Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Seasonal affective disturbance

If all goes to plan, I’ll be leaving my full-time job at the university, where I've worked for ten years, next March. It's a lunge towards a different kind of life, and there's also an undoubted risk that I'll end up destitute and deeply regretful. Whilst I’m sure this was the best decision, it’s been a very hard one to take and continues to feel terrifying.

I could kind-of wish this hadn’t happened in Autumn - not the best time for inner turmoil, perhaps, because there’s always a dimension of anxiety and upheaval in this beautiful, melancholy, doom-laden and inevitable season. I’m reminded of a poet friend, Fatih, who said to me many years ago: “I always feel sad at sunset – it’s because I’m a poet” (yes, incredibly pretentious – we were very young – and also no doubt true; he did feel scared and sad at dusk). And Autumn is one long sunset, the dusk of the year (ahem, did I say pretentious?).

So, now suddenly there is perspective, in the sense that a firm date sits there in my future – less than five months away. And there is much perspective still lacking in the sense of seeing this in a calm and organised context and getting down to the next few months of transition, preparation and planning. This is hard.

It’s hard because navigating change is always stressful, even when it’s change for the better, and additionally stressful this time for me because it’s positive, but risky. I’ve not been good at taking risks – and my achievements in life have been commensurately small. So it’s time, well past time, to take a risk. And I am unpractised, ridiculously so for someone of my advanced years.

So I do, alas, what I am practised at: cut off from my true feelings, which are jubilant-scared-hopeful-scared-liberated-scared-proud of myself-scared-humming with creativity at the mere thought of it-scared… can’t take being scared, so cut them all off at the roots and opt for numb anxiety! Yup, that’s where I am: numb, distracted, floating anxiety. Autumn, then Winter; decision, then change - inevitable, but not thereby any easier to flow with. Yikes.


I wrote this yesterday, wanted to let it sit before posting it, and then today I read Beth’s thoughtful and heart-searching piece about Libya, revolution, minorities, emigration, watching and responding to cataclysmic events from afar, and I read Dave’s generous response, so full of care and flair, to a class of schoolkids who’d read and responded to one of his poems. I felt uncomfortable writing here about myself, as if my own life and feelings were everything. The balance is hard, isn’t it? For each of us as individuals, there are times to go into ourselves and times to put our personal concerns aside. We’re all in this together, self and others aren’t really separate. My exhaustion from work and the struggle of commuting in and out of central London is all about me and my feelings, my own questionable sense of entitlement to something more fulfilling. But it’s also what drains me of energy I might, if my circumstances were different – and maybe will, if I succeed in changing my circumstances – be able to give to creating my own small quotient of beauty and to engaging with the causes I find important.

17 comments:

Dale said...

woohoo!!!!!

Sorry to transition the mood so abruptly, but -- you're leaving the job? That's terrific! I am so happy for you! If your experience is remotely like mine, you'll find the economic straitening trivial compared to the easing of the yoke on the spirit. Oh, I am so happy!!!

Dance dance dance :-)

Hugs & hugs

rr said...

Wow. Well done indeed, what an amazing leap of faith into the unknown. May you fly! Soar! Twist in the thermals, somersault through buffets, stretch each sinew across the sky.

marja-leena said...

As Dale and rr said better than I could! Change is hard, and I think for some of us, gets harder as we get older and have stayed in one place for some time, whether that place is work, home or a psychological state or all three. I do congratulate you on your courage to make that change, and wish you continued courage ahead. I know it's corny, but I'll say it anyway - keep thinking happy thoughts about your new future. I'm sure it can only get better.

liliannattel said...

I'm so happy for you, scary as it is and uncertain. Yes we're all in this together, neither less nor more--it all matters. What a lot of emotion--I can relate to it all.

Beth said...

Jean, I am thrilled for you! Thrilled at the opportunity, thrilled you took the leap, thrilled that your spirit -- which we know loves beauty, is incredibly generous, wants to let its great gifts fly -- is going to have a better chance. Your friends are here to support and love you, and you will not, repeat not, end up destitute or regretful. Fabulous news! (And of course you're scared. Anyone would be. but it's going to be all right.)

Lucy said...

Hooray!

Yes it's hard now, looks enormous, but one day in the not so distant future you'll look back and wonder that it seemed so frightening.

I'm so pleased for you.

Pica said...

So very happy Jean, wish I were there to have a pot of tea with you. Have a hug from afar...

Rachel Fox said...

I'm not sure I know anyone who has really regretted a decision like this. To have more of your own time to think and do... all the best for the changeover!
x

Jean said...

Dale, thank you! Your experience has of course been a great encouragement and inspiration to me.

rr, yes it's a crazy leap of faith. But I'm forced to the conclusion that continuing as I am is even crazier.

Thank you all so much for your kind words of support and encouragement, which I appreciate very, very much.

Ivy said...

You go, Jean! Yay! :-D

Dave said...

What they all said. Yes, we're here for you --- and cheering you on.

Parmanu said...

Just wonderful. And inspiring. All the very best in this new phase, Jean.

After Autumn and Winter, there's Spring!

Leslee said...

Woohoo is right!! So excited for you, Jean. Seems like a long time coming, and I'm sure you'll be glad for it, whatever the future brings. A new door opens...

Vivien said...

Well done coming to your decision! I left a very, very busy University of London admin job after six years (the number of students had increased enormously but the admin staff remained at two! Not to mention summer schools!) It was a bit of a leap in the dark and the finances went down (a lot!) but I couldn't take more stress, and I never regretted it. I was 56 when I left.

All the best with being able to spend more time on your literary and visual talents - at last!

Rouchswalwe said...

Prost! I will drink a special ale in your honour tonight! Here's to courage and good fortune in the future! Prost!

Jean said...

Thanks again, everyone. I know I have to summon all my strength if I'm to make a go of this. So all supportive words are so, so welcome.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Jean, I add my enthusiastic applause to all the others cheering you on. This is great news. Yes it's risky and scary but isn't that true of everything worthwhile in life? I'm sure it will change life for the better for you. Exciting!