A New Job
It’s been 21 days since I began my new job. It is official because I changed my LinkedIn profile. I am no longer the Executive Director at the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. I am now the official volunteer blogger at www.Overflow.care, the official volunteer Gatekeeper program promoter, the official volunteer Let's Talk supporter, and the official volunteer Critical Incident Stress Management team mental health guy. I also listed my new occupation as Author, Stumbling into Happiness. Forty people responded congratulating me on my new job. At first, it felt a bit strange. Then I thought, that's right, this is my new job. I wonder how I’ll do?
In the weeks before my last day at the office, many people asked me what I planned to do next. I always responded, “I am going to be an artist.” Friends and colleagues gave me books on writing, books on art and art supplies, and a beautiful pencil holder made by Carl Bonifield at ArtAbility Studio. Donna Dickman from PASS (formerly PVFF) gave me a whole correspondence course on drawing.
Just as I showed up to the office these past 25 years, I have a new job to show up to—becoming an Artist, an Author, and Official Volunteer for MHRSB. Over the past ten years, I used art and writing as a way to live more comfortably with anxiousness. With as much anxiousness as I experienced, I had plenty of opportunities to practice writing and drawing. When I was in the midst of an anxiousness episode, I would set the clock and start writing or drawing. That’s how I tamed some of the wilder anxious moments, moments that would almost paralyze me; I’d set the clock for 20 minutes, pick up a pen and write or a pencil and start doodling. When the timer rang I’d feel better. What surprised me was that after 20 minutes I wanted to keep at it. Sometimes hours later I was still enjoying myself. I discovered that I loved art so much that I wanted to practice it more and more. It wasn’t just a way to live with anxiousness. It became a way of living.
I thought with so much of the day open to me now anxious thoughts wouldn’t be able to find me. Wrong! I felt that without the pressure and demands of the position at the Board the anxiousness I’ve lived with for decades would disappear. Wrong! The other night as I tried to get to sleep some anxious thoughts appeared out of the blue and uninvited. I could feel my body begin to tense up and the first wave of worry start to spread. I recognized this old companion still here with me. So instead of ruminating and worrying about what to do about whatever came up in my head. I did something different. I practiced mindfulness. I noticed the worry thought as if it were something apart from me. I said to myself, “Well here is worry come back to visit again.” Then I just looked at it as if it was someone getting into bed next to me. I watched it as it settled into my mind and body. The next thing I knew it was 4:30 in the morning. I'd fallen asleep, and the anxiousness left without so much as saying goodbye.
Transitions always trigger anxiousness—will I live up to my expectations? Will I disappoint?
I look back now over the decades and see moments I thought were so dark and horrific that I would never survive—endless, bottomless, darkness. Now I understand they were just transitions, moments on my path. They were like tunnels I needed to pass through to a new situation. And what I am experiencing now is another of many transitions I’ve lived with: new jobs, new positions, new relationships, new challenges, and new friends. And it won’t be the last one either.
Everything is changing. Everyone is changing.
There is a sign at the gate of an army post in Afghanistan that reads: “Is today the day?” For those soldiers going out on patrol, they can't expect to come back or come back the same. So make the most of this moment.
I’m glad I have been practicing what I love for the past ten years instead of just trying to manage or avoid my anxiousness. Practicing drawing, writing, and mindfulness prepared me for this next chapter. Who would have guessed that eventually this would become my new "job"?
That sign at that army post reminds me to show up and focus on what I love recognizing that each day is a gift given to me to enjoy and flourish. Who knows about tomorrow? Everything is changing. Here’s the advice I would give to my younger self, “Is today the day?” Show up for yourself and practice what you love.