It’s nearly the end of summer, and I am completely fed up with it. I’m tired of the wall of humidity, of the sweating, of having to avoid outside work in the searing Southern heat of 9:00 a.m. hour, and of watching my garden dry to skeletal dust.
I’m ready for a change.
The other side of being ready for change is being worn out by your current circumstances. You feel like nothing is working, and that everything is just. Too. Freaking. Hard.
I’ve noticed this with my clients, my friends, and random strangers I chat with at Starbucks. (Yes, I do that quite a bit. Met my husband that way.)
Hot Air Balloons and Change
Here’s the thing about working on change: It’s like being in a hot air balloon. You’re moving at the speed of wind, and sometimes that is damned fast. But if you’re above the trees, and without many reference points, you don’t feel like you’re going very fast. You and the wind are at the same speed, so your hair isn’t flipping and your clothes aren’t flapping. It doesn’t feel like you’re going much of anywhere, let alone very quickly—but you are.
But sometimes your balloon is closer to the trees, buildings or mountains. You’re still close to the obstacles. So you notice them much more when you approach them. That often happens a few months into a big, life-changing walk on a new path: You’re rising above the obstacles, but aren’t far enough away that you lose your fear of them.
Awkward New Tools
What you notice is how far away you are from your familiar coping mechanisms. You don’t trust this new path, these new tools, this new way of thinking and acting about your life. The tools feel awkward. You imagined that all you needed was a good tool or two, which you would master quickly, like Angry Birds or something.
You’re finding out that using these new tools is taking work, and that you’re not good yet at knowing which one to use for a particular situation:
- Is this about setting boundaries or inviting connection?
- Is that a lizard fear or a legitimate warning?
- Is this about faith or am I just being foolish?
Let’s take, for example, one of my favorite tools: Getting in touch with the “What-gives-your-life meaning? Follow-it!” thing. Lawyers, with their lifetime of getting their achievement ticket punched, usually have a ton of trouble believing in a tool that doesn’t guarantee them more achievement, aka money, approval, and security.
At first, whether you’re in therapy or coaching, or just trying out a new attitude, your inner self is so glad you are finally listening that you feel freer and lighter than you have in a while. You start on your inner work, and life looks different. It feels healthier, better. Until that inner work starts really working.
The Flight To, and From, Point Blink
Then, you staring in the face of one of your big issues that you need to confront if you want to move to a radically new place. You’ve never been to that place before, and while the brochure looks nice, the path to getting to that place is going to be arduous. At best. It’s going to require those tools that still feel really awkward and that don’t give immediate, tangible results. You just get . . . more feelings to deal with, more decisions to make, and more uncertainty.
You’re suddenly not so sure that things are really so bad in your life—after all, you have a well-paying job in a sucky economy. Lots of people are miserable at work, what makes you think you’re special?
So you ignore your daily tears, your mounting medical woes, your inability to get a good night’s sleep due to your stress level, how crappy your relationships are, and you stop your inner work. In other words, after staring into the eyes of the beast, you blink. Welcome to Point Blink.
Author Julia Cameron, that wonderful creativity midwife, talks about this as a creative U-turn:
We usually commit creative hara-kari either on the eve of or in the wake of a first creative victory. The glare of success . . . can send the recovering artist scurrying back into the cave of self-defeat. . . The point is that we have traveled light-years from where we were when we were blocked. We are now on the road, and the road is scary. We begin to be distracted by roadside attractions or detoured by the bumps.
You may not be a blocked creative, but the lesson applies to all forms of blockage and stuck-age. We all take trips to Point Blink. I have before, and I imagine I will repeatedly until I die. When you’re on a path that means something, you will stumble. Sometime you’ll fall really hard. Unlike in the physical world, you may not see that you’ve taken a seriously bad fall until a few years later.
Certainty Is Expensive
That’s because a Point Blink often looks like a very culturally acceptable thing, embracing certainty. Certainty is a dream-killer. Anne Lamott calls it the opposite of faith. Embracing certainty turns seeking your unique path into marching to someone else’s drum. To paraphrase Cameron, certainty is a very expensive illusion. Pursuing certainty looks like you’re doing all the right things, but your true self knows that for you, you’re doing all the wrong things.
Your true self is telling you that you fell at Point Blink when you start thinking things like, “If only I had tried dance lessons when I was younger/before I had kids/before my fibromyalgia got so bad.” Or, “I wish I would have tried hanging out my own shingle like Joe did. He works so much less than I do, not for assholes, makes the same money, and he’s happy.” You get the idea.
The good news is, we are always in choice. We can choose to start walking our own, authentic path again, at any time. And maybe the second (or 27th) time around, when we get to Point Blink, we’ll see it for what it is, and navigate it without tumbling down the nearby precipice.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who has visited Point Blink enough to start a postcard collection. She coaches unhappy attorneys on getting to, and past, their own Point Blinks, to better careers and lives. She offers discounted sample coaching sessions. Schedule yours today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.