The Mother of all Caveats: This is a very long post, more than 2800 words. And I do not recommend reading it. It tells of a very sad story of my life, the details of “The Hardest Winter”. It is full of failure, and there’s no “redeeming happy ending”. There’s a bit on the life lessons I learned through it but mostly, it’s just failure.
At the beginning of this year I had 2 main goals. Though I cannot call them “goals”. They are more like… adventures.
Let’s just say I wanted to achieve 2 things to make my life “better”: a “new job” and meeting Mr Soulmate.
The expression “new job” is in air quotes because I already have a job. I work as a waitress and coffee person for a company that basically sends me when I’m needed.
I have a zero hour contract, which means that they are under no obligation to give me any work, and I’m under no obligation to say yes if they do.
During the months of January, February and March, I had no work. It’s the “non-busy” period for the hospitality industry.
I had to go on welfare just to survive.
Couple this with the fact that
a) I had an accident in the second week of December 2014, aka: the “busiest” period, and couldn’t work for 2 weeks.
b) because of my “high earnings” in December, the welfare that covers rent thought I was earning “too much”* and refused to give me any money to cover rent until April. I tried to explain to them: I was working as many hours as I could during December to cover for the fact that there was going to be zero work in January, but the system does not understand logic. Point is, I was without income, or money for rent for 4 months. It was winter, and I couldn’t afford heating.
*“too much” being part time on £7.45 an hour.
Super Friend was moving to London, so I thought: let’s do this. I’ll give it my best, and try to find a job, any job, in London, so I might move there as well. I couldn’t do it on my own, but with her there, I could take the plunge.
That was Plan A. Plan B was to find any job in the city where I live, so I could survive.
I gave this project all my energy, which should be put in context, since I usually don’t have much energy to begin with due to depression.
I prepared myself for this mass of job searching and possible Big Changes the best way I knew how: by processing stuff on the internal level. Working with my beliefs, my emotions, that kind of thing.
That was the “new job” part.
There was also the “Mr Soulmate” part.
Meeting Mr Soulmate
Back in December I was at Super Friend’s house, and somehow we got joking about online dating. I wasn’t into online dating, since I am certain that my meeting with Mr Soulmate will happen through Divine Inspired Action, or something like it. But I had a tiny vision. Of myself, wearing a winter hat. I thought… “maybe”.
I thought I had seen a vision of “Future Me” I was supposed to become.
So I set out to go for it. It took me over a month to do the internal processing and write my dating profile. Every day I would add a line. I wanted it to be the result of pure inspiration, and to contain as much of “me” as possible.
I also found a winter hat and asked my Photographer friend to take a photo of me in it. Not quite like the vision I had seen, but almost.
My dating profile went live in February, on the day of a Super New Moon. Because making the most out of the Heavens can’t hurt.
I also asked for help
I asked everyone I knew to keep an eye out for jobs I could apply for.
Super Friend went over application forms and basically revamped my CV for me, since I am clueless about such things.
I asked someone who is much better than me at the whole “making money” kinda thing.
This took a lot of processing, because I had tons of internal stuff about asking them for help.
Their advice was… underwhelming, a word that here means “useless”. It was, hold on to your breeches, “you gotta get out there”.
Still I took it in.
And I used it to come up with a Metaphor
I came up with Metaphors
What the heck are Metaphors, you ask?
Metaphors are the stories running in our subconscious. (Here is Havi on the matter. And here’s another expert, where she got the idea from).
I came up with a metaphor for both the “new job” project and the Mr Soulmate project.
The metaphor was that of pebbles rippling in water. My job was to place pebbles, and then trust that the ripples will have effects beyond my control and deliver what I wanted.
Every job I applied for was a pebble.
I let go as much as I could of the thought “how on Earth could I ever get this job?!?” and tried instead to focus on placing as many pebbles as possible.
I put my energy into what I could do, and left the rest to the Universe, which is a known recipe for sanity.
Working with Metaphors is difficult, by they way. It’s easy to “forget” and fall back on the default metaphor the world has handed over for job searching. It did not help that I had to show proof of my “job search” to the welfare people.
But I did my best.
I had a Metaphor of sorts for meeting Mr Soulmate, but it’s private.
I also had Qualities
When we are reaching out for a Thing, what we want is not the Thing itself but the Spiritual Qualities we think will come with it.
The theory says that you can give yourself the Spiritual Qualities without getting the Thing. Or you can do other things to get the same Spiritual Qualities.
The main point is: the Thing you want is not the only way to get the Spiritual Qualities you crave.
(if you’re familiar with Danielle LaPorte’s “Desire Map”, then you’ll realise that Spiritual Qualities are very similar to her “Core Desired Feelings”)
This is a difficult concept to grasp as well because, darn it, we want the Thing. Especially when what you want is something as essential to survival as job and income.
Once again, I did my best.
The Spiritual Qualities for the New Job were:
* Movement. Action.
* Growth. Evolution.
* Glamour. Wonder.
The Spiritual Qualities for the Online Dating project were:
* Movement. Action. Happenings.
* Joy. Delight.
I also had a song (or two)
The Soundtrack for these days was:
Way Back Into Love (from the Super Cheesy movie “Music & Lyrics)
The One and Only (don’t ask…)
I also Brought It Back To Myself (Internal Goals)
This is a technique of mine, which I briefly described in my last post.
It basically consists of bringing the outcome of the “project” to the “personal” level, ie: focusing on “Internal Goals”. So whatever happens, it is something within my control, and something that will enrich me on the personal level, whether I get what I want or not.
My Internal Goals for the New Job project were:
* Building confidence, by applying for jobs I was completely afraid of. And also by giving my website’s address whenever jobs asked for one.
* Observing the story “I am a child and everyone else in the world of “work” is a grown up”.
* Consciously stretching the limits of what I believe is possible for me. (Quality of Possibility!)
* Observing the story that says “there is no place for me in this world and I’m a square peg in a round hole”.
I also had Internal Goals for the Online Dating project, but they are private.
And all the other stuff
If all this sounds like a lot of work, let me tell you: it was.
Keep in mind that I am not covering everything.
I am leaving the “Online Dating” project out.
I am also not including all the internal work I did, because that cannot be conveyed in words.
I am leaving out all the worry from having to go for 4-5 months without enough money to pay for rent, without enough money to pay for heating. Being too poor to leave the house, stuck in a dingy, grey, cold flat all day, every day. Then having to go to the social security centre and deal with endless bureaucracy, trying to explain to the people there that I do have a job, I just don’t have any work from it.
And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that I suddenly owed unexpected bills worth £900, out of the blue.
And I haven’t even got into the accident I had last December, which left me needing health care and assistance, and pain in my jaw and teeth which hasn’t been fixed since then.
People close enough to me to fully grasp the extent of my circumstances said “I don’t know how you can put up with it”.
Yeah. Neither did I.
Because circumstances were so… grim, I had to give these projects everything I had.
I was clinging onto something good coming from them, and I was clinging for dear life.
What follows is a rather… sad story.
But I need to write it, for my own sanity.
The rush of Project New Job started at the end of January. In the first week, I got a phone call, from a place in London. They asked me to write something for them, as a test. I wrote it. They never got back to me.
I had another phone call from a busy sounding man who couldn’t enunciate, so I couldn’t understand what the Hell he was saying.
I had one interview, for a coffee shop in my city. I didn’t get it.
I also had a phone call from an internship I had applied to. It was a Wednesday, and they expected me to start the next Monday, in London, to work (mostly) for free. And I actually wanted to do it, because the desire to “move forward” was so strong. I called them back, I emailed them. Nothing.
By April, the stamina had run dry.
Not only that, but the social security office decided that I was no longer eligible for more unemployment support. They tested my “likelihood of finding work”, and apparently they found me lacking. This despite the fact that:
a) I already have a job
b) I had done copywriting work for a month, and got paid for it
and c) I had applied to over 300 jobs.
(Can you say the words “bureaucratic bullshit”?)
Luckily, they started giving me regular shifts at the coffee shop I work at, just as my unemployment support stopped.
So there it is.
Over 320 jobs applied for.
4 phone calls
0 new job
And as for the Finding Mr Soulmate project…
I got a few likes on my profile, and a couple of messages. None of them were “Him”.
(I just know it because I run on intuition).
The months that followed had me immersed in a deep and quiet form of despair.
It didn’t look like anything was wrong… I was going though the proverbial motions.
You know, doing the things to keep one alive.
But my soul was… achey.
I had given up on my dreams.
I had lost all hope of anything ever changing in my life for the better.
I gave up on my website and my writing, and any hope I might have ever had of them supporting my livelihood. (I am still in a “given up” state)
I gave up on my practices… What is the point of thinking about Qualities, Stories, Adventures, even songs, when nothing ever works?
Since there is clearly nothing better out there for me, the Universe must want me to stay in this coffee shop, barely surviving.
I accepted it.
I would come back from work, lie on my bed and listen to “Peaceful Piano” on Spotify.
“So be it. If I’m to be just a barista for life, then so be it. I’ll do my best to self-care and bring in as much beauty as I can in other ways”.
I focused on other things.
I tried lots of shoes and clothes, as I felt the need to change my “identity”. I now have a new pair of jeans and shoes and that feels like progress.
I got a blender and learned to make falafels and hummus.
I embraced that feeling of despair and kept… feeling it.
I did everything I could to “bless my pain” and accept where I was.
And I trusted. When I could trust.
And accepted that I couldn’t, when I really couldn’t trust.
The truth is, I failed
By every measurable standard of “success”, I failed and failed good.
I cannot even say I found out what I did “wrong”. I honest to goodness have no idea what I did “wrong”.
That’s probably the worst part.
I did all the “right things”. And I failed.
Which is why I was left completely… broken. Like the causal link between my actions and their consequences, my very ability to transform the world around me, was broken.
My life is a mystery.
I am smarter than most people, and over qualified for so many of the jobs I applied for and… still, nothing.
Yes, this is a terrible story.
It’s also my life.
Trying to learn something from it all
Jack Sparrow says: “Death has a curious way of reshuffling one’s priorities”.
So does failure.
The thing is, you won’t always be able to prevent “failure”, or escape from it when you’re in it.
But you can always use it to grow.
Not to “learn”, in the traditional sense.
We tend to think of “failure” as “learning opportunities on our way to success”, like “I now know what not to do, so I am better equipped at doing what it takes to succeed”.
A kind of materialist version of “Everything Happens For A Reason”.
My take on it is more like “There Is No Success”.
There is no success
There is no “success” because there’s never “done”. There’s never “over”. Life just carries on.
There is no “success” because growing doesn’t depend on getting things “right”. Growing depends on staying present and keeping our hearts open.
People look at me and wonder about my “resilience”. They marvel at the fact that I “don’t give up”.
They are wrong.
I do give up. All the time.
That’s what “despair” and “suicidal urges” mean: wanting to give up on life already.
I find myself in despair more often than most people, which is why I have learned (and am still learning) to cope.
I do give up; and when I do, I record the journey and observe it and process it. And eventually I come out the other side, hopefully stronger, definitely kinder.
And every time I do I care a little bit less about “success” and “wealth”, and “status” and “jobs” and all that.
I care more about “feeling ok with myself regardless of what is going on”. (This was the idea behind my e-book “how to be OK with yourself”.)
We’re not here to “resolve” things. That’s what our ego wants, and it’s understandable, but it’s not what we’re here to do. It’s not why we do the work.
We do the work so that we can contain more life.
We do the work so that we can contain more life… comfortably. Joyfully.
We are vessels for life. We contain life, with all that that entails.
Too often that entails a lot of grief and struggle.
We do the work not to get rid of the struggle, but to grow our capacity to contain life.
And also, to return to our default state, which is joy and peace.
Make no mistake, the grief and struggle will bend us out of shape.
The question is: how long will we remain bent?
If we do the work, we will be able to come back to joy and peace sooner.
If we don’t do the work, we will remain stuck, all bent out of shape, simmering in despair and vinegar, perhaps for years.
I know because I’ve been there.
You are stronger, freer and infinitely more confident when you know, deep in your bones, that you will be OK even if you fail.
Heaven knows why I was given this karma.
Lots of people have jobs. Lots of people have partners.
And I don’t. Even though there is no “logical” reason for why that should be.
It takes a particular kind of strength to stand in a story like this and not “run away”. To say “I am in pain, and I am here”.
Showing up. Doing the work.
Even though I have no idea where it’s taking me.
But I like the person I’m becoming.
So that’s something.