The last few years have brought changes that have left many if not all of us reeling and uncertain for our futures.
As if any control we felt we did have has in fact been pulled out from beneath our feet.
At least that is what it feels like.
That sense of uncertainty and lack of control is enough to dampen even the strongest of libidos, to which few of us are immune.
Even my die-hard stubborn resistance has shown itself fallible.
For literally the very first time in my life this summer I felt lost, empty and no longer really knowing how to move forward in my life. My certainty about life had evaporated without the slightest warning.
Every way I looked I just felt irreversibly stuck with no way to get out and no way to move forward.
And my up-until-now infallible inner strength at a complete zero.
If you have ever felt like that, or are in fact currently and recurrently feeling like that, then keep reading.
Not because I have any answers, but because just realising we are not alone is the first step forward.
And because I do believe that as hard as we try to be strong in ourselves, we are not limitless, and there are times when a couple of extra hands or external ideas are just what we need to trigger ourselves forward.
Take what works for you, leave the rest, but also feel free to share what has worked for you. Your insights are very welcome as we try to decipher this wonderment called life.
I had allowed ample time for things to remedy themselves alone, but having seen little to no change in my outlook I decided to take action. And so the first thing I did, in fact I did this several times over, was to engage in deep reflection, particularly written reflection.
It was through these writings that I observed that recurrent trend, that repeated expression of feeling alone, of feeling lost, of feeling uncertain.
I then looked to identify the source of those feelings.
These were multiple, the majority circulating around the obvious current Covid epidemic, the minority being associated with the fact I am living in a country where the language and the culture and system I am still becoming accustomed to. I may go into this later in this reflection, or save it for a future writing, I am not sure yet…
But on a first level, each of these reasons left me feeling a great sense of uncertainty due to not knowing how long current world situations were going to last, or not always understanding how everything in my current environment was working. Lockdown made me feel deeply alone and not being able to travel internationally to be with friends and family made me feel intensely isolated, while not understanding everything going on around me or being able to read and immediately understand all the ‘small-print’ around me made me feel lost and unable to make clear informed decisions to better navigate my immediate life and fully understand all the options around me.
I could describe this at length, and I will share that experience in the future, but more detail is not necessary for the current discussion. Suffice to say, there were more than ample reasons triggering each of the feelings I was experiencing.
While the most important step is figuring out how to resolve or change a situation, I will say that being able to identify the exact feelings along with the trigger or cause for each of these, is key to then building a long-term more lasting strategy for dealing with it.
Which is where we come to now.
How can we make changes in our lives when when there are major factors in our lives we just cannot change?
How do we deal with feelings of chaos and uncertainty when major life changes are currently physically impossible?
Do we just have to ‘suck it up’ and live with it, or are there other changes we can make which will help us start to thrive instead of just to survive?
These are all the questions which carried me through to the next step of working towards a first solution.
Again, please note that I am not sharing this with you as an ultimate solution or as the best solution. I am still working through this process myself. The point is to reflect on the process so we can better understand ourselves and how we tick. None of this is to replace solid professional medical advice, which I always recommend as a first recourse for any mental-health or physical-health issues and well-being.
That being said, my next step was to reflect on my ‘what next’ and put in place a strategy.
I knew it was pretty much out of the question, and frankly not the right time or even necessary to make any major life changes, so I stared to look at ways to change my immediate surroundings.
Moving was something high on my list, I long desired moving out of the Postage Stamp and into something at least the size of a small envelope – specifically somewhere with a kitchen, however repeated daily searches were proving fruitless and I wanted to find more immediate solutions less dependent on major external factors such as where I lived.
This was when I started reading some books on minimalism as a possible solution to this relentless conundrum.
What if I instead of always trying to control and change what was on the outside, I could keep the current situation and look on smaller changes with bigger more immediate impact?
As soon as I finished my first clear out, letting go of at least 40% of my belongings, I was far from satisfied with the results and all ‘gung-ho’ for next letting go of everything I owned.
Like literally everything.
I dreamt how cool it could be to become an ultra extreme minimalist, after all how essential really was anything, beyond, of course a toothbrush and toothpaste and at least a change of clothes?
For the record I could never live with out a toothbrush.
Or nail clippers.
Or my coloured pencils.
Or my baking equipment.
Yeah, now I was going backwards again lol!
The point is I didn’t want to find myself going down a path which became a never ending destination but never actually gave me what it promised.
Or turned me into a metaphorical anorexic in relation to things.
So I stopped myself in my tracks and redirected that thought inward.
What exactly can give us a sense of clarity in a world of chaos and uncertainty?
Is it possible to experience minimalism not just in our physical world but also in our internal world? And if so, how so?
If we think of the word clarity it is associated with the concept of light in the context of perception, in the sense of things being clear, as in absence of distraction.
Where though does the concept of a grounding point come in?
Well, in just a moment.
Because I realised that the extreme opposite of extreme minimalism would be extreme hoarding, and if we were to transpose that into a metaphorical world, how cluttered or how hoarded would we find our mind or our mental world?
I realised as I physically let go of things I had held onto for years for emotional reasons rather than practical reasons, or even because I particularly liked that object, I also felt a letting go of elements of my past which were holding me down without me realising it.
Letting them go made me lighter and clearer even more so in my mind.
I cannot overestimate how powerful that feeling was, and it is one I hope to explore and delve into much further this year.
As I touched on in my last article: the concept of space.
Even if my final result from my clear-out felt far from satisfactory on a minimalist level, the simple concept of each item having its own place gave me a significant sense of control over my space. I no longer had the chaos of things being everywhere, because even if from time to time they are all over the place, knowing that each thing has its own place means that clean up is no longer that repeated stress of trying to decide where everything should go and trying to fit it all together, now the only thing I have to do is put it there.
And yes, I even made a space to put clothes which formerly would accumulate on a chair or my bed because they were not ready for the wash basket but had been worn once so there was no way I would put them back with the clean clothes. Yes, now they have their own tidy space and my bed is all clear for being a bed.
The concept of the grounding point actually started in the mental space and not the physical space.
I realised that I had spent far too long running between dreams and projects. And there was one that was consistently eluding me.
I really really really wanted to finish my PhD but for the last few years felt I was constantly beset by other mental health issues or projects or distractions.
And so I decided that if I really wanted to succeed, I must focus only on that.
In a period of my life where for varying reasons I have little control over what is happening in the world, where I live, even job opportunities, all things which for now I cannot change or control, why not, for once in my life just reduce my focus to one unique thing?
Finish my PhD.
As a chronic multitasker and long-term entrepreneur, it is a hard lesson to learn (pun unintended lol). I feel almost as if I am hanging up my boots, giving up on my dreams, becoming a traitor to the greater issues. But in the climate of the last two years I feel real change is only possible if we are willing to actually step outside our comfort zone and explore and fully experience new concepts of living and working.
Metaphorically slowing down to focus on one thing (though who would actually ever associate doing a PhD with being in the slow lane lol?) is radically novel to me, but it is something I am willing to fully try if it means I can both achieve my goal and get myself out of this unstuck state.
I sit here nibbling on some form of very healthy green shoots or sprouts as I write this. As another shoot disappears into my mouth I feel no different to a rabbit. My feet are comfortably on my clear white desk, a single light emitting warm low light, the only things disturbing the tranquility of the desk being my mouse, a cup of ginger tea to offset this recent cold weather, and my obligatory glass of water in this desert-like period of life.
My desk is my physical grounding point.
With each item having its own space, my desk is like my canvas.
A clear canvas for each unique activity.
Each time I deviate from that activities blend one into another mindlessly and always end incomplete and unfinished.
Write now it is writing.
Before this was lunch. A beautiful sandwich with fresh bread, French cheese, beautifully sweet golden cherry tomatoes, and the aforementioned sprouts.
After this will come dinner and maybe some online activities. My first of the day. Messaging some friends. Checking in on family.
And then (my now clear) bed with a good book.
I feel disciplined and orderly which I would have sworn would never come to me in my whole lifetime of being wild and free and working incessantly on feeling and intuition alone.
I am still scratching my head wondering how this uncanny change came about.
It feels strange and foreign and yet for the calmness and clarity it is bringing to my life it is not unwelcome.
My only explanation and reason I can give for it I can give for now is that grounding point, both physical and metaphorical.
Reducing everything to one fixed determined goal which I can keep coming back to in the spinning chaos of life, while also giving myself that grounded space where things can revolve around, coming from and going back to their respective spaces, thus creating harmony and reducing that sense of uncertainty.
The process is still unfolding and under observation. Take from it what you will like, a sharing of experience and understanding to create a community of knowledge.
I wish each of you a beautiful Sunday.
RZ 2022 01 09