This is about living in the unknown. For as long as I’ve been coaching people I have had to field their questions about what will happen next. We can make up stories about what we think will happen. What we want to happen. What we hope will happen. But we cannot possibly know.
Which leads us to:
Step 8: Learn to live in the Fertile Void
Say you’re going to plant a garden. You map out a plot of land. You till the soil, prepare it for planting. You make your rows and neatly put your seeds or seedlings in the ground. Then you wait. Depending on what you plant, it could take weeks or even longer before anything shows up.
If you get anxious and start digging around to see if the seeds are growing, you will destroy all the little root hairs that are starting to form. Then your garden is ruined and you have to start over or give up. So instead, you wait, but waiting doesn’t guarantee that what you thought you planted will show up in the way you thought it would! The seeds could have been mixed up. You might end up with purple flowers when you thought you planted red ones!
That is the Fertile Void.
Your life is similar to that garden. You have great ideas, hopes and dreams. You plant seeds to bring them to fruition. And sometimes it gets very frustrating to wait until you see results.
In Step 7 I talked about Proactive Waiting. For me, that is the only way to manage living in the Fertile Void, however, something needs to be added: Trust.
Not knowing and not going crazy requires trust. People get that sense of trust in many ways: trusting God; trusting the Universe; religious beliefs; having faith in others — all engender a sense of trust that things will turn out well. I think the most important place is within ourselves, learning to trust our inner voice.
Up until a few months ago I was raising a teenager. It was something that sort of landed in my lap, and I embraced the challenge fully for about 4 years. This situation stopped working for various reasons last winter and by the end of March, she determined that she was not going to stay with me. At 15, I felt she had the right to make that choice, so I didn’t fight it.
I had bought a fairly large house to be able to take care of her and her brother at the end of 2014, once we decided to leave the home of her grandfather where we had lived most of that year. Her brother decided to live somewhere else (he was already 15 by then) so she and I moved together. It really worked for a while. We added a housemate and created a sort of family. It fell apart in 2017 when the housemate got pregnant and I told her I didn’t want to help raise a baby, so she moved out. The girl and I lasted another 7 months together, but the relationship deteriorated because she wanted no rules and I wasn’t going to accept that.
Now I’m in a big house, living in the up and down cycle of one day deciding to sell it and find a smaller place and the next day really liking my space and thinking I could live here for years. I’ve fixed this house just the way that works for me. But is that the reason to stay here? I just don’t know! Part of my difficulty in deciding is that I know deep inside I am still healing from the pain of trying so hard to do the right thing for this girl and for her to walk away from it. I need time to process what happened.
I’m in the Fertile Void. I know that until I really know that this isn’t the time to decide anything. My house is paid for, so all I have is my upkeep. I have help for that, so there is no urgent reason to decide anything. I’m practicing the art of Proactive Waiting while I’m in the Fertile Void…. and trusting that once I know what to do, I will be able to act on it.
People from around the world have caught on to the idea of Great Girls Network. They want to start a group. I love the idea, and I can imagine an international organization. But I’m not ready to do it.
I’m still healing from the changes of the last few months. I am rebuilding my identity from parent to free woman. I have nothing to tie me to one place except my commitment to the GGN group, and I love holding our Track meetings 3 weeks a month. I love my friends here, I love all the new people I’m meeting from our Great Girls Network.
I’m trusting that time is on my side, that as I transform myself, I will understand what next steps are. I am getting help from the women who are also committed to grow our group, and feel like we will learn as we go what works and what doesn’t work. I call it growing organically. I believe in us. I feel we are growing, I’m just not sure the exact form we will become. Chapters around the world? People who can commit to forming groups? Available spaces? So many unknowns!
So, GGN is in the Fertile Void. I know we’re on to something here. I feel the power of connection at each Track meeting, each large gathering. And others are feeling it too. We have a core group of committed women. It actually feels exciting not to know what is coming because we’re on a journey of discovery together. Fun!
For me, the Fertile Void is one of the most important stages of personal development. The two small examples I used are the simplest way I can explain it, but I encourage whoever is reading this to let go of needing to know and embrace not knowing. It is a lesson I learned from reading and working with Angeles Arrien, a cross-cultural anthropologist who wrote The Four-Fold Way. In it she explains the 4 basic archetypes of the human character from a feminine perspective. In the Teacher chapter she delves into the propensity of humans to need to know and how it can be an addiction that gets in the way of meaningful growth. I highly recommend her book.
I’m so grateful to Angeles and all the experiences that have led me to appreciate the Fertile Void.