There is something about zero birthdays. Moving into a new decade feels monumental, almost too much to get our minds around. When I turned 40 in 2016, I was ready! I had already marked the beginning of the new decade for myself by buying two Dachshund puppies. On the big day, I took them on a day trip to the coast. I wore the new Birkenstock sandals that I was particularly proud of and had wanted since University 20 years earlier. My actions in response to the approaching birthday had been philosophically rooted thusly: 'life is too short to dither'. Buying two dogs and expensive sandals seemed natural when you applied this logic: If you have always wanted to be a dog owner, do something about it, and so on. By the time the day rolled round I felt pretty relaxed (perhaps in part due to the comfortable sandals) and happy in my own skin. Local friends came over with flowers, we toasted the day and in the evening we had curry from my favourite takeaway place. I felt truly lucky to have such a relaxed day centred around two little sausage pups and hanging out with my best friend in our garden on the monster retro sun loungers he bought me. I thought about the preceding 10 years and how they had prepared me for this birthday.
I was ready for the shift 40 would trigger within. I knew that zero birthdays have an electrifying effect on me - and a lot of us, truthfully. You see, eleven years earlier, on my 29th birthday, I had had a terrible realisation. In 12 months time I would be 30. THIRTY. Ancient. Properly grown up. As ridiculous as it sounds I had not, until my birthday paused to consider that after 29, the next birthday would be thirty. I mean I could count at that great age, so it feels rather odd that I hadn't made the connection.
At that time I was locked into a serious and long term relationship. I had been swallowing down the inner knowing that I didn't want to be in that relationship anymore because I felt too deeply entrenched to escape. I had ended up buying a house with this man by accident, sort of out of politeness really - I mean, the moment when I knew I should not buy a house or continue to be in this relationship happened at the most inconvenient moment possible: when we were sitting in the Solicitors office at our meeting to sign the mortgage papers. Together. I signed, because I didn't want to waste the Solicitor's time - true story!
I managed to make it through 18 months of self denial in that house. 18 months of tending to my fear that it would be the end of the world to leave. But, when I turned 29 something dislodged in me. The following Autumn, I found myself packing bags and hiding them under the bed, on autopilot. Even at the point when obedience to my new reality kicked in and I witnessed myself taking the last steps to actually leave, I had not understood what a monumental step into the unknown it was and was still in a state of denial about needing to go. When my actions sunk in, I was excited by my audacity, angered that I had wasted years of my twenties and felt an empowered relief to be a single woman in contrast to smothering myself in an expired relationship for so long. Overwhelmed by all the feelings leaving generated, I attempted to discharge them without having to experience the pain of self examining. I channeled my new time and energy towards obsessing over finding a new boyfriend. Instead I found three short term encounters that I tried to spin into long term relationships. Each of the men was wildly unsuitable for me and totally unready to settle down with me - thank goodness.
Each was the antithesis of the last. All three entanglements, a power struggle and exercise in deluded self punishment. I put finding a partner at the top of my to do list. I was desperate to quickly fix the predicament of being alone and to avoid taking responsibility for my own happiness and wellbeing. In their own way each of these unsuitable men was looking through me for something else too. The very reason I had broken up with a gentle and caring man, who I just did not love was because something in me knew that there was more in store for me, more to go after than I could see in our collective future.
I had made a brave, bold leap, but failed to look within and understand that a big part of my problem was my fixed idea that I HAD to be in a relationship. I was afraid of the commitment I needed to make to myself if I stayed alone and I did everything I could to avoid it. I behaved irrationally, burned myself up with desire for the various targets of my infatuations. I crawled on my knees through broken glass, balled and asked the Universe to love me and to make something spectacular happen for me. I unconsciously continued to fatten up the chapters of the story in my head about not being lovable and not being safe or whole as a single woman. Even when things began to shift and I started to have an inkling that there might be more to adult life than chasing relationships and to wonder if perhaps I had something I could offer the world beyond being someone else's plus one: Even then, I still clung to that reductive belief that I would be better off on someone's arm.
When forming a relationship didn't work and still acutely feeling the need for change, I adjusted my focus and splurged energy at the idea of furthering my career by moving to London - (also in my head was: London, bigger dating pool...). Exhausted and numb after my sixth interview, on the train home. I wrote in my journal... 'Or you could just leave all of this and go travelling.' After forcing myself through all the emotionally gruelling post-big-break-up nonsense I had been making myself chase and looking in all the wrong places for change, I no longer had the energy to fight against my solitude.
My urge to travel was another somewhat naive leap into the unknown and it could be argued another displacement activity in which I actually ran a way on a global scale from my problems. I was still externalising and avoiding taking responsibility for my own life, when I should have been looking within. My decision to travel was another autopilot moment, an instruction from my intuition: 'ENOUGH. Enough now. You need to get yourself out of all of this and create time and space to think...' If turning 29 was the preface, travel was chapter one in my transformation story. Unconsciously I understood that what I needed to do was go ALL IN, to being alone. At the moment of making that huge decision I suddenly felt still, quiet. Calm. There would be no going back on this.
That's how transformation happens. It is ignited by a quiet realisation, a tipping point after all the little learnings have built into an undeniable critical mass. You can know something, but until you do something about it, until you live by it - you don't really know it yet. I kept quiet about my realisation for a little while and then, I made it real by talking about it, I started to tell people, to plan and bring it towards me. My core belief about being more than alright on my own took a while to mature, you can read about it here. That quiet moment on a train, changed my self awareness for good.
What's your secret wish? The big LEAP you are quietly thinking about? Find out how I can help you get quiet and find a way to take your own inspired LEAP : Contact me here