Okay, I'll admit it: I’ve been freaking out, strapped by doubt, sleeping fitfully, awakening to despair and dread swirling around my head. Hmm, the change agent has no clothes.
In my last post (https://www.seechangeconsulting.com/post/change-in-the-air-for-seechange), I shared my hawk story and announced my big change: To take a yearlong sabbatical out of DC for writing and adventure. It was time -- that soaring hawk was a reminder the freedom available to me -- a terrible thing to squander.
In response, I got a lovely outpouring of congrats and encouragement from many of you:
“YES to listening to hawks. I admire how you always learn from life's moments - from the super-challenging to the sublime.” (architect and fellow-writer @juliegabrielli)
“Awesome and inspiring! It's great to be a part of your journey, to have your support, and to hear you share where you are in your own transition! Go Anne!” (friend, education counselor and co-coach Marlene)
“So very exciting! Can’t wait to hear which road(s) you end up hitting!!” (consulting colleague and inspirational speaker Andrea Howe Lee @AndreaPHowe)
Reading the feedback, I felt myself brim with positivity and possibility Following one of the SeeChange transformation rules, I'd announced my plan, thereby tricking myself: there was no way in hell I’d back out.
Now, I actually had to DO this thing! So, I was doing this thing, taking steps, in transition – on the bridge between one ending and my new beginning. I papered my home office with my flipcharts of to-dos, by category – home, business, car, finances, travel plans – to help me keep track.
Then I hit a wall.
Staring at all the action items, my heart palpitated. Days, almost a week, had passed, and I could not check-off a thing. All I could do was add more to-dos.
My house sprung a gas leak – the contractors were over and replaced the valved behind the old stove – replaced the whole range – and still, the smell persisted.
The buyer of my freshly detailed little red car backed out.
To escape the construction mayhem, I became a nomad, bunking down with gracious friends in the midst of a pandemic, living out of my car. One friend pointed out: “Consider this practice for your big on-the-road adventure.” I grimaced, unable to appreciate the poignancy.
I felt too scattered to get my real work done. What WAS my real work? In transition I had little time to pursue new client projects and even less time to write.
In transition, I was neither here nor there.
My beautiful mantra, Simplicity and Freedom, had morphed into Complexity and Confusion!
I felt ashamed to be worrying about my petty first world problems when people continued to suffer from this dreadful virus, when my friend and colleague, Agnes Leina in Kenya, was suffering.
As the house construction dragged on -- my aim to shore-up the old place up so I could leave in peace -- I felt myself getting even more attached to home. I heard a small voice whisper: “Your place is so lovely. Why can’t you have simplicity and freedom right here? You are fine right here.”
There’s one word to sum-up all this craziness: RESISTANCE.
If transitions are the bridge from one ending to a new beginning, there are trolls hiding below doing everything they can to stop me.
Stephen Pressfield, in The War of Art says “Resistance [with a capital R] is invisible. It cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.” (https://stevenpressfield.com/books/the-war-of-art/)
My work, in this case, is to get on the road, to realize my vision of a year-long creative sabbatical, to settle into a quiet place and finish my book.
But Resistance sees my adventure as a threat. Resistance is the small, fearful animal brain that’s designed to keep me safe. Resistance keeps me up at night. The moment I make any headway on this path, it throws-up the next roadblock. Resistance is relentless.
Resistance is also a sign, a good sign. I am on the right track. Resistance doesn't show up when I'm coasting.
I knew what I had to do.
My very first boss, in my early Beltway Bandit consulting days, used to say “Listen to the resistance.” In a room with our clients, designing new processes and systems to transform their work, Bouncing Bill was masterful at drawing out the silent ones, flip-charting their fears, and playing them back so as to diffuse their power. Oftentimes their fears were justified – they could get replaced by the technology -- and there wasn’t a thing we could about it. Though acknowledging helped. Other times, we discovered true risks we needed to address to prevent the project from going south.
What did Resistance have to tell me about my transformation? It most certainly wanted to warn me of all I was about to lose. So, I listened, respectfully, and, with a marker in hand, made a list:
· The safety and comfort of my home
· My city
· My friends
· Rock Creek Park
· The yoga sangha
· My identity as SeeChange President
· Secure income
· My routine
I was giving up the comfort of the known, no doubt about it, leaving my home, my sanctuary, the place I bought with my own money at age 33, and have cared for like a member of the family. I was leaving a family of friends behind too, ones nurtured over a lifetime in Washington. I would miss them deeply. Acknowledging that truth, sitting with the truth – not trying to refute it or make it better by saying 'we can Zoom' -- was important.
So I resist arguing with Resistance. But I had a right to remind Resistance of all the gains:
· Excitement and adventure
· New vistas
· New connections
· Yoga in the wild
· Comfort of my tent, motel room, Airbnb
· Freedom to write
· Freedom to explore
Looking at this list, I felt myself smile, my heart soar like a hawk. I had to keep coming back to the vision, to remind myself what, exactly, I was shooting for.
With both these lists posted on the wall of my change planning war room, I could face the truth of the both/and of change, nod and say yes to all of it.
Then the gas company arrives. They detect the leak I’d suspected, post a red warning tag and shut-off the gas for the entire house. It’s March and still cold out, the seasons slow as I to transition.
I spend the entire day with the contractors, pulling out the cabinets, cutting through the floorboards to isolate the problem, fishing out and repairing 100-year old pipes. X dollars and another day of transition actions down the drain, the leak is sealed. The smell of rotten eggs has dissipated. The gas is back on. The house is no longer a potential bomb waiting to explode.
I exhale, thinking of the alternative scenario: Hiking the Grand Canyon I get the emergency call. Talk about Complexity!
I could take this house mess as a setback, allowing Resistance to cast doubts on my sabbatical plan, buying into its fear: “See, this is just too hard.”
Or I can take this as another sign that it really IS time to go.
Better yet, I can acknowledge the both/and: Yes, this is hard, and yes, it’s time to soar!