Tag Archives: purpose

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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What happened with my job

You might remember that earlier in the year I mentioned I had resigned from my job. Much as I love grand and dramatic gestures, and radical changes of direction, that particular decision wasn’t part of any great master plan I had concocted, but more a pragmatic reaction to the discovery of how much international travel I was going to be expected to do on my return.

There followed an unanticipated season of reflection (while outworking a hilariously long notice period). You might have noticed bursts of acute introspection on the blog in the last few months, alongside more practical advice about store cupboards, decluttering and capsule wardrobes. My friend Mel wrote a blog recently about purpose and strength, and taking the time to think about what we do best. I have had some time for that recently. I redid Strengths Finders (and Myers-Briggs, and the enneagram…) I talked to a coach. I applied for some jobs. I tried to think about what I’m good at. I tried to answer the question of what I wanted to do (much harder).

I find people often like to quote that saying about ‘finding where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need’. As if that question were not dastardly hard to answer. Are you doing the work you want to be known for? (is a question Mel asked). I just don’t know.

I spent a few months trying to dream up new things (or even old things) I wanted to do which might take on a salaried shape. I had meetings and made plans. I applied for interesting sounding things and dealt with the rejection that followed, trying hard not to re-evaluate the past ten years of my life as a waste just because they didn’t make sense to someone else reading my CV. What a fun journey.

Four months on, and some of you will have picked up from fleeting references that I appear to have not left Tearfund after all. You might be wondering what happened.

At the 11th hour we started having conversations in Tearfund about a new role that was coming up which involved a lot of storytelling and some strategic thinking. And a lot of talking to different people, which is another thing I like. It seemed like something I might enjoy doing.

Because the closest thing I can get to the thing I want to do is telling stories that change us. That change me, and might change you in tiny ways – because you feel less alone, because you feel inspired, or liberated or incensed, or something. Stories that make you feel something. There, that’s elegant isn’t it?

Tearfund (excellent as it is, and I really am a big fan) is by no means the only place I can do that. And to be honest I’d got my head in the game of leaving by the time the new job came up. I was imagining a future that didn’t involve the one organisation I had worked for consistently for a decade, because I like different kinds of stories. (And did I mention that I love radical changes of direction?) Part of me felt like staying was a bit like admitting defeat: I tried to leave, but I failed.

But the end of the story is that I stayed. I got the job (and am very grateful). There are a lot more stories here than have been told already, stories we haven’t found a way to tell yet, and so I’m sticking around to see if I can help to tell some new ones. And to learn things. And to figure out where else I might take my storytelling mojo. Ideas on a postcard (or in the comments).

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