Living on the Edges

One of the many things that I connect with in permaculture, is that ‘edges are where the action is’. I have spent my whole life living on the edge, never quite fitting in. Is it possible that this could be the right place to settle? Learn to feel good, unleash my creativity and achieve more impact than if I jumped either way?

By Gudrun Cartwright

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This is both an exciting and a terrifying prospect. If the potential is so huge, living my own truth by learning to harness energy from surfing edges feels right. It is so easy to stay safe, even if it jars with who you want to be. In my case, I have a great job. I lead environmental programmes at a charity that engage businesses in building healthy communities. I enjoy my work and have great opportunities to influence senior leaders. I also get to develop practical projects that make a difference on the ground. I have been there for 10 years, earn a good salary, have almost 8 weeks paid holiday, a pension and love the people that I work with. Many would say that I am fortunate (which I am) and I should appreciate what I have and get on with the job.

But in the back of my mind, I cannot help thinking that it isn’t enough. That my true calling lies elsewhere. That what I am doing is maintaining the status quo, rather than challenging it. Keeping us on autopilot towards a crash course with social and environmental limits. I feel that I am missing my true calling and time is running out. Do I need to change direction?

At a visceral level, I want to be part of creating something new. Building from the bottom up and becoming part of a network of changemakers. Reconnecting with nature and her laws. Making a contribution that resonates with my heart and soul, as well as my head.

And then my sensible side kicks in. As the oldest (recovering!) girl from an evangelical Christian family, my sense of responsibility and duty is strong. I look at the dimensions of ‘the great turning’ and feel I should be part of the ‘holding actions’. Reduce the damage of our current system. Prod at the conscience of current leaders. Use my position of privilege to influence to the best of my ability. But this feels to me that, as when I was young, I am visiting elderly neighbours, while my friends go out and have fun. What I want is to be part of building the new, creating, connecting and catalysing change. Enabling communities to build real abundance and resilience from the bottom up. To be independent. To be an entrepreneur in a community of likeminded people. Making enough to live well and channelling resources to the greater good.

Thinking about the possibilities makes me feel so alive. But, sensible me intervenes again. You have responsibilities. How will you pay the mortgage? How will you manage your other obligations? How will you live? You can’t make a reliable income like that! Indeed, I have tried before and failed, so my fear is born of experience. Even though the rational me knows that only through that failure have I come to where I am today. And everything is alright.

So here I sit, mired in indecision. Feeling like I want to make a leap, but terrified that if I do, I will lose it all again. 20 years later, it feels like it will be so much harder to bounce back. But, also knowing that if I don’t, I will always wonder. That nagging feeling that my potential could so much greater out there than in here.

Which brings me back to where I started. I live on the edge. One foot in our modern, noisy world of more, more, more. Consumption, degradation, exploitation and greed. Attempting to slow it down, make it better. The other studying permaculture. Wanting to plough my own furrow. Be part of building something new from the bottom up. Free to express myself more, to challenge the status quo and speak truth to power in a different way.

Is it possible to do both? How do I live in a way that relaxes with how things are? Relishes the unique opportunities of living on this particular edge? In this particular time, in this particular place? Am I living the transition needed for the great turning in my own life, which is why it feels so hard?

As Stephen Pressfield says in the War of Art, what matters is doing the work. Starting to move towards what you dream of being. Every day. To use his analogy, I want a new role in this life. I have played my current one for a long time. Like the person who leaves a successful part in a long running TV series to do theatre. Or a band member who heads off to go solo. Others might think I am mad, but the need to take on a new challenge and carve my own niche is strong. The resistance is powerful too. I can feel it, but I know it is mine to overcome.

Today is the first day that I am trying to reconcile these questions in a new way. By creating a daily practice that gives time and space to write. To think, to create and build new opportunities. While also appreciating, respecting and delivering value in my current life. Today I have done the work. I have written from the heart and it feels good. I am now going to share it, which is where I have always failed before. I would love to hear your feedback.

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