Gut Instinct

I constantly see articles, blog posts, quotations and books telling me to trust my gut instinct.  But what happens when my gut instinct gets it wrong?  Yes, that’s right.  Wrong.  Everything told me I was on the right path, my heart was completely at peace with the direction my life was heading in.  I had big plans, that felt completely right.  Not a doubt.

Some years ago I worked in jobs where relying on my gut instinct was sometimes the only way to know that what I was doing was right.  The job focused around people in need of money and food.  I had to be able to spot inconsistencies in the story clients were putting to me, and I got pretty good at it.  But very often it came down to gut instinct.  Did I believe what this client was telling me?  Was the need they were putting across to me genuine?  Over the years I got pretty good at it, and I learnt to trust my instincts.  No doubt there were occasions when I got it wrong, but mostly I was right on the mark.

A few years on and I was in another job.  I had a man in his fifties working for me.  He was the nicest person.  Everyone thought so, and he did an excellent job both with clients and with helping other staff.  My gut instinct told me that this was a good person and he became someone who I trusted to look after the department when I wasn’t there.

I was eventually made redundant from that position and so left the company, but some years on it was discovered that this lovely person had been systematically defrauding the company while he was working for me.  I never suspected a thing. No one did.  He’s now serving out his time in prison.  My gut instinct didn’t pick it up.  Okay, so I’m human like the rest of us, but how can it be that you can be so sure you’ve made a good decision about someone, but you get it wrong?

You will have guessed by now that I like quotations.  I love getting nuggets of wisdom from people who have gone before us.  So often I conclude that even with time, life really doesn’t change that much.

My favourite quote is one I have used here before:

“Come to the edge”, he said. We are afraid. “Come to the edge”, he said. They came. He pushed them, And they flew…”

-Guillaume Apollinaire

So often when we are facing something new or just different, we need a push.  All going well, we get that push and we fly.  We soar.  And we’re glad we took that step off the edge.

This year I was facing something new, and my heart and my gut told me that what I was doing was absolutely right for me.  It was huge, and it wasn’t that I was without fear.  Fear is just natural when we face something new.  But in spite of what seemed to be just normal fear, I was totally sure of what I was doing.  There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.

So I came to the edge, and as I took off from the edge, I started to fly.  I thought I had listened to my gut instinct correctly and I was happy.  Actually I was more happy than I had been for years.  But then the flying faltered, and I went…     splat….     there was no more flying but instead I had crashed at the bottom of the cliff.

I very quickly discovered that my gut instinct had got it wrong.  This wasn’t a moment of flight, but instead I found myself scraping myself off the rocks, looking at my wounds and wondering how the heck had I got it so wrong?

This post isn’t about feeling sorry for myself.  The wounds are still there, but I will survive.  This post is about making sense of what happened and asking myself, what happens when gut instinct gets it wrong?  It’s not like I was in denial of real doubts.  And it’s not like I hadn’t put a whole lot of thought into what I was planning.  My gut instinct told me that I was doing the right thing for me.  I was completely committed to what was ahead.  This was right for me.

I’ve been mulling this post over in my mind for several weeks now.  I didn’t want to write it until I had an answer for myself.  I wanted that hope of understanding, but to be honest I’m still stumped by this.  Every time I see something telling my just my gut feeling, I am left with the thought ‘but I’ve proven that I can’t trust my gut feeling‘.  How do I trust my gut feeling, when it gets it wrong?

Maybe for some reason I just had to go through what this path has taken me through.  Again, I don’t know.  I’m sure there would be an easier way to learn a lesson.  I personally don’t believe that everything happens for a reason.   I believe that some things are too awful for some divine power to put us through.  Don’t try and tell me that innocent people have died in Syria in past weeks for some divine reason.  I don’t buy it.  I’m not saying that what I have been through is in that category, but I’m also not prepared to say that what I have been though was all for some unknown reason.

None of the books, articles, blog posts tell me what to make if my gut instinct getting it wrong.  I don’t know the answer.  I just have to keep treating those wounds, keep taking one step at a time.  As for leaping off cliffs?  I think I’ll pass on that for now.

“Deep down within the heart there is a stillness which is healing, a trust in the universal laws which is unwavering, and a strength which is rock-like. But because it is so deep we need both patience and perseverance when digging for it.” 

― Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton

…And She Flew

Image credit: whakaangi.co.nz.
Image credit: whakaangi.co.nz
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Remember the kiwi? It’s not a piece of fruit (that’s a kiwifruit) but a small, flightless bird. Our national icon here in New Zealand, s/he lives in the undergrowth of the New Zealand bush doing all s/he can to avoid predators. S/he is an endangered species, and that must be hard when you’re a bird… and you can’t fly. What’s more, as someone pointed out to me recently, s/he also can’t swim. Actually it’s amazing s/he has survived, against the odds, for so long.

According to the Department of Conservation, who work to protect this, and other natural treasures here in New Zealand, there are only about 72,000 of these birds left.  Actually that’s not many, and you won’t see them easily when you come here as they are also nocturnal birds.

Even if you’re not from New Zealand, it’s hard not to be taken with the kiwi.  A bird that can not fly, that hangs out in the dark, and apart from an impressive looking beak, does not have much with which to defend itself.

The kiwi (bird) is where some 4.5 million New Zealanders take their name.  We are also known as kiwis, and personally I’m honoured to be represented by such a bird who faces the odds, time and time again.  That kiwi (the bird) can not fly… but this kiwi (me) is going to fly.

“Come to the edge”, he said.  We are afraid. 

“Come to the edge”, he said. 

They came.  He pushed them, And they flew…”

   – Guillaume Apollinaire    

My favourite quote (above) reminds me that sometimes, even when we are scared, we need to fly.  We have to take a (hopefully somewhat measured) risk and leap into the unknown.  And there we fly…

In five weeks, I am going to get on a plane (actually several) and fly half way around the planet to be with someone I love.  Standing on the edge, there are risks, but I’ve measured them and believe they are worth it.  Aside from the risk of flying half way around the planet to be with someone I haven’t met in person before, I also have to face 31 hours of travelling time.  Yes, that’s right.  31 hours.  That includes stops in Sydney, Bangkok and Dubai before I get to my destination in England.  And that is the shortest possible trip I could afford.

31 hours of sitting on planes, and passing time in airports is not exactly many people’s idea of fun.  The most I have ever done is 15 hours and that was hard enough.  Now I am doubling that, and have to factor into the equation my fibromyalgia.

Anyone with fibro, or probably any type of chronic pain, will be wincing at the idea of this.  It is a huge undertaking when sitting for any extended length of time will see my body seize but, and walking through airports and waiting in lines will see the fatigue set in.  This is not going to be easy, or even pleasant.  But that has been part of the weighing up the risks for me.  I expect by the time I get to England I will be half dead, but it’s worth it.  I have no doubt of that.

I have done my homework on what I should expect of my body but  I admit I haven’t yet considered too closely what my brain function might be like by the end of this.  Will I be able to think straight?  Unlikely but Frank knows to expect a wreck off the plane.  If anything can test our commitment to each other it will be the state of me after that 31 hours.  While it would be nice to think I’ll be looking my best, I know I won’t be.  That’s just how it is.  Sometimes that’s life.

The difficulty with fibro is that I really can’t accurately predict how I will be.  I know sitting immobile is a factor, as is the difficulty of sleeping over that time.  I would love to have one of those seats where you can lie down properly to sleep, but they were way too expensive.  I also know walking long walkways in airports might be difficult.  But I might handle it all really well.  Let’s hope.

Meantime I did some reading.  7 Keys to Savvy Traveling with Fibromyalgia by Tami Stackelhouse, a Fibromyalgia Health Coach provided some interesting food for thought.  Some of it I admit I struggled with though.

One of the first ideas suggested was to use wheelchair assistance in airports.  Hmm.  It might be a good idea, because usually there is a lot of walking in airports, but I’m not ready to face a wheelchair just yet.  I’m struggling enough with hope right now (see Fatigued Hope), without going that far.  Maybe that’s pride, maybe it’s stupidity, and maybe it’s maintaining some sense of self-empowerment.  I think  I need that right now.

What I need from my blogging friends is to hear what works for you.  Have you travelled long distance with fibro?  What did you do to make this as easy, and preferable pain-free, as possible?  And if I wake the morning of departure to a fibro flare, how would I be best to manage that?

I am going to step to the edge, and fly (unlike the kiwi).  Whatever the pain, I know this is worth it.  But anything I can do to lessen that pain, would just make damn good sense.

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” 

―    Mary Anne Radmacher