What will your new year hold?
In the last days of December and the start of January 2017, on a long car journey back from Cornwall and Devon to the Midlands I had a conversation which changed my life. I made the decision to leave my job.
The important part of that conversation is that when I got home I sat with a large sheet of paper and I wrote it down. This single act of committing to paper and sharing our decisions, particularly those that come with clarity and perspective, is the key to following through on goals.
I took a leap into the unknown, leaving a job, with no job to go to. I was told by so many ‘How brave!’ and ‘Wow!’. I can recall the sympathetic glances, or looks of envy. I found myself in my early 40s out of work - how few of us really get that chance to halt our working life and step briefly off the speeding merry-go-round of activity, by choice?
In the weeks that followed I felt a sense of space, a profound slowing down, a shift toward greater presence in my own life, more time for conversation, and for connection. To simply notice others and to respond from a space of grace and compassion. Those 7 joy-filled weeks of not working were the greatest gift.
That long car conversation in the liminal space between Christmas festivities and the new year was borne out of a keen sense of my own life rushing away from me, a need to draw in, reflect and to direct the year ahead.
I know I’m not alone in this, we are each of us buffeted by competing demands - the very modern disease of busy-ness.
The decision to leave my permanent full-time job had been growing in me for some time. In February 2014 I spent the last few days of my father’s life with him in hospital. I made a commitment to being present with him.
His last 48 hours were the longest of my life, every act became imbued with meaning, each breath precious, each moment an opportunity to say thank you. In a semi-private room on the edge of a busy ward, we created a sacred space, filled with song, prayer and poetry as all the family gathered round him.
The force of love makes us fearless. In those last days I knew we had to ensure his wishes, his comfort, his peace, in simple acts, to honour him.
The bravery to unclip the thin, plastic curtain from around the small cubicle of his bed and pull back the hospital blinds to reveal the frail rays of February sunshine, so on the very last morning of Dad’s life he could feel the warmth of the sun on his face.
The fearlessness to sit with him, holding his hand, and face my own fear of death.
And as I sat with my mum in the early hours of the morning moments after Dad’s death, I had the powerful sense that each moment of his life had, in some inexorable way, lead to this very moment.
That each of us is on a path leading us to our own ‘moment’ - the potency of this realisation, the raw beauty of being in this place, stayed with me as I returned to work the following week. Observing, detached, the busy-ness and speed of working life, the commuting back and forth, the thousands of unread emails in my inbox.
And it was these moments that left me with a need to choose the direction of my own life, to feel a sense of ownership, to choose and not simply to be directed by the competing demands of earning a living.
And so, as I sit again one year on in the twilight of 2017, I feel a sense of quiet joy!
That I can be, and that I can choose to Live Fearlessly.