Life and death outside my bedroom window

Every morning I wake up and watch life and death outside my bedroom window. We have two beehives perched on the roof of a first floor sunroom. As I watch the hive come alive with the morning sun, most of the bees begin their very full workday, zipping in and out, hovering as they await return entry. But a few of the bees have a different task: Their job is to pull the dead and dying out of the hive and deposit them on the roof, where some lay lifeless and others tremble with their last breaths.

Photo by Lars Nelson

Right next to the hives, a telephone wire runs from my house to my neighbor’s oak tree. There’s this one robin that spends a good part of its day playing on the wire—she’s just arrived now as I write. To keep her balance, this little bird alternately tosses her head and flips her tail. She flips her tail so lasciviously that for a while we thought it was some sort of mating dance. But it isn’t. It’s just the joy she experiences in being out of balance.

So, does trembling feel like dying or bliss? I don’t ask this question lightly. It’s the name we give to the time between walking out and walking on, and like me, many of my fellow Walk Outs find themselves lost in this nebulous space. When we walk out, we leave behind that which is familiar. We no longer belong to this workplace, profession, community, relationship. We are willing to abandon our beliefs about what we thought mattered most—and to open ourselves to new beliefs that will bring greater authenticity and generosity into our lives.

As soon as we walk out, however, we are confronted with the discomfort of groundlessness. A friend of mine recently emailed me about his decision to leave a job and place that he loved because he knew he could no longer grow there. “Of course my choice to walk out makes me tremble,” he wrote. “There is regret for giving up what could have been, there are the butterflies in the belly that come as I now gaze to the beautiful but unknown expanse of the horizon in front of me.” For some of us, these butterflies are so uncomfortable that we feel like dying. We race to the next new thing, hoping to claim to our ground as soon as possible so we don’t have to bear this unsettling space in between. But the risk of walking on too soon is that we’ll walk right back into the world of the familiar, returning to the same limiting beliefs we once yearned to walk out of.

What would it be like to embrace the trembling as joyfully as a robin balancing on a wire? To remember those butterflies in the belly that used to delight us as children, when we skittered across a balance beam or leaped over river rocks, loving the risk itself?

My friend continued in his message, “I trust that life will now open new doors if I am calm enough to pay attention and act when they come. To wait for the right wave and not paddle too soon.” Uncertainty and anticipation can be a source of vitality when we allow it to fill our hearts with dreams and possibilities—or it can deplete us when we focus on our fears.

I am living in my own state of trembling right now. In the last 18 months, I have walked out of a job and a home; I have released a whole series of beliefs about how I thought my life would be. I am experimenting with new work, new community, new companionship and a new worldview about relationship—and I have no idea where any of this is going. Sometimes I do feel like the dying bee, dragged out of my comfortable home to shake and shudder under a hot sun. But most of the time, I feel like the robin, flipping my tail at the world and dancing on a wire.