We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, (A Gift from the Sea – 1955)
It’s well past midnight. I’ve just looked at my watch and realised I’ve been working at my laptop – harvesting inspiration, quotes and ideas – for hours. Deep in the flow, I haven’t moved, spoken or eaten.
My first thought? I’m lucky that I love what I do when my kids are asleep or at school – my writing and my homelife coaching. I love the thought of a life spent helping people create that ‘holiday house’ simplicity and clarity in their lives and their homes, ridding their rooms, their bodies and their relationships of clutter. I love co-creating design solutions for folk who feel they’re suffocating under piles of stuff and paper that leave no room for a breath of fresh air or spirit.
Ah, but then, with the almost audible thud of an email landing in the inbox, my heart sinks. I feel my gut clenching and my spirit shrivelling. I think how much easier it would be to have the funds to pay a professional website designer to sit by me, instantly transforming my ideas into a site that’s a joy to navigate and an inspiring haven for weary surfers.
Then I think of the affiliate links I’ve still to negotiate, the materials and new client contract forms I haven’t created yet, the files of resources to be sorted or written and the website video technology I feel I ought to be mastering. The flow dries to a trickle. A sigh followed by the sound of a laptop lid clicking shut.
One of my favourite questions is ‘Does it expand you or contract you?’ Deceptively simple, but hugely powerful. It works with everything from diet decisions to decluttering, from discovering passions to deciphering feelings. It reminds me of a bush that used to grow in the dusty soil at the foot of a tree in the pavement outside my first apartment block in Greece. It had deep pink and yellow trumpet-like flowers that opened and closed depending on how much light and heat it felt.
I’m back where I was a year ago; writing expands me but feeling I ought to be doing more to make money contracts me.
Surfing through inspiring websites expands me. Always feeling technologically challenged contracts me.
Loving my husband and children expands me; the tiredness that often comes with consistent, conscious parenting contracts me.
Creating an authentic, spirit-filled homelife expands me; trying to explain that ‘stay-at home-mum’ doesn’t mean I’m a constantly available stand-in for every ‘working’ mum when the school needs volunteers doesn’t just contract me, it often twists me up into a squirming, screwed up ball of resentment. And so it goes until I feel like I’m cancelling myself out.
In our society, craving ‘less’, writing to touch people’s hearts, staying at home to nurture kids and coaching people for free or for bartered services or affordable fees all have fluctuating value, depending on the financial circumstances and paradigms of the observer.
On the one hand, many people say they wish they could be doing what I’m doing – nurturing my family and others in a small but deeply authentic and satisfying way, yet, when they’re tired after working long hours outside the home, ‘working’ mums often ask me how my husband feels about ‘funding my hobbies’ and ‘paying for me to stay at home all day’.
Many supportive coaches write and tell me they value my Coaching Moments pieces; others write articles about how it’s damaging for coaches to undervalue themselves and their products and to give too much away for free.
I suspect a bit of balance and some shadow work would expand me right now. So would a week alone in a small house by the sea, writing at a rickety wooden table overlooking a brooding ocean, listening at night to the sound of the waves, the ocean’s sleep breathing.
So, no touching moments of heart captured awareness this month. Just questions, wave upon wave of questions pounding a restless shore.