“A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged.”
Four months into a pandemic and subsequent state shutdown, I sat on the deck behind our house.
The mid afternoon sun was still high in the sky. A warm breeze rippled across the pages of the book in my lap and the sound of my children’s laughter danced across the driveway. I looked up to see all three kids gathered around a clump of dirt and grass.
“Mom! We found a toad!” My daughter Ellis’s eyes were bright as she pointed to the knobby brown creature at their feet. I smiled and watched my kids gently poke the toad with blades of grass before hopping after him—completely caught up in childlike wonder and delight. For the first time in what felt like weeks, I took a deep, grateful, breath.
“I want more of this.” The thought, unbidden and surprising, floated across my brain. Our days lately had been chaotic and stressful. The world was on fire. I was tightly wound, trying to do a full-time job remotely while juggling three kids and the busyness of farm life. Everything felt impossible. Every day felt like failure.
But as I gazed around the backyard, taking in the brilliant blue of the summer sky and the flash of small feet in the grass, I felt something new. Peace.
Our days were hard, but they were beautiful. For the first time since becoming a working mom seven years before, I had space to simply be. I wrote every morning. I read every night. We took walks to visit the cows. We picked handfuls of dandelions in the field. We ate picnics on the lawn and visited Kyle in the tractor. Everything felt smaller, slower, gentler. And I wanted more.
Looking back now, I think this was the start of the shift inside me.
I would not come back unchanged.
In his book “Life is in the Transitions,” Bruce Feiler says the average person can expect to experience three dozen “disruptors” in their adult life—about one every twelve to eighteen months. He defines a disruptor as any deviation from normal life, from the birth of a child to a devastating diagnosis to a worldwide pandemic. It doesn’t matter if the life transition is positive or negative (or a mixture of both), once we go through it, we cannot stay the same. Change is inevitable.
It all comes down to our expectations.
If we expect life to be neat and linear (as an Enneagram One like me is prone to do), we’re in for a world of hurt. If, however, we view transitions as a fundamental part what it means to be human, we start to see possibility.
Today marks one such moment of possibility for me.
I’m taking a career pause to focus more on my family.
(Talk about burying the lede.)
Today I will say goodbye to a job I’ve held and loved for over ten years to make space for something new. I will release who I am now to find what I longed for all those months ago: more of this.
More play, less rigidity.
More calm, less frenzy.
More grace, less productivity.
More connection, less achievement.
I’ll admit that I’m afraid. I’m not sure who I am if not a director of communications. So much of my identity is tied up in my job and being a working mother.
But when I close my eyes, I see that woman on the deck clearly. Her feet are bare and freckles speckle her nose. Her shoulders are relaxed and her face is soft. The sound of her children’s gleeful laughter fills the air and, for the first time in her adult life, she considers what it would feel like to slow down.
Years later, I’m ready to find out.