. I oscillate between very productive hours to periods in which I sit in front of the computer and stare at the screen without being able to make any progress. I suffer with the endless changes I have to do to the project schedule, which made me realize how deep my private sector exposure got under my skin – how come we don’t meet the impossible deadlines?
I also struggle with the politics, the who knows who, who does what and when and how, and at the end of the day it makes me wonder if the problem is not the place or job, but the expectations I created around it, the false expectations that it would give me a sense of certainty after all these years. It makes me wonder if the problem isn’t me and my idealistic and stubborn self – by the way, thank you Myers Briggs for reminding me idealism is both one of my strengths and weaknesses. Should I be more (more???) flexible and understanding?
These thoughts and feelings feed into a loop that takes my self-confidence downhill, I find myself complaining too much, I feel exhausted, and my first impulse is to quit. It’s clear, though, that this is a trap, a trap that feeds into the loop of questioning the uncertainties of life and reinforces feelings like fear, anxiety, self-pity, and undermines self-confidence. Even though I know it’s a trap, I can’t help but walk towards it.
On top of all that, there’s the place where I live… I miss watching sunsets, I miss taking long walks without having to ignore what men say when I’m passing by (if only I couldn’t understand what they say…), I miss live music, I miss friendship, I miss intimacy, I miss so many things that I haven’t yet been able to find here that it makes me wonder if I had grown to be that type of person I always judged, the one that is picky, not resilient to difficult environments, that has a hard time being flexible and understanding. Have I become that person?
What happened to my “embracing uncertainty” and living life fully no matter how and where?
Was it only a phase? Was it some sort of fake news my brain came up with to trick me to walk into the trap? Was it something I made up in order to protect myself from the life I had to live in the past 3.5 years?
I like the idea of being a living example of resilience, as Professor William Moomaw once said to me. I like to think I can endure and adapt according to what life brings me, here and now, but I started wondering if what I’m going through means that we all have a line we are not willing to cross when it comes to dealing with discomfort, or with the uncertainty of where this discomfort will lead us to. All regardless of what/who/how we’d like to be.
The good thing is, and despite everything I’ve just shared, I do like my job and the challenges it entails. I certainly like the type of work I’m doing. I like the organization, most of my colleagues, and specially the smart and inspiring women with whom I live and/or work remotely with. I’m certain that there are plenty of people around me that are willing to help and show me how things work or don’t, to teach me new things and help me grow professionally, to show me which opportunities are out there. Most importantly, I’m sure that this experience, no matter where it takes me to, is the right one for me, right here, right now.
Even though I see the trap, only a few meters away, I have the strength to avoid falling into it, and having found a place where I can recharge, get my thoughts in order, before tackling another week, was an important part of surviving the ups and downs of the past few months.
Don’t be fooled by my Instagram posts, with beautiful sunsets, pristine blue water, and wide smiles from the boys that run to me crying ‘Maria!’. It all exists, but it’s not the full picture of what I’m currently living. It is, indeed, an essential part of my life here; it’s what I look forward after a long week at work.
Together with sharing my fears and vulnerabilities, it keeps me away from the trap, and reminds me that no matter what we do, where we are, how we live, there’s no such a thing as escaping uncertainty. So, if you have to embrace it, make sure you find your safe place, where you can watch the sunset, paint with the kids, and swim in blue and warm waters.
Below, one of my favorite sayings, one I always go back to in moments like this; because it’s all part of this journey called life: the joy, the frustrations, the pain, the happiness.
“Frustrations are life’s gestures
Through which we grow in knowledge,
And impermanence is the circular turning of our lives,
Experienced as a play in which meaning is unfolded as balance.”
(Tarthang Tulku, Gesture of Balance)