Straight Talk: You’re out of control. Don’t fight it.
Things change. The environment, you, others. Sometimes these changes are so big they threaten to overwhelm us, and other times, so tiny and subtle that we don’t even tap into the iteration.
I’ve been away to write my second book and… I didn’t write it. I wrote zero words, nothing at all. For the past eight days, I’ve been nestled on a remote Tasmanian rural island in the Bass Strait. The locals on the island knew my friend and I were there to write, as we were at an artist’s residential retreat. Each day when they asked me how’s the writing going, my sheepish reply was the same. I’ve been thinking about writing…
I was unhappy with my supposed lack of progress. Shifting uncomfortably throughout the day, knowing that I was there to write. After all, I had all the moving parts planned and ready, I knew what I wanted to write, what, why, how, and yet it just didn’t eventuate. I couldn’t find the flow I needed no matter how hard I tried. Instead, I ventured out into the township. I found myself in deeply moving, fascinating and often hilarious conversations with strangers in the one and only coffee shop. Sitting in the outdoor lounge chairs in a rustic rural country setting with farmers and small business owners, I spent hours in unplanned conversation.
I’m in a perpetually curious learning state. I want to know why people think what they do, how it impacts them, what their life is like and how they created it that way. Are they content? What would they change? What does life mean to them? In return for the questions I learn, grow and open up my field of vision, cement my own beliefs.
Then, I met Gavin. A retired man on the Island. In one of our many unplanned conversations, he recounted with tears in his eyes, a story of a moment between him and his young daughter many years ago.
She was a shy perfectionist type. He saw her increasingly hold back. hesitating, missing out on friendships and opportunities. One afternoon, he asked her to go walking with him. She was confused. It was raining outside. He explained that he just needed to take her out for a little while. So, she took his hand and they started walking. Their hair was dripping wet, and it was getting cold. At this point, the little girl turned to her father, and asked him, Daddy, why? He turned to her and looked steadily into her eyes, took her hands firmly in his and said…
Darling, because we can.
At that moment, sitting on the street, Gavin turned to me and held my gaze, he paused and said, I hope you find what you’re looking for. I don’t remember much about what he said after that because I was desperately trying not to cry. Eventually, the tears just tumbled onto my cheeks. I hadn’t told him much about myself at all, yet he saw me.
You see, for the first time in a long time, my capacity isn’t matching my pace. In the recent years, I’ve been outcome focused to the point of obsession. I set out to do something and it gets done. Simple. My carefully constructed environment allowed me to focus on my work, my career, my professional development, without interruption. In the recent six months, my life has significantly changed. I made some major personal decisions. I underestimated that how the increase in emotional processing, practical changes and time needed to absorb and re-calibrate life would take of me.
So, I kept up the rate of activity of the past, making plans to do many things like attend events, write books, create new programs, continue my community work. But, life had changed. I needed time for other things now. My capacity to achieve like I had before was reduced. Even if I had the time, I often found myself not being able to complete the planned creative activity simply as I couldn’t conjure in that given moment, what I needed to produce.
So, I found myself on an island at an artists retreat, with a blank page. I finally allowed myself to see that my capacity to produce new things doesn’t match the altered pace and additional factors of my present life. I was learning a deeper lesson. To trust, not force. I decided to stop trying to write and to let myself write my internal book. To listen to the locals. Learn from the land. Spend time slowing down and hearing myself. It takes a great deal of trust to do this. Trust in myself, and that all will be exactly as it should be. The thing is -I realise- this is still progress.
We are all a conduit to the impact we have on our families, our workplaces, our life goals, on any given achievement. But, if we aren’t able to fully engage due to the internal noise, the external pressures then we are only going to give a diminished effort. A great mentor of mine Peter Cook says, 99% commitment is the hardest of all. So I committed to being on an Island with wonderfully interesting people. I spent time allowing myself to rejuvenate, to listen, to experience the stars at night, to spend time building a fire, to watch the pademelon wallabies hop and eat, and hold baby wombats (too cute I know).
Before I lose you to the baby wombats, let me tell you this. On the day I left, in that same street where I let go, I waved goodbye to the locals, realising I knew almost all of them by name on the street at that moment. I love community and co-creation. I felt inspired, connected and full of permission to change what is needed at the moment to enable progress, even when it’s not the type of progress intended or the format planned. Pretty zen I know.
And now, here I am typing at the speed of light. On the plane in the direction of home. Writing to you. Sharing some of my internal book in which all our pages are still being formed. This is co-creation. A big topic for my next book. The trick is to let those pages unfold within us, so we can engage them fully, and meaningfully. There are always internal factors (things we can influence) and external circumstances (things we can’t control). A friend of mine once said, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Prepare what you can, and be willing to change. It’s a good point.