“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” Arundhati Roy
It’s time for a change.
Today I woke early, keen to see if The Shireing was on the market. Sure enough, there it was, my house in all its rural glory, enticing me from the pages of Rightmove.
Maybe I was tired, burdened with all the jobs that had to be done. Perhaps it was the cloudy morning, the typo in the copy, the chill in my room or the pasta from yesterday’s dinner, still “glooping” about in my stomach … but I felt a wee bit flat.
“Here we go again,” I thought, “back on the move.”
My Dad would say, “Oor Jim loves a steer (stir).” Translated from colloquial Bo’ness, he was saying, “Jim (yours truly) loves change.” This is true. I am a chaos bringer, a change agent and a nomad. When I believe I have made all the progress I can in a chapter of my life, I turn the page. It can feel like a lurch to those closest to me, maybe even abrupt, but when it’s time to move on, I’m gone. Sorry.
So why the heavy heart?
The Shireing is a beautiful place to live. These walls have more of my life in them than any previous home. Photos of visitors and friends line the guest wing corridor. My collection of books in the library are more read than any before, the fires more blackened, the cooker used and the TV seats (our cinema) more creased. There are no neglected areas. I have loved this house more than any before it.
Outside, there is more of me in garden. I laid a path in the Hinter Woods, appeared in a music video in the Nether Woods, opened up the views of the Gargunnock Hills and fixed the bottom gate, out to the country track, which I have walked on more than any other track. On light evenings, when I am in the woods without my ear pods, I can still hear Foy Vance serenading my Housekeeper in the walled fire pit. Magical.
On our leadership programmes, we teach a change model that has four nodes. It is shaped like an infinity sign (an 8 on its side), which depicts the continuous nature of change and the emotional flow through all the states. At the top left corner, stage 1, is disruption with the associated emotion of loss. Given that I am often the disrupter, I don’t feel a lot of loss. I have been described as pathologically future-focussed. I like moving on to the next thing.
But this time, there is loss. Covid 19 was the disrupter, as was the marketplace dying to my old offer and opening up to the new one. It is now clear that the community/consultancy idea belongs to the past and the Neish online library is the future. I no longer need a big country house to rattle around in. Circumstances drove the change this time rather than my natural restlessness. There is no bypassing this loss.
Chaos and Fear characterise the second node, at the bottom of the dip. I don’t know where I will live or what the pattern of my life will look like. What market will there be? Will my house sell? Will I find a rental property in this climate? Is the current boost in business just a season? What happens when my assistant goes off to be married and live in London? My unsettled stomach is probably the result of an emotional barricade, keeping these thoughts from overwhelming me.
But why should they be kept at bay? Will they really overwhelm me? I wonder if my shadow self is someone who, rather than change, prefers to crank the heating up, give in to Disney Plus and ride out the winter. These feelings and questions are entirely appropriate to this level of upheaval in such a changing world. If fear is intended to provoke vigilance then I need to listen to it.
Stage 3 is the beginning of a new order emerging with emotional neutrality. There is a stillness. Have you never felt that? After days, sometimes weeks of emotional turmoil, you just stop fighting and submit to the situation. Acceptance is a relief and for the first time you begin to notice what is really going on. You see the green shoots pushing above the soil and there are hints to what an acceptable accommodation of these new realities could feel like.
Having disbanded the consultancy in March, unable to meet as a community, watched the diary empty of old clients and retreat to a survival mentality, there were nights when I felt I was on a tightening spiral, going down. Now, the introduction of zoom, podia, stripe, mailchimp and other new realties in my life have settled in. I am 28lbs lighter, busy and overseeing a growing business. I can be with this. I accept this foisted world.
The final stage is where we garner our agency and form a new relationship to the circumstances. It is optimistic. We see the possibilities. Surprising opportunities become part of our story; there is excitement about the newness, and we know that we have changed. We are present to the world, the way it is.
I am up for that. Just yesterday, a friend asked where I will go when the house sells. I gave him five options: find a new house in central Scotland and move in, rent in Edinburgh, rent in Surrey/West Sussex, rent in the Midlands or a surprise. I am up for some big agency launching a leadership development centre in Hawaii and needing me to run it. Or one of the big four deciding to really go for the human potential movement as an income stream and needing my experience to develop the business and all the new consultants – in Cape Town. Or partnerships with fantastic consultants in Austin, Sydney, LA and London. Those wildcards will always be in my pack and I will always be in a conversation about them.
So why so flat this morning? Turns out that the sun was shining when I opened the blinds and the heating just has a broken valve; Jamie, the plumber is coming to fix it tomorrow. Savills know about the typo and will hopefully correct it before you read it and I was hungry not gloopy. Three slices of eggy bread later and I am cruising into stage 4. I am reminded that our realty is just the meaning we make of it; the stories we tell ourselves, the portions we notice or listen to and the models we make up about it: ∞.
I choose to see a fun season of relocation coming up next, travel being back on the table in the spring and a cosy winter of online adventure.
And I choose to learn how best to make meaning of this world, which I have, at last, accepted and decided to live in rather than survive.