Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
T. S. Eliot, East Coker
In the latest Bewildered podcast, Martha and Rowan discuss the stages of transformation. And the first stage, the melting down of the old life or identity, is often marked by a loss of sense of self.
Your old identity or life doesn't feel right, but the new one isn't clear yet.
They began to talk about changing the words we use when we talk of identity from being nouns to verbs.
Because verbs are doing things. Verbs move. Verbs are actions, even when they are the doing of nothing, or the stopping doing.
Identity in the Blank Stage of Life ChangesIf you've ever been in a blank stage, you know what I'm talking about. Deaths of close loved ones often send people into life change that, for some time, just feels blank.
But change can come at any time, for many or no aparent reason, and it feels (at first) blank. Lost. Like nothing.
I suspect many people are thought to be depressed during blank phases. This is not surprising, given our health care system, and our society, has no room for blank phases. They want surety, productivity, activity, goals and purposes. They want identity.
But blalnk phases are breaking down old identity. And the T.S. Eliot quote, above, speaks to this phase of blankness and the importance of not rushing to fill it with anything, even things that seem good, like love and hope.
Just sit. Just wait.
Our identity becomes a verb. I am waiting. I am sitting. I am observing.
That is who I am in this phase.
What To Do When You're In A Blank PhaseThe short answer - nothing. Be the waiting. Be the sitting.
This is harder than it sounds. And looks.
We REALLY want to have it figured out. We want to know what's going on. It's not the change so much as the unknown that we resist.
But finding the next evolution of yourself, the next path, the next passion, requires a blank phase.
So what are we to do when we're in this blankness.
Here's some tips that won't stop it, fix it or rush it. But they will help it feel more meaningful and help prevent you resisting or trying to push yourself out of it and back into whatever you've come from.
- Journal. Write it all down. Get emotional in that journal. Get real.
- Let out emotions if there are any. Don't bottle up tears just because you don't know why you're crying. Find a way to release anger, if you find yourself snappy and getting bitter. Hit a pillow if you need to, do some exhausting exercise (if you're not also recovering from burnout or fatigue), or see point 1.
- Read poetry. Really read it. That means slowly. Ponder each line, each metaphor. All the better if you can sit in the sunshine, with a nice view to look at while reading it. Apart from being enjoyable in itself, this activity helps exercise the mental muscles of meaning making, depth finding and creativity, all of which can help expand your horizons and create purpose over time.
- Sleep more. Helpful in any situation.
- Stop trying to name things. Don't try to explain or understand. Speak kindly to your brain that wants these things.
- Play. Do things that create no sense of ugency or any need within you to achieve, win, succeed, reach a goal etc. Just play...jigsaws and grown up colouring books work for me. I can go at my own pace, on my own, when I feel like it, without pressure to be perfect. The goal is pleasure.
- Surrender meditations. Try this easy one: lie down, arms and legs loosely stretched open, like a star shape. Feel your whole body against the floor/bed. Repeat with your out-breath "I surrender. I offer no resistance."