Faith or How to Hang in the Balance or You’re Not a Failure if You’re 33, Single & Unemployed… RIGHT??

It’s ok to miss being in it with someone even if it wasn’t the right relationship for you, I know I do.  It’s a long and lonely road out here going it alone, but that can be ok.  The not reaching, though, that’s the thing.  That’s the hardest part, I think.  The leaving one relationship without having another waiting for me in the wings, the giving notice at one job before I’ve found the next, both are about timing being right and something that had once been right no longer being right.

And that’s tricky.  Sometimes I get the sense that I’m being told from some outside source that if something fit once then it should always fit.  But being a woman in her thirties, I can tell you that that damn sure ain’t the case (even if I still refuse to give those jeans away).  I realized a few years ago that my one regret will be if I get to the end of my life and discover that I hadn’t been paying attention.  I’m ok with making decisions out of fear as long as I’m aware of it.  I’m ok with choosing to watch Netflix instead of process the death of my Gran as long as I see what’s going on.  I’m ok with doing puzzles and listening to Taylor Swift instead of working through the end of a relationship. It’s hard for me to look at my 20s and not feel a twinge of regret at the years I missed because I was too afraid to pay attention (regardless of the futility of regret).  I would feel that same regret if I stayed in situations now that I stopped fitting.  It’s strange to feel a niggling of guilt to not be the same person I was a year ago, two years ago, 12 years ago when my stated goal is to grow.  But maybe it makes sense, since growth means change, and with change, some loss is inevitable; and loss can sometimes feel like leaving people and places that you love and are grateful to behind.

Growth requires leavings, endings, transitions.  

It’s nice when we know what the next thing is, but we aren’t always given that at the time, and that’s where faith comes in.  I was afraid that if I waited for the next right thing, I would become numb, desensitized to the wrongness of what was. That scared me because I believed then I would be stuck.  

So I took a leap.  And now we wait.

A possibility that’s difficult to accept but necessary to consider, though, is that what the next right thing is, is a time of absence, space, unknowing.   In order for that to be survivable though, faith is a requirement.  To not miss the opportunity of space and time by reaching for something–anything–to fill the void, I have to have faith in the process, the current state of things, time.  

And what is faith? 

If you haven’t felt it, imagine what you feel when you are scared of something unknown: the sense of foreboding, the dis-ease in your body, the way your mind jumps around.  Well, the opposite of that is what faith feels like.  (I’m aware it’s not a true definition if I’m only defining it by what it is not, but that is the feeling.)  We are programmed to be afraid of the unknown but, with practice, we can reprogram ourselves in the direction of faith.  

Even if you’re uncertain as to what you have faith in.  

For me, faith became the next natural step when I realized I didn’t believe the human brain was the pinnacle of wisdom, that that was as high on the intelligence food chain that existed.  So from there, the process of reprogramming is remembering every single time in my life that my brain told me the world may actually be ending, and then remembering that it didn’t.  The sun still came up the next day and the day after that, and I handled myself in the moments that followed and the moments after them like I always have.  Then, after repetitive practice of this step of remembering, I started to be able to witness fear in the moment instead of after the fact.  

What that looks like is, when fear and anxiety come up, instead of letting it drive, I think, “Huh.  It feels like the world is ending right now.  Historically, that hasn’t happened at times when I have felt this way.  I’m pretty sure it’s for real this time and the world is actually going to end, though, but I’m open to taking history into consideration and seeing what happens in the next 5 minutes, day and a half, 30 years.”  (Yes.  That is how I talk to myself.)  And then, wouldn’t you know it, the sun still comes up, and even if I am still uncomfortable due to whatever shit storm is going on and causing me grief (a bully in my life, fucking up at work, a pandemic), I am less afraid of my discomfort and the stories in my head.

After seeing that play out enough times, when I was in the throes of anxiety, I was able to get to a point of thinking, “Oh hey!  Here’s that story again, the one about the world ending!  I should probably make myself a cup of tea and a blanket fort to ride this out in ‘cause I’m going to be uncomfortable for the next hour/evening/day/etc.”  It’s similar to the doublethink I have to do a day after drinking or two days before I get my period.  Like, my brain is going to lie to me about all kinds of things on those days–what a failure I am, how dangerous driving is, whether or not everyone is annoyed when I open my mouth–but I have finally learned, that on those days of the month, all that is required of me is that I just pat it on the head, give it a cookie, and see how it sees things the following day.

Meditation makes this easier, of course, seeing your thoughts and feelings as thoughts and feelings instead of as You or The Truth, but journaling is good, using sound reasoning helps, too.  Faith, like happiness it turns out, is a muscle and a skill that has to be prioritized and developed.  Sure, chemical disposition and cultural and personal circumstances make it easier for some over others, but the more I prioritize and practice it, the more present it becomes.  

So what was I saying?  Oh ya.  I’m single and unemployed.  But the tea’s good.  And the blanket fort feels nice.  😉

Published by Pam Stewart

I am a writer living in Victoria, BC, Canada. I got my start in spoken word and am now a frequent contributor to Elephant Journal. My writing is the result of a deep dive into the world of self-help. I don't profess to know how others should do it, but am interested in having the conversation. I think there is real value in revealing our blindspots, our vulnerabilities and our fears; which is what I am trying to do through my essays on mindfulness, self-exploration, and living honestly. I have found God through writing, which is to say, I have found myself through writing. My book, I Really Thought It Would Be Easier Than This, is available now.

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