Collecting the tools of a sustainable, self-directed life


12- The Valley

Last week marked one year with my own little slice of the Hudson Valley. Although the purchase was finalized July 12th, I wasn't notified until August 6th. During those few weeks, I re-learned a lesson that would make the coming year much easier.

As with most things for me, the lesson started with a plan. In this one, by July 31st I would:

  • transition tenants out of my NYC and Dallas properties,

  • sell the condo in Dallas,

  • close the lease in NYC, and

  • confirm my temporary housing.

I worked details out of with the relevant parties and they were all in agreement. Until they weren’t. 

At the last minute, all three parties broke the contracts we’d made. So instead of wrapping up finishing touches, I spent July traveling between Dallas, NYC and DC, embroiled in long-distance real estate conflicts. It was excruciating. It felt like these people were threatening my way out of an unfulfilled life

And I was in the valley. The problem with being in a valley, is not just that you’re low, it’s that you can’t see out of the place you’re in. You have no idea what’s on the other side of the mountain and no concrete evidence of the landscape or the path forward.

By nature, I'm a planner. Even on my wildest adventures—times when I haven’t known the language, the culture, or any locals, I’ve found comfort and security in knowing where I was going, how to get there and how I would get out in an emergency. Maps, forethought and being prepared (for just about everything) have gotten me through. But in the valley, without any of these creature comforts, I became insecure and desperate.

In the third week of July, I came face-to-face with one of the defectors. Seeing the recoil, tension and discomfort in the person’s body was so halting, so disarming that it froze me instantly. And I stopped everything. I stopped thinking and wondering. I stopped wracking my brain to understand the person’s motivations. I stopped questioning what three botched agreements said about my ability to demand respect, judge character or protect myself. I stopped fighting, resisting. I stopped searching for the way out. Instead, I just saw the person, the challenge and the mountain, for what it was—resistance. 

Recognizing this chameleon foe, I was no longer distracted by trying to understand its present form. I could easily refocus on my goal and start putting one foot in front of the other to reach it. Instead of pondering the mountain, I could make my way up it. I let go of my apocryphal need for a detailed map. And I let each step up toward my goal—the work itself—become my way out. 

While everything else seemed to be closing in around me in the valley—in that deep unsighted place,  I learned that the work itself, that continual movement forward, is the key to unlocking my personal freedom.

In the past year, what has been your biggest distraction from your goals? How did resistance obstruct your sight? How were you able to make the mental shift to refocus on your goal? Put your answers in the comments below. Let’s learn from each other’s experiences.