New Beginnings, Anxiety, and the Plurality of Emotions

New Beginnings, Anxiety, and the Plurality of Emotions

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

Last Thursday, Valerie and I packed up our little Honda and, with the dog curled up at my feet beneath the passenger seat, ventured north.

Several hours and three ferry rides later, we arrived at our new home on our new island. Four friends were waiting for us in the road, holding a painted banner that read: “WELCOME HOME E&V!” With huge grins and full hearts, we drove under their banner and turned into our long driveway up to the cabin.

Not only is this the first time either of us has owned a home, it also marks the beginning of a new life–one that I hope will be centered around things like friendship, community, nature, freedom, and rootedness.

It’s funny. Writing this down, it all sounds so dreamy. It was/is very dreamy! But despite what was happening on the outside, my brain was awhirl with invasive thoughts all weekend: Am I putting my clothes away on the right shelves? Did I just accidentally offend that new acquaintance when I said that awkward thing? Is that vicious-sounding barking getting closer?

Moving is stressful and a certain amount of anxiety is to be expected. But I know that for me, anxiety is largely physiological. It’s related to low GABA, gut inflammation, autoimmunity…stuff like that. Stuff I’m working on. Anyway, I’m not looking for medical tips here. I wanted to fill you in on a major change in my life, and on something else that’s been getting more clear with each passing day:

It’s possible to do something you’ve been working toward, something that fills your heart with joy, and to still feel partially (or very) uneasy. Uneasiness and conflicting emotions don’t necessarily mean you’re on the wrong path. It’s possible feel multiple things at once: to feel overjoyed and terrified, loved and misunderstood, certain and wary.

As multipotentialites, we need to learn to be comfortable with nuance and complexity in our professional identities. But this is also a good practice in our emotional lives. We have to know that it’s okay to experience multiple—and sometimes contradictory—emotions at once.

We’re told to listen to our intuition, and that is good advice. But sometimes it’s unclear which voice is your intuition, which voice is resistance, which voice is something else entirely.

Sometimes you just need to move forward, try your best to ground yourself in the physical reality around you, and talk about how you’re feeling with a compassionate friend or community.

We’ve been here a few days now and the intrusive thoughts are subsiding. The ocean helps, and the all-day painting/dance parties are pretty cool too. I’m sure my unpleasant thoughts will be back. But as I write this, I’m feeling pretty happy. Or at least feeling more comfortable with the fact that I’m not 100% happy…or 100% anything.

Your Turn

Was there ever a time you had mixed emotions or experienced anxiety while doing something objectively (and subjectively) AWESOME?

Emilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is the author of How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up. Learn more about Emilie here.

37 Comments

  1. Maryske says:

    That house looks absolutely amazing!!!! Wow! I’m almost jealous – it’s the kind of house I’ve always dreamt of, but I sincerely doubt I’d ever be able to settle down (and with enough money) to get around to buy something like that.

    Which brings me to my second reaction upon reading this: Em, moving is a skill, just like any other skill. When you do it often enough, you get better and better (and less and less nervous) about it, until in the end you can do it practically in your sleep. Believe me, I’ve had loads of practice :-D

    It was this paragraph however for which I really did a double-take:
    “We’re told to listen to our intuition, and that is good advice. But sometimes it’s unclear which voice is your intuition, which voice is resistance, which voice is something else entirely.”

    I’d love to read any helpful thoughts on that, since it’s something I struggle with a lot. Any tips for posts here on puttylike?

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Maryske! I’ve done plenty of moving in my life, but this is the first time I’ve moved into a house that I own. Definitely feels way different. Point taken though.

      And I don’t think I’ve written about the intuition vs fear thing before, but now that I know there’s interest, I might write a post about it. :)

      • Jelena says:

        Hello girls,
        this is the first time I am entering a conversation here, but I have been reading you from Europe ever since I listened to your TED Talk, Emilie, that was so mind-opening.
        Now you touch two subjects that trigger me: intuition vs. fear and changing places (moving) that brings mixed feelings even when it is what we’ve been waiting for since a long time.

        As for the first one, it was a subject that I started thinking of while handling my deception after the last presidential elections in France : an extreme left party’s candidate that was proposing a radical change finished 4th. People had difficulties accepting, especially in politics, what seemed to be an all-or-nothing guy, close to his emotions. I discussed it with those who refused to vote for him, saying he was too vulgar, cheeky, even though they liked his party’s program. They were persuaded that they acted out of intuition. Obviously it touched a point somewhere in their belly, but I believe it had more to do with fear, fear of radical change, fear of strong, unformatted individuals, than with gut feeling. I found an article that deals with a question and that helped me distinguish the two : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rosalie-puiman/your-gut-feeling-fear-or-_b_6667194.html

        The moving is the topic I am dealing with at this very moment. This is my 4th moving in 7 years, far more than I was ready to bare : the first one was extremely stressful because I discovered our new home, that we had just acquired – for the first time in our life!, was hiding some unpleasant defaults. I felt cheated! But than I let go, and spent months making it a good home for us and it was almost like building it. Then only 3 years later, I accepted to move abroad to follow my beloved one and his career plans. For the next 2-3 years I concentrated on kids, while finishing my art therapy degree, and it took me 3 years to express that I needed to go back to our first home. I didn’t find a place for myself in that new context, and during that time, I never stopped asking myself is it my intuition or fear of new (but not genuinely wanted!!!) that kept me from adapting in the new society. Now I am finally going back. I have been (im)patiently waiting for a year to start putting that decision into action. And although most of the time I know it is the right decision for me, and for our family, the intrusive thoughts are sometimes making me feel uncomfortable. That is fear, I am quite sure, fear of some very concrete, known things that I will be handling back there. But also a natural reaction after taking decisions, making choices, knowing that one possibility is closing, and not being sure about what is coming. For me, the fear provoked from risk-taking is a “nice” fear, a fear that goes away quite easily, whenever I connect with my inner resources, or when I relate to people who I feel connected to, all that confirming, in return, my intuition.

    • Cherish says:

      1I love it! Thanks for sharing and congratulations You are such an inspiration and I’m so happy for you both E & V.

  2. Jenn P says:

    Your new home is adorable! New adventures and big decisions are really daunting for me as well. I recently told a friend that I wouldn’t know when my gut said it was the right time to jump into RV living because my fears will be screaming louder. I’m working on that, ha. Also, I can relate with the physiological issues linked to the emotional. I used to have crippling social anxiety, I couldn’t even order carryout on the phone, but figuring out my AI and working on the diet to reduce inflammation has helped a ton.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Jenn,

      Funny enough, I lived in a tiny travel trailer for about 5 months a few years ago. It was great fun, though not without its challenges. Maybe you could take some baby steps. Rent/borrow an RV, live in an RV for a summer? Something like that?

      But yeah, the intuition/fear thing is really hard. If something’s really important to us, we usually experience a ton of fear. Easy to confuse that fear with a sense that something is a bad idea.

      And diet is huge for me, too. :)

  3. Sarah says:

    Is that the cabin?? Ahh, it’s adorable!!

    And, okay, I was LITERALLY just thinking about this. And posting and asking questions about it in a couple places. My recent trip was GREAT and I absolutely made the right decision to go… but there was a part of myself that was convinced there was NO WAY I had actually been brave enough to do this. I know everyone gets a little “wow, I can’t believe I’m here!” while traveling, but mine was more like a jolting panicked spasm that happened rather often during the first few days – “wait, I can’t REALLY be here. Am I dreaming? Insane??” I don’t know many grounding techniques, so it was difficult! (Now that I’m home, that part sometimes tries to convince me I never went! Ugh, give it a rest!)

    Story time! I had the opportunity to spend time in a really old building while I was there. The surrounding countryside was BEAUTIFUL. I had looked it all up online beforehand, but it was still surprising and wonderful when I went – I started crying as soon as I walked in. BUT, because it was so old, there on the wall was a rather alarming amount of green mildew/mold/moss. I tried to ignore it and focus on the good stuff, but I couldn’t – I have allergies and a bit of asthma, and here I was alone in this isolated building with I-didn’t-know-WHAT on the walls. I started frantically googling different types of molds on my phone. I put my asthma inhaler in my pocket (even though I never need it unless I get pneumonia or something). I was even half-convinced that my breathing was getting shorter. It was a rather miserable mix of fear and joy. I didn’t run out screaming, though. I did go outside into that beautiful scenery again, and ate a little picnic out there in the open. A local stopped by and we chatted, and he said that the green stuff had been there for years and not bothered anyway. PHEW. I still didn’t touch it or anything, but I felt MUCH calmer. I ended up enjoying my stay a lot. :) And I didn’t die! ;)

    I’m not sure I’ve ever had a whole day where I’m just one emotion or another! They all mix, all alternate. If I’m afraid, the best days are when I can calmly stare that fear in the face and go “are you done now? No? Well, buckle in tight, because we’re still going to do the thing anyway.” ;)

    Great post! Would love to see more pictures of your new place if you’re ever so inclined – it looks so cute! :)

    • Emilie says:

      Sarah,

      Thanks so much for your story. I can totally relate. I have celiac and other dietary restrictions and there are times when I’m going to be going out to eat and I worry so much about what I’ll be able to eat, having to ask/inconvenience the server, etc. Or if someone comes over to my house and brings bread, even just to eat themselves, I inevitably end up worrying about crumbs and watching extra closely (without being too obvious/annoying). Ugh. It sucks.

      Anyway, I’m glad you survived the green grossness! And congrats on a real-but-awesome trip.

  4. Monica says:

    Have I ever experienced a time like this? YES. Right now. Haha. I’m currently traveling in Seattle for the first time, and in the days leading up to my trip, I fluctuated between nervousness and extreme excitement. Once I landed, any anxiousness disappeared, but I’m on day 3 of 4 and it’s here again. Strong. Mornings and meals seem to be when I struggle the most.
    But reading this has caused me to stop and reflect. I’ve been missing out on quiet time and reflections in the mornings since I’ve been on this trip. It’s a good reminder for me that self care is always important. But like you said, conflicting emotions are also simply part of life.

    Thanks for posting! Super timely for me!

    • Emilie says:

      Monica,

      I think you hit on something really important. Self care and personal/daily rituals can be super helpful to bring with along us when we change scenery. Of course, they’re also the things that tend to fall away when we’re stressed out or busy. But yeah, maybe taking a bit of time in the morning would help with your anxiety. I should do that, too… get back to my morning meditation. Thanks. :)

  5. Terri says:

    Yup, been there. I can create wonderful ideas and plans in my head, and then I stumble and hesitate when it comes to taking action. Hmmm, I want the result but have problems with the process.Example, there are sewing projects swirling around in my head and all the tools, equipment, the means are in a room upstairs. Anxiety about ???

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah, that sounds like classic resistance to me. Have you read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield? I found it really interesting. It might also help if you found an accountability buddy to set some small action steps/deadlines with and report back to. I meet with a mastermind group every other week and it has been really motivating.

  6. Beautifully articulated Emilie. I’ve been finding recently that usually the most exciting/happy-making things are also the most terrifying and that’s okay. I think we’re often taught that good emotions are something we can/should try to hang onto for as long as possible, and that there’s a good/bad emotions dichotomy. In reality I find emotions are much more like passing clouds, there one minute and gone the next, and that it’s okay if we were really happy and then suddenly we’re anxious. It’s all part of being human!

    You’re new cabin looks stunning, congrats on being a homeowner. I also love the values you mention: friendship, community, nature, freedom, and rootedness. Perfect :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Ellen,

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

      “I think we’re often taught that good emotions are something we can/should try to hang onto for as long as possible, and that there’s a good/bad emotions dichotomy.”

      Yes! Beautifully said. :)

  7. Michele FitzGerald says:

    Congratulations. I am feeling exactly that way now concerning a relocation of my own. Everything has fallen together beautifully to make the transition and I believe it is the right thing. Nonetheless I am scared/happy with a mix of contradictory emotions and thoughts as if stepping into the unknown. I am becoming aware minute by minute of probable answers to what feels like a paradox, my potential manifests before me and for me as reality, I observe it and walk right into it. Having lived a life of a “multipotentialite” several decades before being labeled as one, a linear life with all its predestined steps, known expectations, and projected outcomes have never defined my life experience. Sometimes the dots of unseemly connections created by being a MP are made and it can be a new and beautiful experience, creating new awareness where emotions used to be, I think.

  8. Cameron says:

    Hi Emile
    I first watched your Ted Talk and as a fellow multipotentialite there was instant connectedness.
    Tips to enjoy your new cool pad. Stay present and be grateful for the place you have and the opportunity to share it. Something I try to do everyday.
    As for the moving anxiety..I know that well.. Many moves in my life and now I compare it to ripping off a Band-aid, lets get it over with! What you are experiencing is “the change factor” as you mentioned intuition is the strongest to follow and the easiest to resist. The best way to silence those rationale thoughts is to look around you and appreciate what you see. “Say it out loud, don’t just think it”. Keep going! You have great people online and in your life that wish you Congratulations!!!

  9. Kunal says:

    This is exactly what I was looking out today. So here’s some background story:
    I recently got admitted to a postgraduate program in Liberal Arts and I was really excited for it from the day I applied. I was thinking about it all the time and How it can help groom the multipotentialite in me. But as the program start date is getting nearer, I have started getting worried and scared. Whether I will be a good fit there? Will I be able to cope up with the course? What will happen, once I complete the course? Will I be able to find a good job? I have never thought over these questions before and they have made me anxious and depressed. I talked to few of my friends and they said to think about the factors for which I applied at the first place. That helped me in the beginning but then it made things worst. I have been getting mixed feelings from last 2 days. At one movement, I think how good the course is and at other, I think it is not for me.

    But as you said, “We have to know that it’s okay to experience multiple—and sometimes contradictory—emotions at once” and “sometimes we just need to move forward.” This made my day. Now I am feeling much more positive and looking forward to the course. I hope that mixed emotion doesn’t come back because if it does I know which link I need to go to.
    Thank You, Emilie.

    • Emilie says:

      Kunal,

      I’ve felt this way about school before, too. Give it some time. I think it’s really easy to get freaked out by mixed emotions and pull the plug prematurely, but some things just take time. And you haven’t even started yet. If a few months or a year into the course, you’re still unsure, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate. But yeah. For now I’d say everything you’re experiencing is quite normal.

  10. Sherri says:

    HI Emillie and welcome to Canada!

    I too, just bought my ‘dream come true’ cabin and small piece of land to ideally offer nature and home like space to practitioners /workshops/ airbnb. What I didn’t count on was how long a renovation would take – 8 months later and still going – it has been horrendous to be honest. I have totally lost any care about the dream, and just want to go back to a semblance of myself. I left a really great home that I cherished for this… and WTH was I thinking?? :)

    So, from one adventurer to another, congratulations on a bold move. My cabin is a 1923 original and has so many quirky features. If you are ever heading to Banff, Calgary, I live in Bragg Creek and you and your partner are welcome! In fact, here’s an idea – I’ll host a book signing for you! I have a decent sized mailing list and would love to help a fellow MP out!

    Cheers,
    Sherri

    • Emilie says:

      Oy. Sorry about the house grief. I’ve heard that can happen. The dark side of homeownership I suppose. :) Hopefully in the long run it’ll be worth it!

      And thanks for the offer! I’ll let you know if I’m ever heading up that way. :)

  11. Morgan Siem says:

    Wow, Emilie what a dream home! I’m so proud of you and happy for you. Yes, this post resonates. I am learning to differentiate the other in my stomach which means “abort mission / red flag!” vs the pit in my stomach that signals how much I really care about a thing and want it. I have learned that if there’s not some uneasiness attached to a new venture, then I probably don’t care enough about it or I’m just playing it safe. Congrats on the move!

  12. Natalie says:

    “We’re told to listen to our intuition, and that is good advice. But sometimes it’s unclear which voice is your intuition, which voice is resistance, which voice is something else entirely.” Yesss! I’m with you on that one. I’m struggling at the moment with a few things and my anxious thoughts just get a bit overwhelming sometimes but I find praying and reading my Bible helps me focus on the promises of God and the truth that I am loved no matter what.

    Thank you for your honest and open writing Emilie (and the encouragement it brings to many of us). The house looks great and I hope you and Valerie have a wonderful time re-decorating and living in that space. Breathe Deep.

  13. Chris says:

    Hi Emilie,
    This post is well-timed for me, as I’ve been struggling with this problem on multiple levels acutely for the past 2 months. I’m at a major inflection point in my career and debatably other parts of my life– it’s clear I don’t want to continue down the path (as a faculty member in higher ed) that I had been going down, I’m waiting to hear about the results of an interview for a new job I had last week, and either way that goes I’ll have hard decisions to make about the arrangement and relationships between different parts of my life. As I sit in front of my computer I’m finding it hard to work on anything, since the only thing definite is that change is coming/needed and I don’t know what shape that will take, or even for sure what I want it to take. Scary stuff.

  14. Caro says:

    Hi, lovely home! Hurrah for painting and dance and cabins!

    I’m currently feeling like that – I think I spend most of my life feeling like that – now, it’s because I’ve launched my own thing which fits well with my need of constantly starting new things (I work w different weird and wonderful brands on social media).
    But, I keep debating if I should be doing something else. Like finally starting that blog that’s been on the back of my head for the past 3 years, or if I should start drawing again, or if…. you get the gist.
    And then I go into a bad trip of comparing myself to others – which are generally people I admire.
    And I also confuse intuition voice with every other thought in my head.

    Ok. Rant over. I was glad to read this and just to know I’m not the only one.

    Caro

  15. Alex J Brown says:

    YES. RIGHT NOW. I feel like I’m in this place where I know it’s time for a (big) change in my life and career, and that knowledge feels empowering, but the idea of leaving a job that I know (in spite of the fact that it’s not right for me) for something unknown brings SO MANY FEELINGS. There’s hope and joy, followed by waves of dread and uncertainty. This rings super true for me. Thank you, and congrats on your new adventure.

    http://www.ajbrowncreative.com

  16. Tiia says:

    Cute place! Looks like it’s secluded enough, but must have the good stuff, like Internet! Is it on Vancouver Island? My dad lived there for a while, he found it overcast and depressing, but my grandma loved it there very much, the warmer weather allows for more flowers!
    I’d love a place like that.

  17. Colleen says:

    Love your new place. It reminds me of some of the cabins my ex and I stayed in when we were younger and lived in Minnesota. We’d go up north when ever we could. It was like a whole new world, going to northern Minnesota, as I’m sure it is for you at your new home and environment.

    As far as the fear and intuition, I kind of feel that the fear may have to do with all the changes you both will be going through in a totally new place. It’s only normal to feel that way when we go on a totally new adventure like you’ve done. I bet once you get settled, I’m sure you’ll be able to become centered and really be able to tune into your intuition without a second thought. You’ll probably lose a lot of the fear as well.

    Many blessings to both of you on this new journey…
    Colleen

  18. Pamela Slim says:

    That house is the cutest ever!!!!

    I totally get the being sad/anxious even when things appear awesome.

    Great post!

    Hugs,

    -P

  19. Ro says:

    Hello!

    I just found you right now! Some days a go I told my husband that I am embaressed of my resume because it includes many activities that are not coherent(not to mention I still excluded many of them)… and it had made me find myself in the middle of a life crisis because of lack of professional identity.. but listening to your TED talk made me feel much better…

    Thanks

  20. Sankalp Bhardwaj says:

    Hi Emilie,
    Regards and wishes for your coming future!!

  21. Greg says:

    Congrats on the new place Emilie!

    It looks super cute, cozy, quiet and private (think of the rock band rehearsals you could have in there- no neighbors to bother :-) I don’t like to be a jealous person, but I will say in this instance that I am! Change and new scenarios can be challenging, but it looks like you’ve found a lovely nest for yourselves. I hope to be a home-owning, multipotentialite someday too!

  22. Peter says:

    Hi Emilie

    Welcome to the neighborhood!
    We love your new home – we have rented it a number of times in the past.
    Seems I might be a multipotentialite – who knew!

    Peter & Mary-Jo.
    Your new neighbors – three doors up.

  23. steph says:

    oh my! that describes so precisely my feelings right now!
    Thanks Emilie for always having a post reminding me I’m not totally downright crazy ;-)

    PS. I love your new place! :D

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