When something no longer fits
Thoughts on quitting, leaving, and altering course
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A song I’ve been enjoying:
Before I share the letter I wrote on Wednesday, I want to acknowledge the devastation so many of us are feeling. On Friday morning, I finished my oatmeal and went online to check the news. There it was: Roe was overturned. My entire body froze; then tears came, and didn’t seem to stop for the rest of the day. They still come. The fear, rage, disbelief (yet lack of surprise), and overwhelm still feels so heavy. I am so beyond angry and toggling between feeling powerless and remembering my power. I am afraid and shifting between wanting to hide and wanting to fight. I am giving myself permission to feel the grief and rage in my body, to let it fuel right action, and to continue learning as much as I can about how to show up for others during this time. I honestly don’t have it in me to write a whole new newsletter this week. While we don’t need to share our personal stories in order to prove a point, much of my own story that remains private for now makes this feel very close to home, as I’m sure it does for many of you — especially those most marginalized, who will continue being impacted the deepest. I am thinking of all of you and hope you are taking good care during this time.
As I briefly shared a few weeks ago, I recently left my role as a therapist in private practice. It was a decision I didn’t anticipate when returning from maternity leave four months ago; I imagined myself itching with eagerness to be doing something other than mothering again, to be in conversation with other adults, to be holding space for something other than the entirely unpredictable feelings of a new baby. And to be honest, I thought I had to — I didn’t feel there was an option to choose to stop. No longer working as a therapist seemed like it was out of the question.
The truth I soon realized (that my body told me before my brain did): holding space for others in that specific way just wasn’t going to work for me in this season of life, for so many reasons. I wanted it to work. I wanted to be able to — the thought of such a big transition, of no longer holding the title so many people see me as, of ending with many clients I had for years, of not having a back-up plan, was terrifying to me.
And, along with that want, there was the reality. I have been woven up in depression that postpartum didn’t make easier. I have been so, so tired. I have been unable to keep in touch with friends and family. I have been figuring out how to be a mom, how to adjust to a completely life-altering transition, how to find myself after losing the version that existed before. And within all of this, I simply had nothing left. I had no more space to hold. I had no more energy to spare. And the work of therapy requires more of me than I have to give in this season. Beyond all that, I no longer had the desire to do 1:1 therapy work. And letting that be okay has been one of the biggest permission slips I’ve ever given myself.
We so often pressure ourselves to be able to just keep going, to just work harder, to try adding a green smoothie to our daily intake or just meditate more or do a little bit less, but don’t you dare quit. And sometimes, quitting is the best choice. Quitting is the most supportive option. Quitting (or taking a break, or stepping away, or whatever term you want to use) is the healthiest, most human thing to do.
Quitting is complicated when it requires us to relate to ourselves in a whole new way, to let ourselves be seen without standing behind a role we’ve been holding, to adjust to showing up in the world in a different capacity, and to hold our integrity in tact while doing so. It’s also complicated when it means reckoning with the impact our own quitting or stepping away will have on other people: the people we work with, the people we show up for, the people who turn to us for something specific.
Yet forging forward when it means bypassing our own humanity, our own wants and needs, our own capacities and desires, is no way to truly be of service. It’s no way to show up for people. It’s no way to serve.
It’s been a month since I stepped away, and these are some of the many thoughts & feelings I’ve been sitting with.
Even when something is right, it isn’t always easy. Even when something is the best decision for you, it isn’t always the best decision for everyone else involved. Even when something is necessary, it isn’t always easeful. The trope that what is meant to be will simply flow and be full of ease isn’t always true. Things are more complicated that. People are more complex than that.
I have the privilege of living in a two-income household, of having enough savings to be able to make the choice to step away from my therapy work, and of having other creative ways (that I am still figuring out, to be honest) to make enough income to cover my bases. I know not everyone has this option available to them and if you are one of those people, I see you.
It is a lot harder than it sounds to choose to stop doing something I’ve created a platform around — even when I’ve been moving away from sharing as a therapist and toward sharing as a human for years. There has been so much fear around losing everything, around not being able to sustain a career in writing without continuing to be a practicing therapist, around letting people down and disappointing people for choosing something different (whether or not these fears are reasonable or rational or true).
There’s also been a newfound sense of not caring as much about maintaining the image, role, or identity other people need me to be in — to remember I don’t owe anyone sameness — to realize how okay it is to change, even when it means letting other people’s views of me change.
Even when I’ve barely mentioned being a therapist or my therapy work on social media for the last few years, people still refer to me as a therapist first. It’s made me wonder if I have any value outside of this role, if people can see me as a person & writer instead of just a space-holder, if people can change their views of me as I let myself change, if people can take me off the pedestal and let me be a person. This part of social media is frustrating.
I am valuable even when I am not serving people in one specific way. And, this is hard to really allow myself to embody. I am still working on it — still working on embodying the truth that I don’t need to be working as a therapist in order to be worthy of sharing in other ways or offering value in other capacities. You, too — your value doesn’t hinge on any specific role you hold. At all. Ever.
Sometimes, other people will be disappointed by the decisions we have to make for ourselves. And they will also be okay. We cannot avoid our needs in order to try and help someone else avoid their own disappointment. It doesn’t work for anyone involved. And it isn’t our job, no matter what our job is.
Not having the capacity for something doesn’t mean you don’t have the capacity for anything. I thought I’d have to step away from everything in order to honor my own needs in this season, but the reality is that I still have a lot of capacity to write — writing energizes and fuels me, it nurtures me and nourishes me in ways space-holding doesn’t. Letting it be okay that I can still do some things and not everything has been important.
It is a radical act to let yourself do the opposite of what you’ve been taught to do; to let yourself choose to ACTUALLY opt out of over-giving, over-performing, over-scheduling, over-achieving and over-doing just to prove you’re enough, you care, or you're successful. I don’t want the kind of success that requires me to keep going when “keep going” is drowning me.
The fact that not everyone has the option to do this is infuriating. Capitalism is infuriating. Inequity is infuriating. The systems that make it hard for so many people to make aligned choices are infuriating. There is so much to be angry about, and that anger is so valid, and it doesn’t need to be glossed over or bypassed. I honor it all. I feel it all.
I am still lingering in the newness of this change — still feeling what it’s like for my body to release all it has been holding, to let go of pushing beyond what it had space for, to allow what’s next to unfold without force or pressure. I still feel afraid. I’m still struggling with depression and coming home to this new version of me. But letting myself be human in all of it — letting myself listen to what I need — letting myself take the steps required to support my own emergence and becoming — feels sacred, even when it’s scary. I feel hopeful, even when depression arises. I feel like I can breathe again. And that is everything.
△ Donate to an abortion fund if you can.
△ This letter
△ Yesterday’s morning drive to one of my favorite spots on the Sonoma Coast
“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal... To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
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