"A bend in the road is not the end of the road..."
~ Helen Keller
For the first time in more than 8 years, I leave home on a plane and do NOT feel guilty.
First I wonder "why now?" and then I wonder "why did it take so long?"
I start by exploring why it feels "okay" to be away from my family this time - what changed? Always this has been a big struggle for me, for my husband, for the kids. The kids. They lay it on thick, giving me frowns and mopes the day I'm set to leave (just what an already guilty-feeling Mom needs). My husband starts to stress over all the things he's going to have to do himself - the lunches, the baths, the practicing, the bedtime routine...plus dinner, and just plain getting out the door. He tries really hard to mask it so he doesn't place it on me. It still shows. And as for me, my head is filled with really big thoughts like "when I'm dying one day, will I regret having taken this trip??" Honestly, with this kind of pressure it's a wonder I ever make it out the door for a day, let alone a few days or a week.
This time is different.
A month before, I was fired from a job I'd been in for not quite 3 years. Three years is a long time. I know it doesn't sound like it to all of you who have done some really long stints with some really great companies. It's a long time though. When I started, my daughter was just grasping the English language. By the time I left, she was nailing her Grade 1 spelling quizzes. Three years - 36 months - carries a lot of milestones, not to mentioned hurts, tragedies and adventures.
Three years is also long enough to make really good friends.
So leaving wasn't easy. You're thinking "well duh..." What I mean is that it wasn't easy in a way I didn't expect. Quite simply, it hurt to be told I don't belong somewhere. It hurt to be told I'm not good enough. Most of all, it hurt to be told I no longer have the privilege of investing in the lives of the people I'd spent three years investing in.
I had all these hopes and dreams for people that I would not have the opportunity to enable or witness.
But the hurt brought something unexpected along with it. Within the first 24 hours of being told "you don't belong," I learned to give myself permission in a way I never have before. That night, I lay in bed working really hard to silence all the negativity, all the self-pity, all the "you don't belongs" that turned into "you never did belongs" and eventually became "you never will belongs." I knew these were lies. I saw the negativity for what it was and intellectually I knew none of it was taking me anywhere, least of all forward. And yet, trying to silence it left me tossing and turning and becoming more and more frustrated with myself for NOT being able to silence it.
So, I gave in. For one night, I gave myself permission.
I stopped tossing and turning, I sought solitude, and I hurt. I yelled out 3 years of pent up frustration. I mourned losing the opportunity to make the impact I wanted to make. I said goodbye to the people I would no longer say good morning to each day. I pretended they were in the room and I told them how much I respected them. I told them I was sorry - sorry that I was not the leader they deserved. I raged at the unfairness of it all, and then made the move from rage to pain, and accepted it for what it was. Plain and simple, someone had hurt my feelings. I didn't sleep that night...or at least, not much.
The next morning arrived, irrespective of my sleep habits
(the sun is annoyingly impartial to my state of mind...). Despite a restless and emotional evening, I was free. There's probably a psychological name for what I describe - someone used the word "purge" once. Someone else said something about moving through the stages of grief. I am not qualified to comment on the clinical efficacy of my night. I can only say that my freedom came in permission. And maybe that permission was about more than just the permission to feel in the wake of being deeply hurt. Maybe that permission was permission to be, and go, and do, and embrace. Permission to try, and fail, and try again. Permission to make a path that looks nothing like how it "should" look. Permission to not know what's next, or what I even want it to be.
Today I leave home guilt-free.
At some point in the last 2 months I stopped micro-managing my thoughts. There's a big lie going around in the world today, that we should replace every negative thought with a positive one; that we should not give negativity a foothold; that negativity has no place if you want to live life well. Hogwash. Sometimes life circumstances...they just suck. Sometimes hurt happens. Sometimes people we love, do things we hate.
All the positive thinking in the world wouldn't have helped me sleep that night.
Helen Keller did indeed say that a bend in the road is not the end of the road. She also said:
"...unless you fail to make the turn."
Where do you need to give yourself permission to grieve...process...embrace...the bend in the road, as you prepare to make the turn? Today, on the 3rd anniversary of leaving "employment" on someone else's terms...I can count a million silver linings to being fired. It was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.
Getting to gratitude though, couldn't have happened without the permission to hurt first.