Transitions: Pushing against conditioning

Monday 25th February 2019, England, Day 23

It’s difficult when illusions and myths crumble (especially when everything around us supports them), and their crumbling can open the door to new possibilities. [Anne Schaef: “Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much” – 7th February entry]

“So Debs, have you got a job to go to in England?
When will you get a job?
How soon will you start looking for a job?
Have you got a job yet?
What kind of job are you looking for?
Are you tired of doing nothing yet?”

I am bombarded by questions like these at every social gathering I go to. The questions come mostly from the men in my family and people who have high powered jobs.

When I respond to these questions with my standard answer “no, not for three months at least“, I am often greeted with audible gasps of shock and looks of horror. I can almost hear them saying “how can she do that?“.

Working is their norm, it is what they do. Hell, its what I do, have done. The people I know, have been brought up to work hard until retirement age. Then you can have fun. Social conditioning says that we MUST always work, putting off any pleasure and joy until we retire. But then we find we are too knackered to do what we’ve dreamed of all our lives, with no energy to do anything about those dreams. Our work culture and social conditioning support these ideas and illusions.

We start work in our early 20s, full of hope for the future. Then we start ‘collecting’ financial responsibilities as we go through life: partners, children, mortgages, cars, businesses… we work ourselves to death (sometimes literally) to meet these financial commitments.

Yet, research is showing that people over 40 would be more productive if they worked a 3-day week  providing the best balance between keeping the brain stimulated and driving it into the ground with stress and exhaustion. (See links at the bottom of this post for more info).

Myself, I have been in full time employment since I was 21. I had a small break for maternity leave in 1999/2000. At one point, I also managed to have a well-paid 3-day a week job. It was one of the best things I have ever done. I had time with my young son, time for me, time for my friends, time in my home.

As I entered my 50s, I found myself yearning for that situation again – a 3-day week. I wanted something more flexible, varied, less stressful, less intense. But this of course, goes against what I’ve been conditioned to do and my strong work ethic.

The voice of Mergatroid

Three years ago, when I decided to take my self-funded sabbatical, my inner critic (who I call Mergatroid) balked at the idea – surely it was slothful, lazy, just not done to think about not working?

My Ego piped up too, saying “you will never be brave enough to do that“, or “how will you afford that?” or “that is too scary, are you sure you want to do that?“.
Both Mergatroid and my Ego want me to just keep telling and living the same story for the rest of my life. Being seduced by the so called norms and being “a good girl” and conform.

For three years I have been torn between my conditioning and a low-level grumbling need to take a break.
It has taken me three years to get my head around the idea and to prepare for it mentally, emotionally and financially.
Three years to quiet the voices of Mergatroid and my Ego.

I’m shaking it up and sending Mergatroid to solitary confinement!

I am in the first month of it. The sabbatical.
It still feels like a holiday, as its only been 3 weeks.
I’m sure in the next few weeks I will begin to get antsy, anxious.
I’ll start to ask myself the same questions that others are asking.
When will you get a job, start earning money, Debs?”

That is when I will need to draw on all my inner strength – to be brave and strong.
To hold onto my plan and stay the course. To remind myself why I have chosen to take this time:

  • to rest and regenerate my energies
  • to replenish my soul
  • to have headspace to think about new directions
  • to reconnect with family
  • to reacquaint myself with England
  • to rediscover who I am
  • to play – to be purposeless, non-productive for a while. I want to moodle – dawdling and idling away time while letting my mind wander.
  • to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of my past and re-invent myself anew. I have done this before, so I am happy to do it again.

Re-invention suggests doing things I have not done before – like writing a book, publishing, working in a different way (not in an office 9 to 5).


My numbers

My numerology for this year is also proving useful.

  • February is a ‘1‘ month – a good time for clarifying ,y goals, developing a plan, making a new start. That is exactly where I am. Thinking about my new future and settling into this new way of life and country.
  • March is a ‘2‘ month for me. A time to collect what I need, to acquire knowledge. To start networking and collaborating. Above all, to be patient.
  • April is a ‘3‘ month. Not only the start of spring but also a time for enjoyment and creativity, for social expansion, for creative success.
  • May comes in as the ‘4‘ month – where I am organised and productive and I start to make steady progress towards my goals. This is when I hope things will really take off!
  • As a ‘5‘ month, June is about change in career, home, routines and ideas, expanding horizons and exploring new directions, as well as promoting myself.

It seems as if the numbers are guiding and supporting me through this process too.  This guidance reminds me not to be in a hurry. Things will happen when they should. So I can prepare myself, research and learn what I need to know, make plans and connect with people and organisations. But not to strive and push for things to happen.

I’ve learnt in the past that when I stop pushing, worrying and stressing, that opportunities pop up when I least expect them. The trick is to notice those opportunities and to take advantage of them.
To be ready.

I’ve realised over the 3 weeks that I have been back here that it is so easy to get “seduced” back into the norm by society’s conditioning, by my inner critic and to get knocked off track by the pace of daily life and other peoples’ opinions.
If I cave in and jump into work for the sake of it, I know that I will regret it for the rest of my life.

No! No! No!
I will not be seduced!
Draw on that courage and stay strong, Debs!

Debbie blog sign off 2019

This post is part of my Transitions series.



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