If you grew up in an Abrahamic culture, you’ve probably heard the story of Jonah. Basically, God said, “Jonah, go to Nineveh and talk to them.” Jonah didn’t like that idea, so he tried to run away to Tarshish on a ship. God said, “Uh, Jonah, you’re going the wrong way. Nineveh is over there.” Jonah said, “La la la! I’m not listening!” God said, “Fine, I guess we’ll have to do this the hard way. Mr. Fish, please escort Jonah to Nineveh.” And the Fish swallowed him, spit him up on the shore, and Jonah finally took his butt to Nineveh. I am starting to really relate to poor Jonah.
For months (years?), I have been floundering around trying to figure out where I fit in the world. My goal has been to find a way to contribute to society, contribute financially to our household, and still be a full time mom to my kids and wife to my husband. I’ve gotten little nudges here and there about how to do this, just as God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. These nudges have come in the form of podcast episodes, people directly offering me (very well-intentioned and appreciated) unsolicited advice, and seemingly spontaneous ideas from my own mind.
Like Jonah, I’m afraid of acting on these nudges. Like Jonah, I’m trying to run away to Tarshish instead because the thought of going to Nineveh is scary. I haven’t fully explored in my own mind yet why it is so scary. For now, it is enough that it is. God let Jonah know that he was going the wrong way, and I am getting that message, too. Especially in the form of podcast episodes.
Let me take a moment to explain exactly what my Nineveh is, so that all of this will make more sense. My Nineveh is becoming a teacher, or a life coach, or a minister, or an author, or something along those lines. I am afraid of it, at least in part, because of my huge imposter syndrome.
Listening to the nudges
Let me list the podcast episode titles I have listened to in this past week, so you can see my nudges.
God telling me to go to Nineveh:
- Paul Dolan on Designing Your Life for Happiness
- Becoming a Life Coach and an Entrepreneur
- Treat Your Business Like an Asset
- Pick Your Target Market
- Make Your Offer
God saying, “Hey, you’re going the wrong way”:
- Why You Aren’t Taking Action (truly, and seriously, this was the very next episode I listened to)
- How to Feel Better
- How to Fail
- Overcoming Fear
- Owning Negative Emotion
And now we’ve got the fish coming:
All this time, I’ve been hearing the words of these podcasts echoing in my mind. “When you feel negative emotion, examine the ‘why’ behind it. Our actions are motivated by our emotions, and our emotions are our reactions to our thoughts. If you want to change your behavior, you need to change your emotions, and to do that, you need to change your thoughts. Sometimes, if you can’t do that, you just need to sit with the emotion, accept it fully, and feel it fully.” I have greatly paraphrased for simplicity here. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote an entire book on this last concept.
Today I attended a lovely workshop about historical recreation/re-enactment and came home and decided to put some time into my new stays. I don’t remember exactly why, but I then got on the computer and addressed our finances and budget. I heard the nudge to sit down and work on my business, such as figuring out exactly what it will be. Instead, after getting all miserable from looking at our bottom line, I went back to the stays. I sat at my sewing machine and got all grumpy as I tried to hide from my self-recrimination for not working on the business and told myself I was busy being productive. Really, I wasn’t. I was hiding.
This hiding brought on great shame, and I sewed while trying not to cry. It is very hard to stitch a very straight line when it is too blurry to see. I told myself that I had already put up a post this week, and that was a lot better then I’ve been doing for the last year. That should have been good enough. But of course, it wasn’t.
I started thinking about how I need to earn some money to help with the bills, and decided that instead of writing content here, or trying to figure out my target audience, or anything like that, I checked CraigsList for part-time jobs. Nothing showed up in Tarshish. Imagine that! So the big fish came and swallowed me as I cried to my husband about how miserable I was.
The big fish
I headed to my favorite whining place (a private online diary) and got another slap to the face. Here is the first thing I was greeted with — the first lines from my last entry, dated in December:
“I have so many things I wanted to talk about today. Last night, I was thinking about my self-esteem, about my finances, about feeling like I contribute to society.”
And further down:
Stop trying to find ways to beat yourself up.
What?! I don’t try to find ways to beat myself up!
Of course you do. You beat yourself up for your parenting …, for your housekeeping habits, for your financial situation, for your lack of a social life. [These situations with your children] are presenting as struggles for you because you choose to find struggles there. You don’t have to. Yes, you are to be their guide and their teacher of life, but you need to lead them, not drive them. You need to have patience with yourself in order to have patience with them. You are not mentally healthy and so neither are they. Work on yourself first. You listen to so many podcasts on self-development, but how many nuggets of wisdom have you actually applied to your life? The one from last night is a great place to start. Once the kids are on the bus and you have delivered the car to the garage, sit down on your proper blog (not this hideaway one) and write down what kind of person you are. Make it public. Hold yourself accountable to making some changes in your life.
People don’t make changes in their lives without the prodding of pain. Some people require less pain, some require more, and some have very high pain thresholds and will tolerate extreme levels of pain before deciding to change. These people we call strong. I seem to fall into that last camp. My life is precisely as miserable as I make it. No more, no less. Every time I tell myself that I will start making changes sooner, and not make myself so miserable first. Maybe someday that will actually be true.