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  • Writer's pictureSophia Dunkin-Hubby

Out of Step

Three treads of a stone staircase, with open space in between each tread.

Picture this. You’re going along, living your life, thinking everything is fine. Then something happens which jars you and you realize things aren’t. Not necessarily in a big way. It fact sometimes it is hard to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong. You just know that things are out of step.

When this happens to me it is usually a sign that my inner and outer lives no longer match and an adjustment is called for. My inner life, my soul, changes on a regular basis. I’m usually good about recognizing slow shifts and adjusting my outer life as things go. But every once in a while something will happen without my noticing and I will trip. Like missing a step going up or down stairs. This happened to me recently. I missed the change and have just now realized that I am behind.

One thing to note – when this happens it is almost always my outer life that has to change to match my inner life and not vice versa. I think it’s because I usually have more control over the circumstances in my outer life. This is not to say that I don’t sometimes need to make internal changes as well. I just tend to be more driven by my soul. I find my life is a lot happier that way.

It can be anything from wearing more color, or picking up a new hobby, to changing jobs, or letting go of a friend you I love, but whose life is headed in a different direction than mine. It’s about finding an outer expression for the inner changes that have taken place.

The last time I remember this happening was last summer when I really embraced my identity as a writer. That was a major shift and one that took me time to make room for externally. This time it is nothing so clear cut. I’m still struggling to name, or come to terms with, the shift. I know it has to do with creativity on a more general level, but beyond that I am still exploring.

Having been bumfuzzled by this experience every time it happens, and it has happened quite a few times over the course of my life, I want to share the process I use for wading my way through it and figuring it out. Wading is a good way to describe it for it has never been easy or clean, in my experience. But staying put is far worse than moving. So, I ask myself the following questions and see what comes up.

  1. What am I dreaming about? – When this happens I often find myself dreaming about running away from my current life. So, I try to focus on what I’m running towards. What qualities come up in my fantasies? Tropical and bright, urban and intellectual, somewhere local involving big open spaces. Anything that gives me a clue as to what I’m craving.

  2. If money were no object and I had no responsibilities what would I do? Where would I go? – It often takes a few tries to get down to something I really want, but I always come up with something.

  3. Where do I see myself in five years? – I’ve read about this exercise, usually done by visiting yourself a long time in the future (many people need more distance to give themselves permission to imagine a completely different life), but this doesn’t work too well for me. I think it’s because I want to live a bunch of different lives by the time I’m really old and that doesn’t help me sort out this kind of shift. What does my life look like? Where do I live? What does the furniture and décor look like? What am I wearing?

  4. What images am I drawn to? – I rip images out of magazines, or take random photos on the street. Clothing, flowers, buildings. Whatever. The patterns don’t usually take long to emerge

  5. What is missing from my life? – By the time I get through all of these I usually have a pretty good idea of what I’m missing. They can be small – fresh cut flowers for the dining room table – or big – a different job. Sometimes I have an outline of what it is rather than the specifics, but it gives me something to look for.

Once I know what the disconnect is I make a plan to get whatever it is. This is often the hard part because it requires taking action and making changes. I like to thing of myself as good at change. It’s a lie. I hate change. I think most of us do. Small changes may not be too hard, but big changes like changing jobs or moving living situations I always put off until I just can’t stand it anymore. Until staying where I am, is more painful than making the change, or I have no choice. Usually my shifts require multiple changes of varying sizes. I make a list and work my way up from the small to the big until I reach equilibrium again.

I’m not sure yet what kind of change my life requires now. As I said earlier, I’m still sorting things through. The shifts may be subtle, ones that most people won’t even notice. I just know that changes are ahead.

Have you every had this happen to you?

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