The first time I asked the question: “Is this all there is?” I was sitting in my comfortable living room in my comfortable home, a stunning view of green trees and bright flowers outside my window. I was asking it at a time when I had a great job and loving husband and good health and fabulous friends. And yet, the question was there, certain and clear: “Is this all there is?”
Something was missing.
It took months of the persistent presence of the question until I decided to try to answer it. Years before I actually did so. In the beginning, I slowly began to remember the things I loved most, pursuits that had gotten lost in between school, growing up, having children and building a career. I faced the truth that there were still-important dreams I’d left behind.
So I defrosted my writing skills and got my creative self back. I stepped up the adventure quotient in my life by going to Africa and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. A few years into the process I leapt and changed careers. I started doing the work I felt called to do.
The question: “Is this all there is?” has become a cliché because it’s such a common experience, perhaps even a universal rite of passage. Things move along in a certain routine rhythm in a modern, productive life, but quite often, the person living that life feels empty, stifled, incomplete.
What gives rise to the question may be a professional longing or a personal one. It may stem from a spiritual lack or an emotional one. The question is universal; the answers about what’s missing are uniquely individual.
As I’ve had the privilege of working with women going through their own “Is this all there is?” rite of passage, I’ve gleaned a number of important gems about this question:
The answer is always no, this is not all there is. Simple as that. Look how much time I just saved you in figuring that out! If something in you is asking “Is this all there is?” it’s because the status quo is no longer enough. Something is missing, something is off, and yes, you can fix it.
The timing is no accident. The moment when “Is this all there is?” arrives means something new is ready to be born in you. It’s time for the next evolution of you.
You can quash the question, or not. Many women quash the “Is this all there is?” question by ignoring it, repressing it or arguing that the status quo is just how things have to be. The problem is, quashing the question will make you an unhappy, less pleasant, less generous human being. You may even engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to distract and numb yourself. To check out. The alternative is to lean into the question.
This question is your friend. At first it may feel like “Is this all there is?” has come to turn your life upside down; to ruin the good and respectable things you’ve committed to and worked hard to achieve. “Is this all there is?” is actually your friend. It’s come to guide you toward your sacred path. If you let it lead you, the question will bring you to a richer, more incredible, more vibrant life.
Face the difficult truths. Usually, once we are willing to uncover what we really want in our lives, what we want becomes clear to us. The hard part is accepting it. Please don’t avoid the truth about what isn’t working and about what you want. Don’t dance around it or argue it away. (Of course you will, because that’s what we human beings do, but please, do that as briefly as possible). Bear the few excruciating moments of turning your heart toward the truth because once you face it fully, it won’t seem so overwhelming and frightening. Say the difficult truths directly and simply – if even only to yourself:
I don’t like my job.
I want to change careers.
I don’t want to live here anymore.
I want out of my marriage.
I made this decision, but now I’ve changed my mind.
On the other side of that honesty is freedom, movement, spaciousness. You’ll notice that the moment you fully accept and voice what’s true, you’ll begin to feel a sense of relief, a lessening of tension.
Think creatively about the ”how.” Things get tricky with the ”how” – the how of getting what you want. That’s where all your fears and worries typically come in. That’s where all your beliefs about not enough money, not enough time, not enough expertise, not ”enoughness” show up.
At the same time, a conflict between your dreams and your responsibilities often occurs. When this happens, and it’s perfectly normal that it will, watch out for your own limiting ideas. Hold the vision of what you want in your mind, front and center. When you do this, opportunities to further the life change you want will begin to show up in your life as if by magic. Instead of asking ”Is this possible?”, identify the core of what you are seeking and ask yourself: ”How can I make this a reality?” Brainstorm realistic and unrealistic options, and if you feel stuck, bring in your trusted allies to brainstorm with you.
When something in you asks ”Is this all there is?” life is calling you into the next evolution of you. You’ve outgrown what was. The next chapter is ready to be written. Greet it like the sacred door opening that it is.
Walk with it.
Be afraid and keep walking.
We are afraid of the enormity of the possible. – Emile M. Cioran
So many women have reached, or are in the process of reaching, a major transition in their lives. Whether it be career, relationships, things you’ve tolerated for way too long, or a deep tug at your soul that’s pulling you toward something new and different, you may find it difficult to know where to start – or how to stay with it when it becomes challenging. This is why I wrote [R]evolution and why I created it in a workbook format so that you can take notes in it, write in the margins, do the exercises within the book or doodle to your heart’s content. It’s waiting for you. [R]evolution: A Soulful and Practical Guide to Creating the Life You Want.