Okay, Fine, I'll Hang Upside-Down in a Cocoon for a While
Time to heed my own advice.
I don’t know whether it’s due to all the shifts occurring in the world at large, but a number of people around me are going through major shifts of their own and struggling to find new, better ways forward. I’ve suggested to each of them (I’ve recycled this advice three times already) that they slow down and embrace the stillness necessary to intelligently regroup before forging ahead. I’ve further advised them to envision themselves as if they’re being purposefully held, for now, inside a chrysalis, a safe place in which to do nothing but organically transform in preparation for whatever’s next.
Now I’m realizing that I’m going through my own major shift, and that I should probably (definitely) heed my own advice. (I suppose what Anais Nin said bears out here: “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”)
I’m going through…something, and it feels big. The past year was monumental for me—good in many ways, the biggest of which was finally publishing my memoir and having it be well received. I took part in many great, well-attended book events, and sold a good number of books, considering mine was a weird little title from a tiny press. When I was younger, I never could have predicted that I’d “come into my own” at the ripe old age of 56/57, but this year, I really have. I’m the most “me” I’ve ever been, both personally and professionally, and that feels good.
I’ve advised people going through shifts to envision themselves as if they’re being purposefully held, for now, inside a chrysalis, a safe place in which to do nothing but organically transform in preparation for whatever’s next.
But although I’ve now crossed some kind of threshold, I don’t know where I’m headed next, or where I should be headed, and that’s scary. A few colleagues have insisted I need to have a next project in the works very soon, before the buzz around my book dissipates. I have lots of ideas, but I feel so pressured that those ideas are now all caught up in a log jam in my brain—the realization of which only compounds the pressure, and attendant anxiety.
Add to that the realization that although I’m so glad to have arrived at this place, some of the old ways of being that I relied on along the way no longer serve me, and I need to let go of them.
For instance: I have wasted so much time! In hindsight, I realize I was suspended in a different sort of chrysalis for the 15 or so years I struggled to write my memoir, and while I was definitely making progress during that time, it was in tiny steps, and those steps alternated with all kinds of self-sabotage. My process was so much more tedious and laborious than it needed to be!
Okay, maybe it needed to be then. Maybe that was the only way I knew how to do that at the time, and so I need to stop criticizing past me. But present and future me? She no longer has that kind of time to waste. For efficiency’s sake, I need to somehow heal the part of me that has clung to so much dysfunction, and embrace some new ways of approaching my writing.
Also: I’ve long been too reliant on social media—for company and community, especially since lockdown in 2020, but also distraction and disassociation, and, most cringingly of all: hard-won, hollow validation. That’s led me toward so much painful compare-and-despair. Worse than that, it’s led me to perpetuate other codependent time-wasting tendencies, the worst of which has been trying to win over people, many of whom were not interested in being won over.
Now I’m realizing that I’m going through my own major shift, and that I should probably (definitely) heed my own advice.
And: I’ve often avoided the difficulties of my own work by doing too much to help other writers. Don’t get me wrong—that’s an important part of my work that I’m proud of, but the balance has been way, way off. Sometimes I’ve continued to do things for writers who haven’t shown themselves to be grateful, or willing to reciprocate. If I’m being honest, at a deep level, that has been more about avoiding me than virtuously helping them.
The list goes on, but I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say that I need to get right with myself on multiple fronts. A little quiet time in a metaphorical chrysalis is probably a good place to start—especially toward the end of my second “Saturn return,” an astrological phenomenon the internet tells me occurs between the ages of 54 and 58. (In October I—an intermittent astrology adherent/skeptic—turned 57.)
I don’t know a whole lot about second Saturn returns, other than that during a return, Saturn supposedly helps remove from your life all the things that are no longer serving you. My first Saturn return, in my late 20s, was a doozy. That was the period during which I left my first marriage and thought I’d “found” myself when actually it was the beginning of being profoundly lost.
I need to get right with myself on multiple fronts. Some quiet time in a metaphorical chrysalis is probably a good place to start.
Of course, getting lost then led me to where I am now. And getting lost is important for writers. I just hope that this time around, I get a little less lost—just enough to discover what I need to inform my work—and that parting ways with behaviors and people and things I no longer need in my life will feel less violent and painful than it did thirty years ago.
Gah, Sari, this is such a beautiful post!! I agree that gettin lost is so important for writers. I also share your dismay at events that happen in your twenties...wishing you much cozy space in your cocoon. And...I dunno, I think a healthy, downtime break between projects is sometimes very called for.
What you wrote was a confirmation of how I have been feeling lately: I left my 21+ year corporate job exactly 5 months ago. I feel I am as busy if not busier, and don't know exactly where I am heading. I have been saying too many yeses (not all to others, some were to myself) just because I thought I could and should. I have been *thinking* too much in the head, but not *feeling* enough in the heart. I have not been able to be still and be quiet.
I am still grateful for 2022. On the list of what I am grateful for, you are right there. I am grateful that I came across your writing, and I am grateful I have been on the recipient list of getting your help when I needed it the most as a brand new writer. Thank you!
I am very much looking forward to 2023. One of the things 2022 taught me was that we are animals of habits. It is very hard to break an old habit but once you break it, it is very liberating. I have been liberated from the corporate rat race machine but not from my own habits of hustling and bustling. Be still and be quiet, that's how I want to start 2023.