Giving yourself permission to change your mind is the right thing, even if no one else understands
It’s OK to quit.
Permission granted. Can I get a collective sigh of relief?
And even if you originally said YES, made a commitment you wished you hadn’t, agreed to something you didn’t want to — you can turn around, change your mind and instead say NO — to jobs, relationships, commitments, books you don’t want to finish and even vacations. Yep, even vacations.
As life does, I was recently presented with this example. It seems silly at first to think about because well, vacation is about fun and being footloose and fancy free, a stress-free zone right? But the reality is that vacations rarely are. There is so much prep beforehand and catchup and cleanup afterwards…let alone the suitcase of expectation that gets carried along for the ride. Honestly, it’s all a recipe for disaster when we don’t make conscious and intuitive choices aligned with our inner selves.
True wisdom comes from listening to how you are feeling about something and then honoring those feelings no matter how much you are inclined to shove them aside or ignore them or don’t understand them — no matter how much someone else doesn’t agree with you or your choices or reasoning.
It literally just happened to me.
Right before our beloved annual “family” camping trip, something we’ve been doing with our blended family of kids for 15 years and counting (and that now consists of just Bill and I) — I had a lot of mixed feelings I couldn’t put my finger on, but didn’t indulge. Why wasn’t I getting excited to go? There’s always a lot to do before leaving, but I generally get super excited as the departure date nears and especially the day before. Not so much this time. It was a little odd to me.
But feelings can be like that. We don’t have to analyze or understand them, we simply (or not so simply) have to honor them. In other words…listen. I did anything but that. In the spirit of not wanting to disappoint another, to keep going with the flow…I just shoved those feelings aside and kept on packing, organizing and shoving supplies in bins.
Pay attention to what your feelings are trying to tell you. I literally verbalized the words…I’m just not excited to go…and went even as far as saying, I really don’t want to go camping this year. Then went further trying to convince myself to ‘buck up’ and be a team player. Stop whining!
I actually love camping. I’ve loved it since I was kid for all the reasons I still love it: uninterrupted quality family time, simple pleasures, the pace of life, nature, newness, adventure, my heightened senses, daydreaming, campfires and fireside chats, inspiration, cooking outside, the night sky illuminated with stars, creativity, the pace and the cacophony of birds awakening me each morning offset by the exhilaration of my active and dramatic mind hearing every noise in the woods outside my tent. All of it. And while I’m a luxury hotel-loving gal, I also love journeys and have taken many expeditions to remote locales in my life. Here’s the thing: we can love it all.
But there is also the danger of expectation when you have a certain vacation that you take each year. You can’t help it. There are things you look forward to, things you are attached to, things you can’t imagine not doing, eating, seeing…that’s why it became a part of your calendar to begin with. However, sometimes Mother Nature has her own plans at any given time and good luck trying to convince her otherwise. Cue the rain.
Our campsite is positioned on arguably one of the most glorious locales imaginable in Maine…waterfront, private, stunning. When I first open my eyes each morning, I can peer out to the water and the summer sky. If there are no raindrops hitting the top of the tent, I know it’s going to be a good day. The trip has certainly morphed throughout the years and most recently, we’ve made sure to not be on the go all the time, hiking and biking, and instead, to enjoy the site as we languish floating on rafts in the water, swinging in a hammock napping or sunning in camp chairs reading.
But when it rains…it pours…at least on a campground. Oh, and btw, nothing dries out, ever! This year we arrived within a window of time that allowed us to set up our tents and get our site organized. Score. But then it rained for the next 2 days…it didn’t feel quite like the warm welcome I had hoped for. And I’ll be honest, I always need to ease into camp life…sleeping in a tent, showering in a public bathroom wearing flip flops, and finding my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night with a headlamp, etc. But I get there and eventually ease into the campsite’s embrace, exhaling and appreciating.
Rain just adds a layer of complexity and resistance, especially when there is no real end in sight. If you’ve ever packed up a wet campsite, you know what I’m talking about. We’ve navigated weather before. We have our tricks and work-arounds, but suddenly after a long day of making peace with it all — I just let it out…I want to go home. I didn’t want to be a peacemaker with my vacation. There I said it. But oh no…am I being dramatic, spoiled, entitled, weak? Can you believe I even wondered what my camping neighbors (long time fellow camping friends) would think? Surely, they wouldn’t pack it in and throw in the towel…and surely they would scoff at such a decision. So, what! Yet that was in my own head…and even if not, I ask…who cares? I’m the one unhappy sitting in the tent in the rain trying to make peace with it. I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience.
How often do you declare your feelings then immediately try to retract them or make yourself feel guilty about it? Then out come the excuses trying to convince yourself differently. We are not taking a poll here on our emotions. These are yours to feel and yours to declare and live with.
Start by observing yourself. When the thought first pops up in you (remember this could be as simple as dinner plans to as complex as a job or relationship), what comes to mind? For me, I didn’t want to disappoint Bill. He loves this trip…let’s just say, he’s an UBER cheery, happy camper who looks forward to this all year and then manages to take care of everyone while doing it. I wanted to do this for him, despite the gnawing feeling I had beforehand. Not investigating it then and shoving it aside didn’t help anyone because truth rises even on campsites and especially in soggy downpours.
I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to go this year. We missed last year with all the pandemic restrictions for traveling between states — and I missed our friends, our routines, our traditions, our little parcel of heaven…so, off I went to pack my bags. Truth be told, even the day of travel along the ride up, stopping between rest areas and states, anticipation never mounted. There were no delayed hidden bursts of enthusiasm ready to bust a move.
I can be analytical at times…overthink, desire an explanation and an understanding and not act until I do. But I can also be impulsive and act from the place of my gut. Here’s something I know to be true: the sooner we can learn to tell the truth of our experience to ourselves, the sooner we can cut off our suffering at the pass and discover what’s going on beneath the surface. I’m not saying that’s going to be easy at first, but it’s like flexing a new muscle. Practice makes perfect (or at least a lot better).
Our sensations, impulses, gut feelings won’t always make sense, but they are alerting us to something.
Acting upon them will surely make some people unhappy, but you are not living your life for someone else.
You may feel things like sadness, guilt, weakness and uncertainty arise when you question your norms or the way things are ‘supposed to be’ or when you contemplate a recent decision, kind of like having buyer’s remorse. All the logistics danced in my head…We are practically 9 hours from home! Are we seriously going to pack it in after all this work and only a few days? But that is what the small voice within was whispering and my heart wanted. But that second-guessing, excuse-making thinking is like getting married when you know you shouldn’t and heading down the aisle anyway because the guests from out-of-town have arrived. (and btw, I’ve been there and done that too…different blog).
Going against our own wisdom leads us nowhere good with big decisions or small. Some choices feel of less consequence for sure, but ultimately, they produce the same result — a betrayal of self.
I was disappointed to leave, but the inside voice wanted to go home. Bill and I talked it through and decided that neither of us wanted to sit in the rain any longer. Even if it only rained a few hours a day, we wouldn’t be able to partake in the things we went there for. We decided to leave and pack up camp on a morning where the sun decided to make an appearance which was like the Universe dangling a carrot in front of us…are you sure? But we were.
It’s been a very unsettled, unpredictable summer of weather here in the northeast…kind of like life and the world. As we drove home we hit some pretty gnarly storms that were headed towards our campground. Apparently, the storms never hit that night. Were we wrong to leave?
You are never wrong when you make a decision for yourself from your heart, not from your head or your guilt.
Maybe it won’t rain again this week, maybe they will dodge that bullet…but maybe not. I just knew that something was calling me home. I don’t ever recall leaving a vacation early, but home is the place I wanted to be — and I feel fortunate to feel that way. No matter how much fun vacation is, home is the place I am always happy to return to.
At first Bill thought that this was a statement more about camping and not liking the trip anymore. I explained to him that this couldn’t be further from the truth. It wasn’t a generalization or a grand-sweeping statement, it was a sensation about this particular moment. Perhaps, hindsight will provide more clarity, or not.
I tell you this long-winded story because your intuition is speaking to you ALL the time, sending up flares to alert you and prevent you from making decisions that are not aligned with your soul. I think it’s time to check in with it more in all aspects of our lives.
For now, I’m home early and have promised myself a ‘staycation’. I’m refraining from the pile of mail I’ve returned to, the emails awaiting responses, my computer (aside from writing, which feeds my spirit). I’m going to read my book on my front porch swing, perhaps make some impulsive last-minute plans with friends…or not. Maybe I won’t even tell anyone that I’m home…I’ll just let the week take me where it wants.
I want to encourage you to sit with your own feelings, especially when something feels ‘off’ to you and explore it. I know that can sound all woo woo…”just sit with your feelings”…but it is in fact a powerful gift to self. Ask it what it’s trying to say. Ask it the questions you don’t want to admit, as in my case — should I cancel this trip and stay home? Learn to follow its lead.
Remember it’s harder to live with regret and it’s fallout then to just state your truth from the get go.
For now, I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m trying to listen. I just took a nap in the middle of a sunny afternoon at home and my heart is happy. I can’t really explain all the reasons, but my entire nervous system tells me this was the right choice for me. Could you give yourself permission to quit, change your mind, take another path after embarking down one? I hope so. Intuitive permission slips anyone?
Do you honor those instincts calling from within? When you think of changing your mind about something, what comes up for you? I love to hear of your experience in the comments below.