It’s easy to assume that living with one’s parents, signing on at the Job Centre and surviving on no income whilst working out what on earth to do next – and all at the age of thirty-something – must be a miserable life. I have had a few pitying looks that’s for sure. It gets worse if I feel obliged to go into the details of what I do with my time. ‘This and that’, I sometimes say, further provoking a look of sympathy for such a hopeless situation. Because in this society we live in, as blogger Tim Kreider so poignantly put it in his recent piece, ‘the Busy Trap’, we are so used to saying how busy we are – whether it be with work, family or social life. Apparently taking a break from work, or spending time doing very little except reading an interesting article, listening to an album all the way through, or writing a blog (!) is nothing short of shameful. Surely we must be desperate to find a job, to get back on that work treadmill and do something with our life.

This is indeed how I felt for a good few months. In February I returned from a month away in Thailand, supposedly full of inner peace and calm after several weeks of learning how to be still and do nothing – which comes pretty easily when you’re lying in a hammock by the warm Pacific waters and sipping from a fresh coconut, after having just done an amazing workshop on transformational breath.

Had Thien/Had Yuan on Koh Phangan – the place to go to find calm, stillness, and your chakras

But what did I do on my return? Within very little time I was back onto the job listings and contacting anyone I knew in vague desperation, seeing what work was available. There were job applications which took several days to complete, during which time my hopes were raised as I convinced myself that what I’d written ticked all the boxes in the job description; then the long wait for a response, the long silence, followed by a period of despair as I realised yet again I hadn’t even been shortlisted. Such is the difficult times we live in, I try to reassure myself – competition is high, and apparently no one has a spare minute to get back to you unless you’re invited for an interview.

And those are the moments when a transition is indeed painful, even agonising. You wonder how you got to this situation, given all your hard work and effort over the years, and how you can get yourself out of it, as quickly as possible. Living with the parents also seems like an extra shameful element to an already bleak picture. Surely I should have grown out of relying on my parents by now.

And yet, and yet……I would like to repeat a great phrase I heard in Thailand – ‘change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change’. Transition is a process, and over that process there have been subtle adjustments in attitude, in behaviour, in choices, which have helped me see the positives of this time. For some who are reading this, the positives might be obvious; but it is actually quite a challenge to adjust one’s mindset – so firmly rooted in the ‘Busy Trap’ – and stop worrying about finding a job or a house or settling down, and embrace the present without worrying about the future. There is a huge amount of resistance to start with, accompanied by a great deal of self-doubt, where the RAGS (Regret, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame) I referred to in an earlier post rear their ugly head.

But having periods of doing nothing actually results in doing something, and that is self-growth. How to describe an act of self-growth is tricky, but it can be found in yoga or meditation practice, in taking a dance class, in baking a cake, in buying a sketch pad and some colouring pencils for the first time in years, or in putting pen to paper and writing a blog. I haven’t done all of these activities, but I’ve certainly dipped into a few.  Self-growth for me has also been a continuing process of letting go of what no longer serves me, and taking pleasure in acts which really require very little effort – like watching the birds fly into our garden to peck at the bird feed in the morning, or spending time with my parents doing a crossword.

Birds feeding

And a few more words on living with one’s parents. Whilst many people I know are right now taking a crash course in parenthood – with pregnancies and births announced almost every week – I have been learning my own profound lessons in this area. Because when you live with your parents in a limited space, you learn to let go of any cravings for peace and quiet or privacy, and instead enjoy these precious moments, because one day we will no longer have them. After many years spent away, sometimes in countries that I’m sure my parents would wish I hadn’t chosen to live in, it is a privilege to spend this time together – without the stress of work or other commitments.

I’ve come a long way since February. I can’t say how exactly; the changes which occur during a transition are not always earth-shattering. But maybe they wouldn’t happen at all if we hadn’t chosen to take that giant leap of faith into the unknown.

No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.

 Agnes De Mille