effreide stegemeier circa 1935
“There was once a lady who was arrogant and proud. Determined to attain enlightenment, she asked all the authorities how to go about it. She was told, “Well, if you climb to the top of this very high mountain, you’ll find a cave there. Sitting inside that cave is a wise old woman. She will tell you.” Having endured great hardships, the lady finally found this cave. Sure enough, sitting there was a gentle spiritual-looking old woman in white clothing, who smiled beatifically. Overcome with awe and respect, the lady prostrated at the feet of this woman and said, “I want to attain enlightenment. Show me how.” This wise woman looked at her and asked sweetly, “Are you sure you want to attain enlightenment?” And the woman said, “Of course I’m sure.” Whereupon the smiling woman turned into a demon, stood up brandishing a great big stick, and started chasing her, saying, “Now! Now! Now!” For the rest of her life, that lady could never get away from the demon who was always saying, Now! Now–that’s the key. Mindfulness trains us to be awake and alive, fully curious, about now.”
― Pema Chödrön,
painting by kwangho shin
i believe i stand in the beginning of a fairly drastic change in my world. for the last 5 years i have been pushing my plough in a certain direction in order to nurture harvest. amidst this process, i have seen drought and flood, experienced both exhilaration and exhaustion, and even broken a blade once or twice.
cumulatively though, my general sense has been comprised of success and gratitude. i have made structural changes in this process- in essence moving the fields i chose to cultivate. and i have been blessed with that choice.
about 2 months ago, infused with inspiration, i suggested that i modify my schedule and increase my workload-accompanied by an increased compensation, so that i may give up my second job and concentrate growing our services into the black. surprisingly, i received a message which took away my wind. i walked away from that conversation feeling some shame and some frustration. i don’t have the education to move forward within my department and would need to spend 4 years cultivating that prior to any advancement for me. to make matters worse the next morning i found place upon my desk, a book imparting the philosophy of getting things done by having a “yes” attitude. instantly i was drowning in a diminishing pond and dog-paddling seemed both a life sentence and a metaphor.
this is when my life complicated. my judgment has been clouded by the fog of emotions. i felt tricked and patronized. it was almost as if there had been a small earthquake and my foundation has shifted. i am groomed to utilize my insight and my talents, encourage to participate on equal footing, but then challenged to keep in my place until i accomplish more, but work harder and continue to say “yes” until then. i kinda felt like a hooker- and that’s not an unfamiliar feeling- nor is it pleasant (you know- we can have fun with the lights out when nobody else is around, but pretend like we don’t know each other the remainder of the time). i have been trying to ascertain damage control since that time. sadly i cannot report that i have had a clear and concise pathway. quite the contrary- i have fretted and fussed in a circuitous fashion, listening too often to the inner child’s tantrum-mantras of the past and come to the point of picking up my toys and moving to another sandbox. this has all been set in motion and i am not clear where it will take me, nor which thoughts are mature and which are primal. most mornings and evenings it is the auditory quality of standing in an aviary.
the hypocrisy of the barriers laid out by institutions and their stewards are mind boggling. health care organizations tout themselves so often as places to heal yet their actual practices include such exclusivity and denial of individuality that they often create as much trauma as they address (if not more). no wonder the bird-sanctuary-like cacophony in my mind has been dizzying.
the wheels are in motion and i am preparing for a journey of some sort. i feel responsible (as is my way) to those whom i have brought along on my journey. i have touted the wonders of recovery and encouraged others to try to get their feet wet in it. and now i may need to allow them to bask in the beautiful waters of their recovery without me as the direct mentoring presence. but as i type this post, i realize that some of this is the natural order of change- we have to fly on our own at some point. so it is not a requirement for me to feel ownership of something i don’t really own. it is possible to remain a source of support without being on site.
in the interim, i was talking with a friend who is experiencing a not-so-different episode in her life. it was so damn easy for me to spout off a diatribe about trusting one’s own life and process. truthfully, i know that failure is not failure at all-it’s just the feels like it to our ego at the time. we learn so much more from failure than we learn from success. failing has a much more dramatic impact and leaves a more memorable flavor in our mouths. this week finds me asking myself -what are my fears here? what am i trying to control? why the drama?
i only hope my head will try silence long enough for me to hear the answers to those questions.