Lesson 7 from Bean by Liz Thorpe

7. We are all expecting. The question is: what? And, how are you experiencing that expectation?

I had a plan for how it would be when I left my job. It was a fuzzy plan, the way dreams can deliver complex narratives but the edges of things are all a little blurry. In my plan, the things I reached for would fall neatly into my hand. In my plan, I would transition seamlessly from That Thing to This New Thing.

It hasn't been that way.

The catch is, there wasn't a plan. I sort of knew that, but I also sort of thought it wouldn't matter. And it doesn't matter, insofar as the unfolding of what comes next is the plan I'm living. But there hasn't been a neat, clean, tidy Next Job for Equal or Greater Money that Delivers Equal or Greater Satisfaction/Pleasure/Accomplishment and rounds out a Life of Equal or Greater Delight. Instead, there's been a lot of sitting around wondering, "Huh. What comes next? Where does it come from? How will I know if it's the right Next New Thing?" And, how do I sit comfortably with that not knowing?

I was lamenting my lack of a work project for the dwindling weeks before Bean Arrived, and a friend said, "You're expecting." Not a baby. Or, not just a baby. You're in the process of expecting The Next Thing. Babies have a clock on their gestation. You expect them, and, roughly 40 weeks later, they arrive. My next work, and the person I will be then is still gestating. I don't know how long that gestation will take. Apparently, it will be more than 40 weeks, but then, when it comes out, it will be able to do much more than Bean, so extra time seems warranted.

The trick, of course, is in choosing how to experience that expectation. With Bean: it can be slow, uncomfortable, compromising, boring. It can also be: miraculous. Physically affirming. A grand excuse to learn about biology. A chance to better know my body and its intuitive, natural abilities.

Expecting The Next Thing, whatever that is, has a similar duality. It can be frustrating. Maddening. Undermining. Irrefutable evidence that I am ruining my life. Scary. Intimidating. Slow. Unclear. It can also be: a chance to see the possibilities differently. The chance to see different possibilities. An experiment in saying yes to what I want, and no to what I do not want. Wondrous. Proof that we get to invent who we are, as many times as we desire. Space.

We are all expecting. The question is what, and how?  We choose, we choose, we choose.

Lesson 6 from Bean by Liz Thorpe

6. Why can't not knowing be fun?

Not knowing everything, at every second, used to be par for the course. Why can’t it be a rare, delightful, crazy adventure? I can’t remember how, as a teenager,  I ever met a friend at the movie theater, or God forbid, a giant outdoor concert venue. How did we live before we could monitor what our exes ate for breakfast? Someone actually discovered the North Pole without the assistance of a ten-day forecast. Surprises, it seems, have become harbingers of the unfortunate, unexpected and otherwise unwanted life occurrences that we were unable to Google before leaving home in the morning. They’re evidence of life run amok, the things, despite our best and most fervent efforts, we’ve been unable to control.

I want a life where surprise is synonymous with the-really-awesome-party-your-friends-threw-for-you-without-your-input-money-or-time. Not learning whether Bean was a boy or a girl became nothing but a party. (And since my husband is an architect we knew the the décor and layette would all be taupe and grey anyway.)

Lesson 5 from Bean by Liz Thorpe

5. Don't be attached to the outcome. Be attached to what the path to the outcome shows you about who you are and what you desire.

I started thinking about this vis a vis labor but its universal applicability is far more significant. That baby. That experience. That relationship. That job opportunity. The right one will happen, and the one that doesn’t happen just wasn’t supposed to. It’s not because I did something wrong or he’s out to get me, it’s because it wasn’t ever going to happen. I didn't lose it. I never had it. And I wasn't supposed to.

What did happen, what is meant to keep, is what I realized mattered, along the way. I understand a little bit more of myself, what gratifies me, what brings me joy and that’s for keeps. So whether the baby is born under water to a chorus of angels or I have an emergency Caesarean section in the back of a taxi, I know what I want to feel like and I still control that.

While I was pretty sure the C-section by taxi wasn’t gonna happen, this one gave me a lot to mull on vis a vis new work projects. I "lost" two in two days. I'm also learned how to name my price without shame, and stick to it. Even when people walk away. And I'm telling myself that people who muck up my ideas of how it's supposed to go are there to remind me that it wasn't actually ever supposed to go that way.

Lessons 3 + 4 from Bean by Liz Thorpe

3. Just because you can’t see anything doesn’t mean there isn’t some major action happening inside.

Internal work, or more aptly, internal shifts are profoundly altering and often completely invisible. It's both frustrating and like a cool secret weapon. We’re set up to need a yardstick to measure progress by—I bought this, did that, earned another promotion. What’s the thing you can show other people as evidence of your forward momentum? Sometimes there isn’t one. That doesn’t minimize the huge importance of those seismic shifts. Just because you can’t see anything doesn’t mean there isn’t some major action happening inside. Like growing a person.

4. Trust your body (gut).

Nature makes another person without any input from you (exceptions being good food, water and enough sleep, and the obvious contributions that get the whole thing going). If it feels good, it’s fine. Better than that. If it feels good, it is good. Feeling good means unequivocally, including the next day or the next week, which is why getting really drunk doesn't qualify (you might like it while it's happening, but you almost certainly regret some aspect of it afterwards, whether it be a headache or that amorphous hollow feeling).

When I left my job, my gut knew far better than my head which decisions feel the best (in fact it was my body that talked us into leaving in the first place), which people resonate as trustworthy and which path is the most promising. Bear in mind, this is often oppositional to the decisions that are the most practical, the people who are the most connected and the path that is the most obvious.

When I listen to my gut and not my mind it always leads me in a direction that feels good, even when there's nothing outward to show for it.


Lessons from Bean by Liz Thorpe

When I got pregnant, having a baby seemed like the right thing to do, at the right time. The idea that one could decide to make an entirely whole other person and then just go do so seemed impossible. It had to be more complicated, laced with a bit of drama and heartache. Early evidence of a miscarriage suggested I was right.  Upon learning that, sometimes, we just bleed, I was forced to reconsider my default settings: negative; scared; wobbly; at risk.

That my pregnancy occurred simultaneously with my leave-taking from my badass, established cheese Dream Job meant several things. It meant I had the gift of time and space to focus on growing my baby. It also meant I was regularly battling those demons that so artfully remind me of all the ways I am tanking my own life and career.

I learned several lessons from my baby Bean (the Most Important Person I’d Never Met) that continue to serve me today. It took pregnancy for me to “get” them, but their value goes beyond any prescriptive role of Parent, Single Girl or, even, Woman.

1: Good things can actually be good. things.

There’s no inherent trick to this idea. Good things don’t have to be good with a sprinkling of bad. Stop looking for the problem—you’ll know when there is one.

When I met my husband I called my mother, concerned because I didn't fight with the man. She told me to call her when we did start fighting. I was so programmed for relationship strife that it genuinely hadn't occurred to me that the absence of conflict wasn't synonymous with indifference. It was actually...a much more pleasant way of living.

2: Not talking about something makes it seem less real/joyful/powerful.

If you talk about it are you going to jinx it? And, if something awful happened aren’t the very people you want to tell the same people you’d turn to for help or comfort?