Living life on auto-pilot can feel disorienting and dull. How did you cultivate a life worth loving during 2013?
How can you turn off your auto-pilot button in 2014?
I’m not sure I had much choice in the matter, actually. This was the year that everything changed whether I liked it or not. I had to move on. Staying on auto-pilot would have meant crashing into the cliff face.
Our landlady wanted us out of the flat we’d been in for four years. My husband got a job a hundred miles away. Everything was changing and even then I was scrabbling for ways to keep everything the same, even though it couldn’t possibly be the same. Even though I’d already got fed up with the way things were.
The universe very graciously gave me two shots at everything, and this turned out to be invaluable. Two holidays: one to cry and fight and sing, and one to sing and laugh and write. Two moves: one to grieve the loss of the home, and one to be thankful to have somewhere to live. Two job interviews: one to panic about how I couldn’t possibly cope at HQ, and one to get the job and realise I was going to love it. This autumn has almost been a repeat from 2008 – living in a room in Guildford and waiting for something to happen – except it has been so much better than 2008.
Which is all very interesting, but not answering the question at all, because the question is about what I did, not what anyone else did for me. There were four things:
a) insisting that holidays – namely, a weekend at the seaside, and choir tour – were going to happen, no matter how broke we were;
b) identifying four states of being in which I wished to continue for the next year and beyond (alive – sane – married – employed);
c) beginning to make a real practice of looking at myself and the inside of my head and finding out what I was feeling and why I was feeling it;
I promised you a story yesterday. I realise now that it doesn’t really answer the question, either, because again we are talking about external events; and even going by my new liturgical year, it happened before the start of this one. But I promised, and it’s not a story of what happened, it’s a story of what I did with what happened.
The women bishops thing. It hurt. It hurt a lot, and I don’t want to tell the story again. I was hurt and I was angry. I was furious. And I knew it was too good to waste. And it was nearing the end of Picowrimo and I had finished everything I had meant to write, and so I wrote about Synod. First, a scene in an oft-abandoned novel that wasn’t about Synod at all, really, except now it is. Then, a post explaining why I wasn’t going anywhere (still one of my best, I think).
The novel went on. All this year I kept bashing away at it. Three months of Pico and some solo work in between. The plot shrank and fell into place. The characters developed character. I had to rewrite the whole first section and it worked a million times better than I’d ever thought it could. It comes from Synod. It comes from my anger with Synod. It comes from my deciding to use my anger with Synod.
I was angry, and I did something with that. I directed all that righteous fury into something creative, something that might turn out to be good. I am very proud of that.
That, then, is how I turn off the auto-pilot. I must use what I am given, and feel what I am feeling.