The Way I’m Made to Feel

Jordana Dale portrait Atlanta

It was as if I woke up on January 1st, 2018 and someone had turned the lights off. My surroundings, my life was completely the same, but everything felt different. I couldn’t find my bearings in once familiar spaces. When that switch flipped off, I was no longer me, but a really lost confused, teenager-like version of me whose pants felt too short and whose friends were nowhere to be found and whose heart felt achingly empty and lost.

It could have been the weather. I always blame things on the weather, and the short days and the cold. January’s cruel inability to connect with nature is life sucking.

It could have been hormones. I’ve learned everything revolves around hormones, perhaps if I could prove there was something chemical at play, I could further avoid further investigation into the dirt I knew was residing in deeper my heart.

Maybe it was my job. The hustle till you drop business of building a business is all consuming but necessary. It’s necessary until it isn’t anymore. Because the whole point of hustling is that eventually you build the systems and the contacts and the foundations required to not hustle anymore. That’s why you hustle. But what happens we you look at the numbers and the calendar and the portfolio and you sigh because you finally did it. You did the thing, you made it work, you hit the mark. Then what?

Maybe it was just the season of life I was in. The awkward middle space I’ve found myself meandering around for the last few years somewhere between single girl ready to take over the world and established woman at peace in her cozy corner of the universe.

Truthfully, it was probably a little bit of all these things. Nothing really exists in isolation. But the most dreadful offender was perhaps my heart. Contemplation would show what an X-ray couldn’t–that my heart was full of rough spots I’d chosen to glaze over in the last several years. The fears, anxieties, need to control, and negative self talk that had silently ruled me.They dictated how I lived my days, but I’d learned how to coexist in our parasitic lifestyle. When you share a brain and body with evil thoughts, it’s really much easier to blame your problems on the weather or estrogen or what you had for dinner the night before. The rough roaring road of my twenties provided the perfect landscape of milestone after milestone and one overstuffed month after the other to sidestep the real problem.

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My immediate course of action was to fix. I needed to fill the holes with distractions and new goals to focus on that would divert my attention from the elephant in the room. I began the familiar task of looking for new classes to take, checking out job postings, researching new volunteer opportunities, smothering my friends with text messages and requests for hang outs and homemade foods. I did all these things, but the sinking feelings remained. Perhaps 30 is the age when your soul decides that your old school coping mechanisms won’t work anymore, an cardinal casualty of youth. This would be a tougher egg to crack.

I went on long walks. I read books. I asked for advice. I tried to listen to silence. I mostly listened to podcasts though. I discovered The Law of Attraction (I’ll save that beast for a separate blog post). I got really woo woo. I typically find woo woo stuff to be a waste of time, but in times of personal crisis, I lap it up like a Golden Retriever on a hot day.

During a long meditative walk, a memory waltzed into my mind from 7 years ago. I am at Making Things Happen lying on gross hotel conference room floor. We are doing perhaps the most woo woo of all woo woo exercises. We are twenty women who did not know each other 8 hours ago who are now lying on the floor, fluorescent lights off, envisioning our future 5 or 10 years from now. I am trying not to fall asleep or think about what I might want for dinner. I am currently not in a moment of personal crisis, so the woo woo-ness of this is irritating.

It may have been the emotional overwhelm of the day, or maybe it was Lara’s lark-like voice, but at some point I settled into this silly exercise. She asked us to picture ourselves in 5 years, in 10 years. Where were we standing? What did it look like? Who was there with us? How did we feel?

Photo by Jordana Dale

7 years later, I still have a very clear mental impression of what it looked like. It was a front door. It was a contemporary-style house, with wood and big windows letting lots of light it. The front door opens and there is me. I don’t really look that different. I know Jordan is there but he’s not in this particular picture. I feel certain that is presence is around, but I don’t have to see him to know that. I have a baby on my hip. I am smiling, I am happy.

Yes, there was the house and the husband and the baby, but this future me, with her hair down and her smiling face, she radiated joy, peace, and contentment. Over time I feel I will forget this vision, but I will never forget the way I wanted my future self to feel.

Now, sitting squarely between 5 and 10 years from the day I allowed my mind to wander past my college present and into the distant future of family and adulthood, there are many things that vision hit squarely on the target. I have the house, though it looks different than the one in my mind. I have the husband. I don’t have the baby, and I do not feel the way that Angie felt. I do not experience the peace and ease that come with feeling completely at home with myself. But I want to.

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Photo by Jordana Dale

I know that this is the answer, the key is no longer about what I want to do, about what I can do to mute the alarm bells sounding off in my heart, to shuffle junk over my heartache until it’s buried enough to ignore it. The focus going forward must be on how I want my life to feel. It’s not about the stuff or the goals or the numbers, but about the heart and the passion and the curiosity.

They say you shouldn’t speak your truth until you’ve really processed though it. I think this can be a super wise thing to do, but in this case I’m ignoring it because I’m certain I’m not alone. I’m deeply deeply in the middle of something fracturing and difficult, but also life-giving. I don’t know how to do this, but for the first time possibly in forever, I really want to. This is not on-brand or pretty, but this is where I’m at.