We’ve all heard people say, “Don’t pray for a sign and then ignore it.” But what if you get a sign (or two, or three) about a change you don’t want to make? Some would say this is the universe guiding you to your true path. But, in reality, it just feels like life is fucking with you, pardon my French.
The last time I wrote here, I was a few weeks into my dream job. I was using my background in advertising and writing to work for a clean skincare company that I loved. While the work was hard, I was learning a lot, and I was thrilled to help promote products I truly believed in and to be a part of a small company’s bright future.
But here’s the thing, y’all. A “dream” job at the wrong time is just like meeting your “dream” partner at the wrong time – it will all eventually go sideways, whether you want it to or not, whether you think it should or not. And, sometimes, the more you want something to work, the more you ignore the signs.
Eventually, however, the body gets involved, and to paraphrase Fatal Attraction, it will not be ignored. How did my body try and grab my attention? Well, about a month in, my back went out in such a severe way that I was rushed to the hospital and put on bed rest for a week. This was immediately followed by a nasty bout of the stomach flu – something I had successfully avoided for years, even with kids. Then came the not sleeping. For over a month, I would wake up at 3:30 am every morning, worrying. About what I wasn’t doing for my family, what I couldn’t provide for around our home, what I wasn’t accomplishing at work, what I didn’t take care of at the kids’ schools. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it all in the way I wanted to do it. And how did I want to do it? Perfectly, of course. The curse of the Type-A People-Pleaser.
Once you can’t sleep, other physical ailments creep in, adding a new item to the 3:30 am panic – what’s going on in my body? Is this perimenapause? Do I need a therapist? Am I losing my mind? And then, oh shit, is there something really wrong? Am I sick?
Finally, I went to see my doctor. I was sure by then that something was horribly wrong in my body or in my mind. I told her through tears about my myriad of symptoms, and how I hadn’t been sleeping. “Which came first,” she asked, “the symptoms or the not sleeping?” I thought about it. “The not sleeping,” I said. As I uttered the words, I was sure this was the calling card of whatever horrible disease I had contracted. She handed me a tissue and wisely counseled that all of my symptoms were also symptoms of insomnia – if the body isn’t getting proper rest, everything starts to shut down. Her suggestion? Get the sleep under control, and then we could address whatever symptoms remained. I left her office with a prescription, which I gave to my husband to have filled the next day.
Now, I have to pause here for some context. I am a fantastic sleeper. World class. I can sleep on planes, trains, automobiles. I can sleep on desktops, shoulders, suitcases, benches, straight backed chairs. When I travel, even to the other side of the world, I break records with how quickly I can adjust to a new time zone. And at home, I’ll say, “goodnight” to my husband and be asleep before he can answer back. So, when I came home the next day and held the prescription bottle in my hand, the bottle that shouted at me with its all caps, “TAKE ONE TABLET BY MOUTH AT BEDTIME AS NEEDED FOR INSOMNIA,” my breath caught in my throat. I actully took a picture of my hand holding the bottle. I finally had a sign I couldn’t ignore. Something had indeed gone majorly sideways, and I needed to make a change quick, before something worse happened as a result.
It took a few days, but I knew what I had to do: I had to quit my “dream job.” It had nothing to do with the company or the products or the amazing people I worked with. It had everything to do with me. With getting myself grounded. With putting on my own oxygen mask first, so that I could assist others. And so, over the Christmas holiday, I resigned. That night, I slept for 10 hours straight. No Xanax necessary.
What’s next? Well, I can honestly say I don’t know. If you read this blog or know me in real life, you might sense that I’m a girl who likes to have a plan. (And if you’re my husband, you’ll know that this is exactly how I describe myself in a crisis – whether that crisis be where we’re going to dinner or what to do about a massive, collapsed retaining wall…). As of this moment, I don’t have a plan. I don’t even have a pretend plan to share with people who want to know what my plan is. I just can’t fake anything right now. It is what it is.
So, instead of running myself ragged by taking another job or mapping out my next my 6-pronged approach to “getting what I want,” I am leaning into this uncharted uncertainty by leaning out. I deleted the 24-hour instant-messaging app, turned off my text alerts, and muted the ringer. I’ve deleted Facebook from my phone and about half the accounts I was following on Instagram. I’m seeking out the friends I love, but not always getting out of my car at school pick up. I’m taking yoga classes, but only with teachers I respect and in spaces that are sacred to me. I’m marching and speaking out, but I’m not wasting time with trolls. I’m cooking healthy, whole foods for my family. I’m hiking with my dog, sometimes in the pouring down rain. I’m going on the really good field trips. Basically, I’m just taking some time.
Oh, the one thing I am adding back in? I’m writing again. For me. And for any of you who care to keep reading along. For the simple reason that it gives me joy. At one point this fall, a prescient friend asked me, “What are you doing right now that makes you happy?” My answer was to burst into tears in the middle of a crowded restaurant. I still don’t know what will ultimately be the job or the vocation or the calling that will make me “happy,” but I am beyond happy (and grateful) to have some time to feel it out with my head, my heart, and my laptop.