I was writing my 750words the other day, and I found myself describing myself as a just-released vacuum sealed pillow. It feels like I am just starting to puff-up, starting to regain the original shape and fluffiness instead of being hard, tight, flat and compressed. But a pillow would never know its original destiny if it had stayed sealed. I know, I think of weird metaphors sometimes.
I spent my first month of unemployment basically packing up my life in the US and saying goodbyes, the second month or so just ignoring everything else and recovering. It was only somewhen in the middle of the third month that I had any semblance of a new direction, no matter how unformed it still seems to be at this moment. It took me three full months to decompress, and I don’t even know I am done yet.
I am still somewhat in the process of grieving over the life I have given up. Intellectually I know what I want and need, but emotionally it is difficult to let go of what I am used to. I have to be patient with myself, I have to keep reminding.
But in between fleeting moments – spending hours in the library just curled up and reading, taking a slow swim, sitting with my parents to watch TV – I have found myself being aware of a certain feeling I never quite had before. It is a feeling that is a result of not having to rush off to somewhere else, or that nagging thought that I need to be doing something else because there are multiple deadlines in front of me. It is a feeling of being hyperaware of myself, my surroundings and feeling connected to the moment.
Having the space to be present is making a remarkable difference to the quality of my life. I was always too tired and stressed to turn up for other people and myself. After a typical work week, I don’t have the energy to do anything, much less hang out with other people. Now, I am no longer wrecked with guilt because I am not spending enough time with people I care about, or feeling like I was only barely present with people, because I had so much to worry about. I have the time and space to turn up for events I never would have gone if I had a full-time job, to foster unexpected connections to people in random places because now I have the time to be random.
It isn’t about having an entirely unstructured life, but the freedom to decide where I want my structure to be, where I want to give space to other areas of my life. I have been having structure where it matters – my health. I swim everyday, intermittently fast, eat better and visit my TCM doctor regularly. I wouldn’t say I am out of the woods yet, but there is definitely a marked improvement considering I felt barely alive three months ago.
The combination of better health and increased presence has created more mental space for me. I have more occurrences of spontaneous ideas bubbling up, when I am not consciously working. The phenomenon of epiphanies happening out of actual work is not new. It is not just about giving them space to occur, but to actually capture them and do something about them – that requires time and space too.
It isn’t all a bed of roses, in-between I am plagued with self-doubt, anxiety and existential loneliness. But maybe these will never go away, and what matters is what I’ll do in spite of them.
I know it is seems like a luxury to “have space” even though it didn’t come easy for me at all. I am not sure if this is sustainable in the long-term at all, but even if this period will eventually have to come to a close, what arises from it will be extremely valuable for me in the future. At least now I have experienced, the human being I can be, in these fleeting glimpses.
It is too early to tell, the actual impact of this experiment, but after being so used to feeling like I’m being compressed most of my life, I am grateful for those moments when it feels like I can breathe. Sometimes it is not about the length of time, but the observation that such moments do exist.