Tag Archives: future

Soul searching in chicken pox quarantine

Today’s blog is coming at you from quarantine. At least one child is done with the dreaded pox, and another will likely follow. It was during the sermon at church on Sunday that I received a text from a friend confessing that her one year old had come out in spots, less than 24 hours since they had been at Jesse’s 3rd birthday party. It’s fair to say that I didn’t really listen to the sermon after discovering I had inadvertently hosted a chicken pox party and was therefore likely to be spending the following week in lock down with the kiddos. But then I think I got my grieving (mostly for the loss of my days off) done with on that day, so when it actually happened I had made peace with the outbreak. At least we didn’t have any super-fun plans this week. At least it’s not Christmas.

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(If you’re an informed parent or medical practitioner thinking ‘my, that’s an incredibly short incubation period for chicken pox’, the same poxy children – including my own – were also together a week earlier when the dreaded virus was probably spread).

Obviously, I am only a day or two into the ordeal, and I may yet be clawing at the windows and trying to escape in the days to come (this would be especially irresponsible as Andy is away in Brussels). But so far we’re good. We watched a Christmas film, we had a lot of stories and cuddles. I didn’t even know what else we did, but we made it to bed time. And for a kid who is used to spending the winter feeling uncomfy and itchy, smothered in creams and dosed up with anti-histamines, chicken pox isn’t so very different from the norm. We’re ok, is what I’m getting at. Just stuck indoors a lot.

This isn’t the week or the blog I had in mind, but that’s how life goes with kiddos I guess.

What I meant to write about was that cliffhanger I left off with last time – what am I planning to do with the rest of my life? What great plans have I been hatching, nestled up here in Luton?

If I’m honest, the biggest question I’ve been wrestling with – not just these past months, but years – has really been about acting. I’ve spent more than 20 years of my life with a strong sense of vocation in that direction, and I’ve been bewildered as to what to do with that now. You know, seeing as I don’t have any actual paid acting work, nor much of a record of it. Do I cut loose, dream up a different life, get a bit more practical, call it a day, be grateful for all I have learnt and done, and how I have changed and grown along that path, but set out in a different direction? Or do I dig my heels in, divert all my energies in that direction and make something happen? (I’m a little fuzzy on the ‘how’).

I like clear decisions, I enjoy a bit of black and white. But the answer that I have reached in all my should searching is…neither. Instead I feel like I need to make sure I make some space for acting, or related creating. Just keep it alive, nurture it a little, and take away the pressure. I have a couple of ideas of things to make a start with – just tiny steps – and so I’m committing to making room each week (thanks largely to Andy) to show up and have a go. Maybe I’ll mainly blog in that time. Maybe I’ll sing, or write. Who knows?

And then I have also spent a lot of time in this past year thinking more broadly about my purpose. A year ago I went on retreat. Then I did most of an online course by Tsh Oxenreider which I found really helpful, about finding your life’s purpose. She talks in one of the sessions about how she always dreamt of being a writer, it was always her ambition and hope. And now she is one. But she doesn’t consider writing to be her life’s purpose – being a writer is a role she takes on in different seasons of her life to express her deeper purpose.  Roles are always temporary but our purpose is the underlying thread that stays the same. That was such a helpful lesson for me – recognising that being an actress is a role I sometimes take on rather than my core purpose. And when I’ve thought about what that purpose is, I land in the territory of ‘helping people feel things’ – you know, emotions. I like to find creative ways to help people connect with their own emotions.

There are a lot of ways to do that. Be a friend, a wife, a parent. Listen, sing, perform, write. (And a bazillion other ways). There’s no career plan for it. But I find myself drawn towards the world of mental and emotional health, and the many creative paths it opens up, and so I’m exploring how I might take that forward (answer: more training). And I have a part-time job, starting in the new year, working with a brilliant local charity that works with young people here in our town, but also serves heaps of other youth projects across the country.  So I’ll be getting to know some of the teenagers of Luton, and exploring how they feel about life, the universe and everything.

And we’ll see where all of that takes me.

All thoughts and comments welcome – and I’d love to know what you’ve found most helpful in the process of working out what to do with your life?

 

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Loving decisions and living with questions

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign  tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve read those words many times in the last few years, but I’ve been thinking about them more pointedly in the last week or two.  I’ve told you about looking for a new job, but really it feels like I’m actually trying to rebalance my whole life, post-maternity leave.  The world has changed, and so have I.  It’s a strange old time, and I’ve been saddened by how many of my friends have had rough transitions back to work after having babies.

There are a lot of questions.  The job is a big one – what on earth should I do to earn a living?  How does that fit with all that I think matters in the world?  And there are other questions about the complex jigsaw puzzle that makes up our life as a family in this local community.  What can I contribute and where do I just need to be present?  What do I want to keep going with? What no longer works for our family?  Will there be enough to fill the holes I’m left with (i’m thinking about gaps relating to purpose and identity rather than spaces of time)?

I have a lot of questions, but I don’t love ambiguity.  I like decisions (can you tell that I’m a big J in Myers-Briggs world?!), and I feel like I need to make some clear choices.  I need to decide what to do for a job – and whatever it is, I feel a particular need to own it.  I have spent ten years at Tearfund after arriving on a two month temp contract to make some money in between acting jobs.  It’s been an extraordinary journey which has changed me profoundly, but everything I did there grew and evolved from role to role.

So the next job feels like a more pro-active choice.  I have to choose something.  To say “This, and not that”.

The decision to keep working outside our home is a choice in itself, I guess, but it’s been a fairly easy one.  Jesse has taken really well to nursery, and I am happier when I’m out working part of the week.

I want to bring some honesty and clarity to the other pieces of my life, even when that’s painful.  I hate disappointing other people, or letting them down, but I also remember hearing something a few years ago (I think maybe from Oprah’s new bestie, Rob Bell) to the effect that we can’t really ever say a meaningful ‘yes’ to anything unless we can say ‘no’ to other things.  Or, if we say yes to everything (& everyone), we’re not really saying a meaningful ‘yes’ to anything (or anyone).

But back to the questions.  There’s a big one that keeps haunting me.  What place is there for creativity – and specifically, acting – in my life?  It’s extremely unlikely that my next job will be as an actress, and I’m fine with that for many reasons. But that passion is so foundational in my life and my identity, and I’m coming to be at peace with that being a valid thing rather than something self-indulgent to try and shed.  So where does it fit?  I just don’t know.  And that’s where I come back to that strange Bohemian-Austrian (thanks wikipedia), Rilke.

It seems like the best decision I can make right now is to commit to the question and to living in the question – in my family, in our community, in our church, in the big wide world.  I don’t think that means jumping at every opportunity to be vaguely creative because it might be an answer (i would end up with 20 new projects before the weekend); instead my best guess is that it will mean cherishing that unresolved desire, even though that is sometimes hard and sad, returning to it, weighing opportunities against it, not letting it die.  I’m not sure I’m great at it, (in fact I’m pretty sure I’m not) but it’s my aspiration.

And in the meantime, some decisions.

How do you live with important, unresolved questions?

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Things I start to realise when I leave the city

Tatton Park

Tatton Park

This week I had the treat of getting out of London to the countryside.  I went to spend a few hours with a friend who has been coaching me, on and off, for the past six years (one of the many gifts that Tearfund has sent my way), and he suggested that we roam the wilds of the Peak District whilst talking about all the big questions life is currently throwing my way.

Do you know I walked for about half an hour before I realised that my eyes were fixed on my feet and I was missing the view?  There were a lot of boggy puddles to avoid, but still.  I was intent on each right step and I was missing the snowy peaks in the distance, the stark, bare trees in the foreground and the bright blue sky above.  I was wasting the extravagant beauty that I’d taken so much effort to escape to.  All I could see was where I was.

But when I did look up, it did my soul good.  The horizon was so wide, the sky so immense, the air so clean and cool.  There was space, so much space.  There was no rush, no bustle, no pressure.  I could breath deeply and slowly, and pause the urgent train of thoughts carolling through my mind.  I thought of the organisations that I’ve been exploring working with, and the stories they tell about what matters in the world and what must be done, stories which I believe but which too quickly become all encompassing, the only stories.  I caught my breath, and felt like there was something bigger.

As we slowly paced the fields and dales (is it only Yorkshire where you have dales?), the pressure to power on forwards and reach some arbitrary landmark seemed to dissolve.  It’s not that there was no intended destination, but our pace was of no great importance, and it was such a shame to miss the view.

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I didn’t look at my phone, not even to check the time. (But I did take a couple of pictures)

And as I savoured the gentle ramble, I realised that we (as a family) have stopped going on walks, besides the daily treks around the neighbourhood.  We never seem to get organised enough to get the train to some serious greenery, and the logistical challenges brought about by taking a one year old have apparently defeated me. My parents always took us on walks as kids; there was plenty of camping, and climbing mountains.  We even had proper walking boots.  I bought my first adult pair in South Africa a few years ago; this week was their second outing.

What a shame.  Not to make the effort to get out of the city and escape its physical and psychological confines.  To accept its deadlines and pressures without stopping to look up at the view and realise that the horizon is wider than it can seem.  At moment of change and rebalancing I need reminding to stop and look up.
What do you realise when you get out into the countryside?
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