How To Find Your Next Step

Mandelbrot set Step 11Mmmm.  "A wise man [or woman] will make more opportunities than he [or she] finds."
~Sir Francis Bacon

I spent two weeks feeling dark, stuck, lost. I spent those same two weeks thinking about how much light, opportunity and solid home I have. But feeling and thinking can be at odds with each other. My thoughts were good, and I felt terrible. I was at the end of many paths. This was a beginning.


See the photo? It's part of a Mandelbrot set. Isn't it beautiful? It's a process, moving toward infinity, creating within a pattern as it goes.  The pattern may be the same, but it extends, flows, varies and is a natural marvel.  I wonder if our feelings and thoughts are like this.  I wonder if the struggle we experience between thoughts and feelings is the energy that keeps creation happening.

My thinking kept reaching for what might be opportunities and placing them in front of my awareness. My feeling rejected them. But thinking never quit making offers. Finally, feeling, maybe in desperation to stop the thinking activity, started coming up with her own possibilities. She offered them to thinking.

They growled and smiled around each other for a while. Then they both agreed on a course of action. Low and behold, I found two classes I want to take at UCLA Extension.

One is a four day intensive writing class in the February UCLA Writer's Studio. I chose Courage and Craft:  A Writing Workshop to Jumpstart Your Creativity with Barbara Abercrombie.

The other is a class called, Principles of Sustainability taught by Nurit Katz and leads to a certificate if I choose to follow it through. I so want to know more about the ecological, economic and environmental issues of sustainability.

I've taken writing classes where Barbara Abercrombie was a guest speaker.  She's terrific.  I'm delighted to have four days of writing under her tutelage.

Nurit Katz is a new discovery.  Read her bio.  She's fabulous.  We've already begun a fascinating e-mail conversation.

Feeling and thinking are partners again. I feel alive, happy and energized again.  My normal day to day activities are valuable and interesting again. I ran my dogs in the park tonight instead of a neighborhood walk and the three of us were full of play and joy.

I moved through some kind of barrier and have my feet on my next step.

  • Did I find opportunity or create it?
  • What would Bacon say?
  • What do you say?
  • Are you familiar with this struggle that comes before a decision and a brighter present?

Description English: Part of a Mandelbrot set zoom

Date 2008-08-16 (original upload date)
(Original text : August 09 2008)
Source Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:OverlordQ using CommonsHelper.
(Original text : I created this work entirely by myself.)
Author Simpsons contributor (talk) Original uploader was Simpsons contributor at en.wikipedia
(Reusing this file)
Released into the public domain (by the author).


0 # A big askmylifex2 2014-01-07 18:22
I feel this way a lot. It feels good when something positive develops from the collision between thinking and feeling. 

One year ago I was in a crisis with my job.  I was working on a unit with a population of patients that was burning me out big time. As a case manager on this unit for three years, I had grown weary of the manipulations and borderline behaviors of the patients. many of them had abuse histories too, which was hard for me to listen to, secondary to my own history. 

i was growing more and more depressed. I would sit in my office paralyzed each morning afraid to face the day. My doctor started me on sedatives to help with my anxiety. I cried a lot. I stopped eating. 

My thoughts were "I need to push through this, I need this job. I can't quit". My feelings were "I need to do something different. I can't live like this. I need a change". 

i finally went to my boss and confided to her my anxiety, my fears - even my abuse history. I asked for 2 weeks off. I'm not sure where that number came from, I just knew one week would not renew my spirit. 

She obliged. When I came back I filled in on the geriatric unit for a week while a co- worker was on vacation. I LOVED it! When my friend came back we discussed switching units for a while. Come to find out, he was burned out on his unit and I am still working with my senior "babies". They are lost in another time, unable to remember one moment to the next. They love my hugs and when I rub their hands.

I love helping the families during this time of frustration and confusion. Just being there to comfort them and seeing their gratitude for the little I can do, makes my day.  I rarely experienced gratitude from the patients I worked with before - much less the families. 

I'm glad I made the decision to talk to my boss.  When thinking and feeling collided, I made a change for the better. And it still feels good!
0 # perspectiveJackie 2014-01-07 18:30
How wonderful that all the parts are working together to take care of you Joanna! I think I would choose the writing class too. 

I'm trying to adjust my perspective.

Where I live we are currently having a blizzard. My town has the dangerous wind chill, but little snow. We didn't have school today. I've been busy preparing materials for my medical leave. I had a few things that I couldn't finalize because I needed to make a few more photocopies. I planned on doing that at work tomorrow.

They just announced that my school will be closed again tomorrow. Tomorrow was my last day at work. The flight which takes me to my surgery is supposed to leave at 6am on Thursday morning. I can't drop six weeks worth of lessons and materials off. I can't finish what I need to get done and I have to leave things unorganized on my desk until I return from surgery.

I could ask someone else, but they wouldn't know what to do with the items I left in my office. It wouldn't be the way I want it to be.

This seems like a big deal, but it's not. That's what I am trying to tell myself. It's a shift in thinking. It's just the way life is. 

Initially, I felt like crying. I felt like I was going to be punished (my personal theme) but then I started to think about it differently. This is beyond my control. I cannot control the weather. I cannot control the administration. I cannot control the airport. I have no magical powers. It is what it is.

I don't like this, but I need to find the benefits. Here's my pep talk: I won't be exposed to the germs of others. I don't have to worry about picking up a virus before my surgery. I don't have to rush to get everything done tomorrow. I have more time to pack. I have more time with my kids before I leave. I have time to shave my legs.

My body is starting to relax. I typically worry when this happens because you can be certain that important things are escaping my mind, but maybe they are supposed to. Maybe I am just supposed to accept this. Maybe I can let it go for tonight. Maybe I can check out and it will be okay. I'll send an email to my administrator after I sleep on all this.
If the plane can't take me to surgery, it will another day. Maybe next week. I can do this. I can be okay with uncertainty. I can slow down and stop punishing myself. I can tell other people what my plan is because my plan is what takes care of me.
0 # In the birth canal (again)shh 2014-01-08 02:21

On a course last spring, we were instructed to use arts and crafts materials to create something that represented what "endings" meant to us, we only had about 15 -20mins, so I painted whatever came out and as we all took turns to explain our work, I described what I had painted, saying it was a representation of 'plodding along quite happily in life, until something happens (an "ending"), and then falling into a bit of a black hole, a dark place, where you might stay for a while before eventually emerging to new opportunities and bright new beginning(s)'. A few days later I was writing about it in my reflective journal, which was part of the course, and wrote...

“During the creative task when we had to make a representation of what endings mean to us, I knew instantly I needed to represent a bright white light and glitteriness , that signified the new beginnings that come forth as a result of endings. I used finger paints because I like the tactile experience, but also because this work needed to capture an essence, the feelings, rather than be a “picture” as such. And I think there is something about that that links to the development of infants and how their vision develops, where at first they don’t see things clearly as we see them, their eyes can’t focus properly, it’s just big fuzzy blobs with attention paid to the colour and the feelings that go with those colours. Oh wow!!!! As I’m typing this, I realise that what I actually finger painted was my birth, but I didn’t know it at the time, it makes me cry to realise that, but I’m not sure why, something to do with how powerful it is that I did that without thinking, that it really is all stored in the brain, that more and more I’m being shown evidence that supports the powerfulness of the subconscious and the belief that we do remember everything, nothing is lost, and that is amazing"

The comfortable place, the black hole, and the bright new beginnings, were so obviously when you looked at the picture, the womb, the birth canal, and being born into the harsh bright lights of daylight, and when I look at paintings I've done in the past that I thought were just abstract designs, they are clearly birth pictures too. What the whole experience has made me believe is that life is just a continuous repetition of this birth cycle, from that first time we are born, over and over until we die (which many people with NDEs have described as being drawn into a dark hole, travelling towards a bright light, not that I was ever sure I believed that kind of stuff in the past, but maybe I do now).

And so metaphorically speaking, when we are forced to move away from what we were familiar with and what was comfortable, but before we reach that start of a new chapter and new direction, that place where thoughts and feelings are at odds with each other, where things are confused, where we are seeking to make sense of things, to try to figure out how to move on and where we're going, is what I view as travelling along the birth canal.

I feel like I'm currently in the birth canal at the moment, I feel a little bit lost and directionless, but I haven't yet figured out where I'm going, where my shiny new beginnings and the right opportunities lie. I know that if I keep attending to it and trying to figure out "what next? what now?" that I will get there... I'm just not there yet.


0 # feeling goodJackie 2014-01-15 18:22
Just dropped by to let you know that my surgery went well. From start to finish everything went smoothly.

A coworker stopped over tonight and filled me in on work related drama and I started internalizing everything she said.

Why? I'm not there. I don't need to worry about it. I don't need to control it. I'm leaving it in God's hands. I've done my part. 

My only job now is to rest and heal.

I think I need to set a boundary regarding conversations about work.
0 # Glad you are wellmylifex2 2014-01-15 18:25
Jackie, thanks for letting us know you are doing ok.  Good wishes for continued recovery!
0 # Brava, Jackiepinkjoanna 2014-01-15 19:18
Dear Jackie,

I'm so glad to hear you are on the other side of the surgery and that you came through all right.

Thank you for letting us know.

It also sounds like maybe more happened during this challenge than you appreciated.  You said no to what was not good for you.   :-)

You let the office drama go. Your business is to keep your energy mobilized for healing and to not waste it on matters that are other people's business.  Yes!

Isn't it lovely to get even more benefits from meeting a challenge than you thought were possible?

I'm happy for you.  Please give us informed about your recovery.  I send you healing thoughts.


0 # :)shh 2014-01-16 14:50

Jackie, I have been thinking about you this last week and wondering how your surgery went, so it's really good to see a post on here from you!

It sounds like you are doing an amazing job of managing potential work stress and creating a good environment for healing - I feel really proud of the strength and courage you've shown.

S xx

0 # coming out of the other side...shh 2014-01-23 02:17

...I think I'm almost there, I can see the bright lights shining and pulling me towards them.

Different events and circumstances have brought potential opportunities and new directions. Some health issues faced by other family members have spurred me on to make my diet as organic as possible again, I don't know how this situation lies in the US, but in the UK it's expensive and the range of goods quite limited, which takes me into my kitchen more, researching more, on sourcing and investigative trips.

I've just restarted my final uni module in cognitive psychology - which is quite long and involved, but interesting, and more than that, I can see the glittering prize of graduating and the eligibility and opportunities that opens up, only 10 months down the road - so that is quite exciting.

I've also found a short art/painting course beginning in April that I'm considering taking, and new career opportunities are also starting to come forth too, but I still need to explore and make some decisions about. I also took the decision reschedule a vacation, that was stressing me out, for a more suitable time, which feels like a great weight lifted off my mind.

I've a few other things to attend to, but I'm getting there!

0 # the other side and shopping organicpinkjoanna 2014-01-23 04:17
This all sounds good, Shh.  Congratulations.

About the prices of organic food: Once your focus is on quality food you may discover that
what you buy and how you spend changes.  Yes, organic food is more expensive.  But when
your focus is on eating food that is dense nutritionally you eliminate many non nourishing and expensive foods.

You also eat less meat and more fruits and vegetables.
You also keep to the minimum or eliminate entirely convenience foods. In other words, you
start cooking again and in new ways.

So you buy high quality, make nutrition based choices that meet your particular physical needs and prepare your food with care.

Often this system turns out to be much better for your mind and body and cheaper too.

Bon adventura on this journey!

P.S. You might want to look at the book and cookbook - it comes as a set - of
The Abascal Way: to quiet inflammation, by Kathy Abascal. 
0 # Thanks Joannashh 2014-01-23 13:22

Thanks Joanna

We used to shop/eat organic a few years ago, but as my children got older and I started to take on more and more outside of the home, it gradually started to slide, in the main because it was so time consuming, and I couldn't just get what I needed fairly locally. Coming back to it, it's actually quite disappointing to discover that shops seem to be stocking even less organic foods than they were 3 years ago, because there is less demand for it. (I've not even been able to get hold of an organic orange or clementine or similar citrus fruit this week, and have also discovered that to buy organic bread that is anything other than a white baguette, (I tend to buy seeded/granary/wholemeal type breads), is an 18 mile round trip.)

I seem to recollect some teething troubles last time though, and I will gradually figure out where to buy certain things from, and what I am better off making myself's quite exciting really, and definitely makes me more aware of what I'm actually consuming.

Going off to look for the books you recommended now :-)

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