Searching for vision in my vocation

This is the fifth post in a series on vocation, marriage, and work.

This series has been quite a ride. I've shared some personal marriage stuff, got a bit philosophical as I defined work, vocation, calling etc. And now we're back to where we started this story.

Me, searching for an understanding of my vocation and specifically, vision in that vocation.

When we moved back to Canada in 2011 I was so gung-ho and determined to become a creative mompreneur.

In my desire to be a part of something, in my desire to do something "significant", in my desire to contribute financially to our household economy, in my desire to produce something other than children and meals, and in my desire to serve and help people outside my family, I started to turn homemaking and homeschooling into an entrepreurial venture.

In the same way we encourage our kids to experience new things, "just try it and see, you won't know until you try", I tried many things.

Sometimes I pushed against my natural inclinations, following expert advice and opinions that didn't feel quite right for me.

If I wanted to be successful I needed to advertise, publish on a schedule, market, build a platform, write bullet point posts, etc... I learned new skills, met new people, read marketing books, traveled to a blog conference, made partnerships and participated in collaborations.

Some of these felt like a good fit for me, and others didn’t.

I've learned that I don't identify as a business-woman, or an entrepreneur. As a writer, I don't like deadlines, and I generally don't need them to be motivated to accomplish tasks. I'm internally driven. I don't like the "give us your email, get a free gift" bait and hook marketing technique, or many other marketing techniques for that matter.

Over the years I've tried different ideas and some of them made me feel icky, others made me feel defective. When things didn't work for me I wondered, what's wrong with me? Why can't I embrace this technique or strategy?

Each of us arrive here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials. We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as experiencing our potentials.
~ Parker Palmer

Sometimes by pushing up against who we aren't we realize more clearly who we are. Sometimes we don't know if our aversion to something is because it truly doesn't line up with who we are or simply because we haven't tried it before. But one thing I know and believe to be true: you learn best through trial and error. And many of us don't like this reality, because we're afraid of failure, afraid of being wrong.

One of the things I've struggled with most in the past few years in working online is a lack of vision. Or I'd have a micro-vision, like a product I wanted to produce and for various reasons was not able to follow through on my ideas. Both circumstances were discouraging.

In 2013 I decided to invest my efforts into Damien's vision, together we embarked on the most ambitious work/life project I may ever do - thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and documenting it with a video series. That project required everything I had, and more.

I made the best decision I knew to make at the time; our family couldn't have done the trail without giving it everything we had. The problem, as I explained in a previous post, is that I wasn't walking as an equal partner in Damien's vision because I was deeply insecure and I was overwhelmed by the complexity, and all the unknowns (the ocean waves, to return to the ship metaphor). As I had come to do in our life in general, I relied more and more on Damien's leading. And not just his leading, but that he, personally, would make sure everything was alright. In my insecurity, not remembering the true source of my identity, I relied way too much on my relationship with Damien for my sense of identity and purpose, in life and in my work.

In the absence of my own strong vision for my work, in an absence of understanding and being at peace with my calling and vocation, and true self, I came to over-depend on Damien's vision, his perspective, and his skills.

I remember thinking specifically that Damien would be my secret sauce in this world of online work.

Average Sixes are frequently worried about the future. Because they have serious doubts about themselves and the world, they start to look for a "sure thing" that will guarantee their security - anything from a marriage to a job to a belief system to a network of friends to a self-help book.... Simply put, Sixes are seeking assurance and insurance, trying to hedge their bets. They feel that life is fraught with dangers and uncertainties so it must be approached with caution and limited expectations. Sixes have personal wishes and dreams, of course, by they are afraid to take actions that might undermine their security. They become more concerned with establishing and maintaining their safety nets than with pursuing their true goals and aspirations. ... With other people or with tradition behind them, they feel they have the backup they need to move ahead.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

There was a mental shift for me from a healthy dependence on "us" and the strength we get by mutually supporting each other to a dependence on Damien and his gifts, abilities, vision, and experience.

Following is not the problem. Leading is not the problem. It's not these actions that trip us up so much as the attitudes and motivations of our hearts.

The biggest problems for sixes is that they try to build safety in the environment without resolving their own emotional insecurities.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

This was not Damien's desire for our working relationship, that my support and buy-in would be driven by insecurity, that I would always be looking outside myself, and to him, for guidance, confidence, vision, firm ground, and an overall sense that everything would be ok. All of which only served to increase my insecurity and opened the floodgates to anxiety. And so it's no wonder that working together wasn't working for us.

The winter of 2015, we returned to our original division of labor, and I drew inward. I brought my world in as tight as I could. I didn't want to dream. I didn't want to look for vision. It was a time to rest from dreaming and scheming. It was a time to heal and find my center. I didn't want to figure out a post-homeschool career or a while-homeschooling-career. I didn't want to figure out what it looked like for me to work online.

I had a job, a calling, a mission right in front of me. A vocation I chose many years ago, to take care of our home and raise our children. Work that was satisfying, meaningful and fulfilling to me. And I had writing. This was enough. More than enough.

But it's lovely when you find someone at work who's doing exactly what they dreamed they should be doing and whose work is an expression of their inner gift. And in witnessing to that gift and bringing it out they actually provide an incredible service to us all. And I think you see that the gifts that are given to us as individuals are not for us alone, or for our own self-improvement, but they are actually for the community and to be offered.
~ John O'Donohue

I set my intention on home and healing (I called it Project Home & Healing) and I created a structure for that project, a way of framing the things I needed in my life at that time.

And I found healing, in making home and living in Montreal. I found healing in Christian community and friendship. I found healing in going to church. I found healing in Personal Retreat Days and morning mediation, CBT, and supplements. I found healing in reading good books and listening to thoughtful podcasts. I found healing in friendship with Damien. I found healing in being with my people. I found healing in Jesus.

When their minds become quiet, Sixes experience an inner spaciousness that is the Ground of Being. They realize that Essence is real and is not simply an idea; in fact, it is the thing that is most real in existence, the very foundation of existence itself. People have associated this inner peace with the presence of God, which is manifesting itself at every moment, and which is available at every moment. When (Renee) experiences this truth, (she) feels solid, steady, and supported, as if (she) were standing on a massive bed of granite. She realizes that this ground is the only real security in life, and it is what gives her immense courage.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

So much healing happened (Hallelujah!) in 2015 and through this year also. But one of the four parts of Project Home & Healing was to Craft a Vision, and that piece has remained elusive for me.

Last year I didn't even bother thinking about it because I wanted to build this vision from a solid foundation, but first of all I had to work on that foundation. I knew it had to be a vision for me, not for Us, but of course it had to fit into Us. And I wanted it to be a vocation-related vision.

This year I felt it was time to step back into online work to see if I could figure that out. I didn't have a clear vision but maybe vision is overrated, and it was more important to just "do stuff", or maybe I would find one through bumbling around. Hey, anything's possible, right?

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  • Tracy Alsterlund

    Tracy Alsterlund on Nov. 4, 2016, 6:54 p.m.

    I do hope that photography is part of your ever growing vision.  I am truly blessed by the color, light, texture, and beauty in how you capture God's creation.  It is almost like a healing prayer.  You writing resonates with me as I walk though mid life searching.  Perhaps it is okay to not get stuck in vision development and just do the next thing, trusting Jesus for vision development. 


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 4, 2016, 7:39 p.m.

      Tracy, It's like you're reading my next post :) 

      I don't see photography as a distinct entity in my vocational vision. But it's defintely part of my life, as part of my calling as a beauty seeker and celebrator. And thank you.


  • Julie Currier

    Julie Currier on Nov. 4, 2016, 7:07 p.m.

    As a newish blogger, I appreciate that you share your experience with the marketing side of it, etc. Right now I am just getting in the habit of writing, getting comfortable with the vulnerability of sharing my story, and finding my voice and I go slightly crazy if I start to think of "growing" it in the future. Maybe that will never be the purpose of it. :)

    I totally agree with the above comment about your photography, beautiful!

    Also, this mid-life thing, with mothering and homeschooling, calling and vocation. I don't even know, but when I read your words I am encouraged that at least I am not alone!


  • Beth

    Beth on Nov. 5, 2016, 12:07 a.m.

    Once again, thank you so much for sharing your story.  So much of your search for meaing and vocation resonates with me even though we've gone about it in different ways.  Five years ago I came to the realization that I wasn't happy/satisfied with my current career and I had to Do Something about it if I was going to be a happy person in the long term.* Not to mention the emotional baggage I was carrying around regarding sucess and earning potential.   I spent the next few years experimenting with different approaces to my current field before coming to the realization, about a year ago, that I needed to start working towards something completely different.  So I spent the past year focusing on that only to very recently come to the conclusion that I was working toward the wrong thing. A benefit of making very little money is you can continue to do so, and even decrease your earnings, without it making a significant impack.   Now I've made yet another dramatic shift and have actually started APPLYING FOR JOBS.  Which scares the crap out of me.  I've even had a fantastic, although terrifying and difficult, potential opportunity fall into my lap.  Something I never, ever would have dreamed possible a year ago.  As I've mentioned here previously, my husband recently lost his job so we've got some huge changes going on in our family.  If the opportunity for me pans out, this is going to be a huge shift in our family life as we move into the next phase.  I'm excited, and not worried about our interpersonal dynamics, but this is could be challenging.

    This got long but I want to let you know how much it means to me to read your story.  I know it doesn't seem like we're in the same place (other than a midlife crises!) but I've learned so much and been encouraged by your words.  Thank you, again!


    *This sense of clarity came after an intense two year project of decluttering our house. I didn't think our home was that terrible and cram packed but afterwards I realized how much the disorganization had been weighing on me.  But I Digress.


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