The cat loves nights like this... nights when I wake in the small hours with something on my mind. He blinks his eyes to adjust to the bright lights and then showers me with affection, purring all the while, until we find a mutually beneficial position so that I can write and he can cuddle up.
Welcome to the tortured, tangled mind of this sometime-insomniac. I hope it makes some sense when I re-read it in the morning...
Tonight I found myself tossing and turning in bed with thoughts generated by an evening spent catching up with friends online. A lot has been written about how online social networking can lead to feelings of depression and inadequacy. For the most part, I absorb the information and feel happy for people but it can be hard, especially at times when we're feeling vulnerable, to see all of the "best bits" of a person's life and not feel jealousy or lacking in some way, can't it?
These thoughts coincided with what was making me toss and turn the night before. I had been talking with someone who kept saying things like "I wish...", "I would if I could..." or "I know I need to do something about it but...". I get so frustrated by this. Perhaps it's my tendency to see things in all-or-nothing/black or white terms but here's the thing - we're in control of our own lives. If there's something we don't like or that is making us miserable, more often than not, it's only us that can change things for ourselves - even if it is only our perspective.
I'm as guilty as the next person of resisting change and coming up with excuses (perhaps that's why it frustrates me so much in others...) but I'm getting quite good at spinning things around, on a small scale anyway.
Over the last few years I have read a lot of motivational/self help books on living the life you want, utilising your time well and making your dreams come true. They each use a different approach but have the basics in common: identify what you want, visualise the details of how it will be and take action in small steps to achieve it.
As I climbed the stairs to bed tonight I was feeling down and envious of others successes. I could have dwelled on that and gone to sleep feeling inadequate but instead I tried to pinpoint exactly what that person has that I felt so jealous of - is it even something I want for myself? By the time I had set my alarm clock, I had worked out something small that I could do almost immediately to move towards that goal in my own way.
Something else has been rolling around my head lately, too. When I wrote about my experiences of turning thirty, my Mum commented that she wishes she had spent less time waiting before taking action on things that she wanted (I'm paraphrasing). This has really resonated with me because I so often feel on the edge of making big changes but hesitate so long that the opportunity passes or I lose my nerve.
I have had this recurring dream for years about being at the top of an enormous water slide, digging in my heels and not letting myself go over the edge. The dream is so powerful, I can feel pressure on my back as the water builds up into a gigantic wave behind me, too scared to let myself fall and desperately afraid that I'll be forced ahead against my will.
This is the quote that is written on my little motivational chalk board at the moment:
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult - Seneca
Here's what I'm learning: the "right" time (..weather, circumstances, relationship, bank balance... etc.) is now. We don't have to do it all at once but we do have to stop waiting for everything to be perfect before we take action. A small gesture in the right direction each day is enough to achieve the momentum to enable our dreams to come true.
I'm not entirely sure what change is coming up for me in the bigger picture but somehow I can feel myself taking a deep breath, loosening my grip and gently sliding over the edge. There are butterflies in my belly but it feels like time to embrace that feeling and go with it...