There are times in each of our lives where we are literally moving/ stumbling/ lurching from one moment to the next without space or pause to catch our breath. It is with some great relief that I sit here now on the other side of one of these such episodes. I am currently basking in the lightness of my shoulders which had been tightly straining towards my ears, and the ease with which sleep now comes.
Within in a very small window of time my dear husband and I moved house, he broke his arm the very week before the move, I started a new job and I had a conference to prepare two talks for. I began walking into the next thing that was immediately in front of me. Nothing else could possibly fit.
It was during this incredible period of flux that for the first time in my life I arrived at a department presentation run through for the conference entirely unprepared. That week I had kicked goals in my new job and moved house… and had done so at the expense of my papers. As I listened to other people share their work, the lack in mine became amplified. As I sped through my slides and talked about what I was going to say, I was struck by how much work actually sat before me. I sat through the feedback feeling despondent and when my boss asked me to stop by her office as I was racing out the door to pick my parents up from the airport… Well I had to stop, message my folks and let them know I’d be late and sit with my boss. There is only space for this thing that is in front of me right now.
The talks became my thing in front of me for the next 7 days. Over Easter I sat from breakfast to bedtime in front of my computer re- running analyses on my data to meet the aforementioned feedback and crafting my slides. Then I flew to where the conference was and skyped my boss, this time only details needed modifying. A colleague poured over them both with me and our Head of Department as well because I forgot to mention, this forum is the most important one in my field and it’s the first time my data is being presented. For me professionally, it’s kind of a big deal.
Three sleepless nights in Adelaide. Away from my husband who is in our new home, surrounded by boxes with his broken arm. All consumed by these talks. They’re ready but I still sit in the hotel bar and order dessert for dinner with a side of wine while I continue to tweak and fuss. I’m ready, it’s the eleventh hour but I am bloody ready. Sleep still doesn’t come.
Because sleep was an elusive beast I took my sweet time getting ready the day of my talks. I dressed in yellow because, well because yellow! I strolled along slowly looking for a good place to get coffee and I rolled into the conference feeling a reasonable amount of decent. My talks went well and were well received. I’m chuffed because I got to crack an opening joke that scored a laugh when the tech failed at the start of my first of two consecutive presentations.
Suddenly there is space to gather myself, check that I am still as I should be, all my parts are here. I can breath and make space for others again. My world has opened up once more. I am more, not less, engaged in my work. I am eager to claim the rain-checks I’ve collected with our families and friends and see my sisters squishy bambinos because they grow so darn fast!
I think periods such as this, where you can only focus on this most pressing thing right here in front of you, are important. For me at least, there was great benefit in being capable of only dealing with the next most pressing thing because that pressure meant that I was immersed in what I was doing, whether that was moving house or sitting in Emergency (twice) with my dear husband, figuring out my new role at work and how to juggle it with my existing one, or the brief moments I was able to take with friends, or my presentations. I was entirely immersed in that moment. That immersion created a depth and state of flow unlike my common every day experience. This period of respite from that is full of inspiration drawn from that immersion and a heightened level of appreciation for the people I love.
Pressure, not a bad thing but definitely not a sustainable thing. I am gratefully enriched by the flux of recent weeks and ready for some quiet steady time to make the most of what I have managed to take away from it.
“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” ~ Peter Marshall