The current title of the book is “Midlife without a map: becoming the cartographer of your own life“. The “taking a journey” and map building themes are essential to the story and how I’ve structured the book as a mini life quest to become the mapmaker of my own life. The book has three main parts:
- Part One – Entering midlife without a map: lost and overwhelmed
- Part Two – Taking my road less travelled: Into uncharted territory
- Part Three – Living the map making process
Each part has a series of smallish chapters (eight chapters in total) or sections that follow an almost chronological story. Each chapter ends with a “Journey Reflection” written in the third person that reflects on how the journey is progressing at each stage and echoes the journey and map making metaphor.
* SUMMARIES *
This is a personal transformation story taking place over approximately 2 years of my recent life. This introduction first gives the reader an overview of why I have written the book and an idea of what it is and isn’t about. I dedicate a section to the books and people (such as Julia Cameron, Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown and Deepak Chopra) that have had a significant impact on this journey and story. The remainder of the introduction gives background to who I am, how life is for me at the start of the story and my current context (i.e. where I live and what’s going on in that world).
Part One: Entering midlife without a map: lost and overwhelmed
Chapter One: My encumbrances
This chapter opens with a poem that takes the reader directly into my current world and state of mind, which can only be described as dark. The chapter is about my response to feeling trapped, lost and overwhelmed. I write about my fear and where it comes from. I have a conversation with it in order to move myself forward out of the darkness.
Chapter Two: Saying ‘Yes’ to a mini quest
A numerology reading jolts me out of my angst sufficiently to wake up to the idea that there might be some way out of my overwhelm. I write about the reading for 2018 and I share with the reader a big decision I made to have a self-funded sabbatical starting in June 2019. The two events are a trigger, a call to adventure if you like, an incentive to say “yes” to a mini quest (an idea from the author Elizabeth Gilbert). In layman’s terms, I go on to describe how I will use my academic knowledge of research projects to plan this mini quest. As we come to the end of the chapter, there is a sense that I have been nudged but I’m still not 100% ready to leave my comfort zone. In the closing paragraphs, I explore why.
Chapter Three: Comfort tools
This chapter explores several tools that I start using that help me connect with where I am in my life and where I want to be. I describe what they are, where the ideas come from and how they begin to give me support for how I might get to my unknown destination. The tools are: 365 photo-a-day-projects, Morning Pages, gratitude and vision boards.
As we come to the end of Part One, the reader will have a sense of where I am emotionally and an idea of how I have planned to move forward out of the darkness.
Part Two – into uncharted territory
Chapter Four: Off track – Lost in a fog of concepts
As the title suggests, I am bogged down by concepts and definitions, and combined with a general ennui, I do not make much progress with my quest. Told in the third person, the chapter features a flashback to 2008 which describes a 10-day silent retreat that I attended at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in South Africa. This previous experience with meditation influences how I struggle to get to grips with concepts such as mindfulness and awareness and with using mindfulness tools. The story is told through my own experiences with ideas I gather from books, online course and podcasts, as I try to make sense of buzzwords like mindfulness, authenticity and so on.
Chapter Five: The fog clears – Seeing myself as I really am
As I continue to explore, I’m constantly guided by things that I come across in the media and books. I continue to strive to understand and work on mindfulness and awareness, and as I do, I begin to see myself clearly for the first time in years. I’m ill, spiritually undernourished and disconnected from others, my own life and myself. I have an epiphany when I write about how my inner lenses and filters define who I am and the stories I tell myself.
As I write, light begins to illuminate the story, piercing the darkness and confusion of the previous chapters.
The Turning Point
This is not a chapter, but rather a few paragraphs describing a pivotal moment in June 2018 when I had a conversation with my boss to discuss my desperate need to leave the project 4 months earlier than planned. The conversation goes remarkably well and had a positive and significant effect on the rest of the story.
Part Three – Living the map making process
Chapter Six: Discovering map making tools – a mindset of wholeness
As I begin to come out of the blackness of the first half of 2018, I find some of my own old artwork that says, “growth towards wholeness”. I am reminded that I’m at the same place I was 8 or 9 years ago. I know deep down that this is an important and serendipitous discovery and it drives how I progress with my quest. This chapter explores what wholeness is, what it means to me and asks if I can adopt a mindset of wholeness. It sets me up to taking an open-ended journey towards wholeness, introducing concepts that are key elements of wholeness.
Chapter Seven: The open road – Letting the sunshine in
As I explore the concepts of competition and comparison; creativity and aha moments; serendipity, inspiration and creativity; curiosity; play; trust and more, I feel sunshine and fresh air coming back into my life, knocking away the stagnation that has built up over the last 9 years. Each section draws on some literature (mostly contemporary, sometimes academic research) to unpack what the concept means to me. Often, the section will include a real-life story taken from my blog, to illustrate how the concept works in my life, on both a large and small scale.
Chapter Eight: Intentionally plotting the route home
These concepts become foundational building blocks and daily tools for my mindset of wholeness, permeating into how I move forward into 2019 and the self-funded sabbatical. As my return to the UK looms, I write of how I start to shake up my life: re-evaluating my values, setting intentions, crafting a mission statement and begin to understand what it means to grow towards wholeness and to live in process. I also return to review the Year of 7 numerology that had such a animating effect on me in early 2018 and preview my numerology forecast for 2019.
Chapter Nine: Coming home
In this final chapter, I return to the questions I posed in Chapter Two that guided my mini quest and attempt to answer them based on the story I have told. I write about an intense aha moment (which I call a “seismic shift”) that has taken place through writing. I describe this shift in terms of its transformational power and magic. Finally, using the metaphor of map making, I talk about the implications for my future and how this story and these insights might help the reader.
In this section, I write about how this is a story that continues, it is a never-ending process of growth towards wholeness and continued adjustment to the mapmaking.
More importantly I share how the tools mentioned in the story have been cemented into both morning and evening routines.