Sometimes you get into a routine, and it becomes so ingrained and so automatic that you don’t question it. You don’t reassess or reevaluate.
You just run on autopilot.
Over and over and over again.
Like a hamster.
Then something comes up and changes your routine and you have an aha moment.
You see things from a different vantage point and the light bulb goes on.
This happened for me while I was recovering from surgery in March.
Being out of commission for a few weeks allowed me to see things from an entirely different perspective, and it gave me clarity.
It took fourteen days off of the hamster wheel for me to have this epiphany.
A couple days ago, a friend of mine shared a Facebook post from Liz Gilbert.
It was a simple image of two words — NOT THIS — accompanied by text that provided me with the perfect description of how I had (unknowlingly) been feeling.
Most of us, at some point in our lives (unless we have done everything perfectly…which is: nobody) will have to face a terrible moment in which we realize that we have somehow ended up in the wrong place — or at least, in a very bad place…
…Maybe we will have to admit that we are in the wrong job. Or the wrong relationship. With the wrong people around us. Living in the wrong neighborhood. Acting out on the wrong behaviors. Using the wrong substances. Pretending to believe things that we no longer believe. Pretending to be something we were never meant to be.
This moment of realization is seldom fun. In fact, it’s usually terrifying.
I call this moment of realization: NOT THIS.
Because sometimes that’s all you know, at such a moment.
All you know is: NOT THIS.
Sometimes that’s all you CAN know.
All you know is that some deep life force within you is saying, NOT THIS, and it won’t be silenced.
Your body is saying: “NOT THIS.”
Your heart is saying: “NOT THIS.”
Your soul is saying: “NOT THIS.”
But your brain can’t bring itself to say “NOT THIS”, because that would cause a serious problem. The problem is: You don’t have a Plan B in place. This is the only life you have. This is the only job you have. This is the only spouse you have. This is the only house you have. Your brain says, “It may not be great, but we have to put up with it, because there are no other options.” You’re not sure how you got here — to this place of THIS — but you sure as hell don’t know how to get out…
So your brain says: “WE NEED TO KEEP PUTTING UP WITH THIS, BECAUSE THIS IS ALL WE HAVE.”
But still, beating like a quiet drum, your body and your heart and your soul keep saying: NOT THIS…NOT THIS…NOT THIS….
…Rationally, it’s crazy to abandon a perfectly good life (or at least a familiar life) in order to jump into a mystery. No sane person would advise you to make such a leap, with no Plan B in place. We are supposed to be careful. We are supposed to be prudent.
And yet….And yet.
If you keep ignoring the voices within you that say NOT THIS, just because you don’t know what to do, instead…you may end up stuck in NOT THIS forever.
You don’t need to know where you are going to admit that where you are standing right now is wrong.
The bravest thing to say can be these two words.
What comes next?
I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows. It might be worse. It might be better. But whatever it is…? It’s NOT THIS.
I had a massive NOT THIS epiphany ten days ago.
I didn’t call it a NOT THIS moment, though. Because I didn’t have words for it at the time.
But after I got off the hamster wheel for three weeks to recover from surgery, I had the realization that I was unhappy with the life I had created for myself.
I was stressed and exhausted and feeling undervalued and completely unfulfilled.
And so ten days ago I quit coaching.
For the first time in many years, I will not be a swim coach.
For the first time in many years I will not be my kids’ swim coach.
This was not an easy decision. Professionally this has been my identity. I’m good at it, and coaching is just what I do.
It’s a given.
But there was no joy in it anymore, financially it wasn’t actually helping me — in fact now I see how it may have been hurting me — it was taking away from quality time I could have been spending with my kids, and it was making my life much more complicated than it needed to be.
I love the sport of swimming. I love being a coach. I love helping both kids and adults improve, reach the next level and discover they are stronger than they think they are.
But after three weeks of being off the pool deck, after three weeks of being available for my kids on weeknights, after three weeks of being away from it, I dreaded the thought of going back to it.
That’s when I realized I had created a not this reality for myself. It was time to scrap Plan A.
I don’t know exactly what Plan B or the answer is.
But what I DO know is that staying in the not this is debilitating.
And once I put it out there, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I literally feel lighter.
Saying NOT THIS out loud is for sure scary.
But it’s also incredibly freeing, and it’s full of tremendous hope, possibility, and opportunity.
Bring on the unknown.