On a summer evening, after a long day of sunshine and blue skies, you watch storm clouds gather in the west. You feel the humidity skyrocket as the air grows more still. On the edges of the storm clouds you see lightening flash, too far away for concern. A bit later you finally hear it, in the far distance, a rumbling of thunder. In that pause before the storm arrives, it seems the whole world is holding its breath, waiting.
Which do you feel: anticipation or dread?
A dear friend of mine is pregnant, expecting her first child. Last night she texted, with relief, that she has a doctor’s appointment today. She explained her relief this way:
First you find out you’re pregnant at home. You call the doctor’s office, and they say, “ok, we’ll see you in a month”, because they won’t see you until you’re like nine weeks. And then you finally see the baby, and you’re like “Thank God”. Then you get sick, which is actually the most reassuring thing ever because at least you know its in there doing something to make you feel sick. And then you’re waiting four weeks before the next appointment. And while you wait into weeks 10/11/12/13, your sickness gets better which means you can’t tell if anything else is going on. You just have to hope it is. And so I go in tomorrow, and they won’t do a picture but they will do a heart beat and I’ll feel better. And then I’ll wait four more weeks. You can’t feel it move or anything right now, so it’s all just a bunch of hope. Hope that someday at the end it’s a happy human.
After our conversation, it occurred to me that the process she had just described was familiar in some ways, despite the fact that I’ve never been pregnant. A year ago this past week (June 6, 2013) I packed my car and left Cedar Rapids to create a new life. The first month, I was vacationing in New Mexico – enjoying my family and the natural beauty of the area. I alternated between relaxing into the moment and wishing to move time forward more quickly, to jump ahead to the process of settling into my new home in Minnesota. Like my friend waiting for her first pregnancy appointment, I wanted the confirmation of sight – the city, my apartment (rented from a distance) – wanted to know it was real and not still a “someday” dream.
In the process of creating a new life pregnancy-style, there are markers. Your monthly exams, books that compare your growing child to various foods (a peanut, a grape) so you can visualize the growth inside you. A wealth of information, a nearly day-by-day road map of what to expect. My friend will eventually have a sonogram and be told the baby’s gender. She’ll feel the baby’s first kick, feel her body expanding and conforming to the little person inside it. And with all that, there is still the unknown, the waiting that my friend describes.
In the process of creating a new life for oneself, there are no road maps. No handy “What to Expect When You’re Taking a Blind Leap of Faith” books parsing the days for you. No trimesters to mark off on the calendar. But there are check-ups and check-ins along the way, like my friend’s monthly doctor’s visits. Moments that confirm you’re on the right track. Moments that make it clear a course-correction is needed. Moments of extreme joy and of fear and of quiet acceptance. Moments when you can’t wait for what is to come and moments when you dread what may be next.
We all know it takes nine months to give birth to another human – no matter how often we witness it, we are still spellbound by the miracle of it.
How long does it take to give birth to a new self, a new lifestyle? That gestation period is trickier because it is different for each of us who takes on the journey. A year into it, I’m still not sure how far along I am. So far, each set-back has been met with a reprieve. Each moment of despair with one of joy. I didn’t know ahead of time that I’d slip downward on Maslow’s hierarchy to the bottom rungs; didn’t realize how hard that would be or what I’d learn about myself when it happened. I’m finally beginning to trust that my basic needs will be met – now, I’m squarely focused on satisfying the need for belonging and love, setting my sights on “esteem”.
When I decided to transform my life, I thought it would be a relatively smooth transition upward to “self-actualization” – even though I ought to have known better: there are no guarantees of achieving the highest levels of actualization – just the desire to keep climbing in that direction. Life cycles back around to the hard parts even if you don’t take drastic steps toward change, so why not take the chance to create something bigger?
In the midst of change, no matter how long it takes, there will be times when you see the path ahead and times when you can’t. Times when you must move forward with just the hope that someday, at the end, you’re a happy human.
Whether you waited with anticipation or dread, the storm arrived.
The next day dawned. And it was spectacularly beautiful. Clean, fresh, cool air. Pink skies giving way to cerulean blue.
Which begs the question: if you can choose, why not choose anticipation? The next day dawns no matter what. Why spend your energy dreading it when there is so much more power in anticipating, in looking forward?