Last minute decisions are a good idea. It seems, with seismic life change, that things which used to be insurmountable, are less so. I now look back on what I’ll call ‘The Years of Inertia’. I’d trace this from the point I left my corporate job/turned forty/had teenagers, and spent the best part of five years trying to figure my shit out. There are subtleties to each of those elements; not working gave ample time for reflection, and ceased a monthly salary which had, until then, defined me. Turning forty was a blizzard of feelings about life, myself and what it all meant. Do you know what it all means? Having teenagers is a profound shift to the all-consuming role of mother; children start to emerge as fledging adults, they are their own people, part of your work is done.
These three preoccupations, along with a long, long term marriage, conspired to form a mucky, opaque entanglement which led to inertia. Literally speaking, I could not move quickly in any direction for fear. I was sloth-like, hanging on, willing the world to stop changing around me. I now recognise this affliction in many others I observe, I see it all over, especially in my cohort of educated women. There is a sense that we have everything we always wanted, don’t we? Why mess with it? Yet, with inertia comes stagnation and frustration. Inertia is, by definition, not good long term. Meanwhile fear, which had dressed up in all sorts of guises, was a guest persistently lurking in the corner. An external force needs to come along to challenge the existing state.
Then, I can report, all bets are off.
I used to read and reread a book called ‘Feel Your Fear but Do it Anyway‘ (I did love a self help book or two – or fifty – when I was living ‘The Years of Inertia’). Self help books provided the kind of theoretical forward motion that inaction hides in its folds. The premise of the book was, as described in the title, to do it anyway and to keep doing it. That, the author said, was the answer.
But when the fear is a lurking presence, and not an obvious trigger (like spiders, or heights), it’s hard to know whether you’re facing it. It’s too easy to turn your back on it, or pretend it’s not there. I have a blonde-haired friend who is a no-nonsense kind of person. One could describe her as fearless as she doesn’t manifest the usual kind of trepidation that is common in women. In a way she behaves more like a man. She doesn’t question her occupancy in the world and is a proponent of ‘getting on with it’. She also doesn’t ‘do’ guilt, considers it as a bit pointless and even self-indulgent. Don’t feel guilty; do something more useful. I have huge admiration for this friend for that very reason. She is one of the most attractive women I have ever met. Fear is not an attractive trait. Whilst it can lead to better decisions in a long, drawn-out sense, it is unsexy in its application. If there is a crisis, we want a leader, someone who inspires. Maybe this is why the ubiquitous ‘mid life crisis’ is lauded as an existential mess, it’s rooted in fear and there can be no leader to take you out of it, other than yourself.
I think a lot about this.
Here are some good things to do when you feel fear or intertia, or both.
Go for a run. Book a trip to a place where nothing is the same as where you are from. I have had the good fortune to do this repeatedly and it works. Sell stuff on Ebay, even the good stuff that you are attached to. Sell more. Completely alter your routine. Inertia loves sameness. Make your sleep a priority; all sleep is good sleep. But the kind of sleep which guides you through change is restorative, purifying, worth every second. Watch those around you. Identify inertia in the faces of others. Question and challenge them. Stop giving a f*ck what people think. What people think is one of the biggest prohibiting factors in everyone’s minds. Why does it matter so very much? I smell a conspiracy. Clash leopard print with florals. Smile at every person who serves you in public; and ask them how they are. They will be shocked to have been asked and then they will ask you back and you will have a conversation and be reminded that the world is big. There is more. It does not begin and end with the narrative you are telling yourself, on repeat, in your head. Identify those friends who don’t do fear and guilt and watch what happens. How do they live? Get good wifi, speed is of the essence. Practice kindness – throw that stuff around like confetti, as the saying goes – give even to those who really, truly don’t deserve it. Listen more, speak less. Have a place, be it a journal you write in, or if you’re me, a Patreon page where you publish, and speak your own truth. Savour the liberation. Watch Beyoncé’s ‘Homecoming‘ on Netflix because seriously, it’s like liquid gold, mercurial, the opposite of inertia. Make a last minute decision. Go on.