Finding North

Change/Transformation, Hard Stuff, Life, Obstacles/Challenges, service, Uncategorized

Today, my life re-oriented itself and I am renewed in purpose.  I had the enormous fortune to spend some time with a friend – one of those friends who is supportive but directive and says the really crucial stuff, sometimes the really hard stuff.  It was the equivalent of someone taking me by the shoulders and saying  “Look, what happened was painful and unexpected, and this path doesn’t get any easier.  you need to learn how to apply some of your skills to yourself, to be more objective about your successes and setbacks, and recognize your value and purpose. you are prepared and skilled and talented and your heart is big enough – time to move forward again.”

And she’s right.  What I’d forgotten, what my time at DOC had hacked away, is my desire to be of service.  For almost two decades, the question that has driven me is “how can I best be of service?”  I haven’t always known this question was pushing me onward, although the pattern of seeking some answer is obvious in my choices of education, career, and interests.  And to be clear, I’m not entirely thrilled about having discovered the question.  I’ve been fighting the knowledge for a while, wanting some acknowledgement for what I’d already done, the service I’d already given.

I was so tired, so exhausted, so beaten down by the endless need and casual, normalized brutality of the prison system that I couldn’t tolerate the thought of more service.  I couldn’t tolerate giving more of myself and getting nothing in return.  The final defeat was when I was being targeted by DOC.  My employer never acknowledged my service, my value, or that they cared about my situation or me.  That was crushing.  To have worked for them for so long, doing such difficult work, and be pushed aside, so casually and thoughtlessly, was a terrible experience.  My desire to serve was profoundly wounded, and I couldn’t imagine ever putting myself back into that arena.

Unfortunately, purpose doesn’t really work that way.

Even if my conscious mind couldn’t bear to think of being in service, the rest of me knew the deal.  I focused on private industry, found a job, and all was well with the world.  Until two weeks ago when, out of the blue, with no explanation, they let me go.  I was thrown into the perpetual chaos, confusion, and uncertainty of looking for work, again, in a very tight market.

I was also faced, AGAIN, with the question of what did I want for myself, what kind of life did I want to live?  Not once, but twice in a six month period I found myself asking the same round of questions, looking at the same batch of answers, and questioning my sanity.  Why would this happen twice?  Why would I be forced into this process twice, in such a short period of time?  What the fuck was I supposed to learn?  Sweet baby christmas, how much reflection was I supposed to do before the light came on?

Of course, I was far too close to see the answer, even though it was probably obvious to everyone else.  Everything in my life is about being of service.  Hell, every single idea I’ve had about starting my own business is based in service to others through education, creativity, or advocacy.  My reading, my art, my writing, it’s all grounded in the desire to serve, to help others be the best they can.

I was hoping for a different answer.  I tried to redirect my ambition in other directions, but it literally didn’t fit.  My ego, my intellect, wants a bigger presence, accolades, acknowledgment, praise, the recognition I see going to others who do work I admire. But that’s not why they do the work and, ultimately, not why I will continue doing that work.

We do it because it’s who we are.  We came here to serve, to be of service, to lift others and, in turn, be lifted.  As Gandhi said “we find ourselves in service to others.” This clarity doesn’t mean my desire for recognition has magically disappeared, it just means it isn’t driving the bus anymore.  I’ve found my north again.

Nothing-Liberates-Our-Greatness-Like-The-Deisre-To-Help-The-Desire-To-Serve.

 

 

Curiosity

Change/Transformation, Hard Stuff, It's Personal, Obstacles/Challenges, Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

Today, for a split second, I was not afraid. I wasn’t anxious or worried or catastrophizing; daydreaming or future – tripping. I wasn’t fantasizing or wishing.  You know, all those things you do when some new person or thing shows up and you’re scared as fuck? When you’re so terrified you wake up every 67.5 minutes, mind chasing this or that rabbit, refusing to calm the hell down and rest itself?

I’ve had a lot of those days and nights lately.  November was a hellacious month, and I may or may not be through the worst of it.  A lot happened in the last couple of years and, as it turns out, November was the month it all vomited itself back in my face.  Well, stuff from the last couple of years and maybe a few other significant events in my life. You kind of lose track when you’re averaging 14 minutes of sleep every 5 hours or so, and lose water constantly because you can’t stop crying.

Yesterday, for the briefest moment, I was simply curious about what was in front of me.  I wasn’t looking for the next thing or assessing the current thing, judging or punishing myself, or wishing for something different.  I was open to the possibility of whatever was in my life At That Moment.

It didn’t last long.  My thousand-footed emotional Luggage suddenly reappeared, and curiosity was swept away in the wash of debris and detritus it drags along behind.  It’s hard to remember how it felt, now, with all my thoughts and feelings and judgments and barriers back in place – hard to recall that feeling of lightness, of effortless wonder and potential.  It’s hard not to be sad that I am not more naturally, easily, and gracefully in that state more often, that I have lost so much of the delight in exploring.

I wonder if I need to forgive my younger self for growing up, becoming an adult – protective of my tender and vulnerable insides.  Some days, I feel like such a cliche – growing older, growing thicker and slower and more hardened to what life offers.  It is more difficult to find the will to open, to intentionally seek the new and unknown, to trust that I am resilient and supported. It is much easier to simply explore the known a bit more, tell myself I’m digging deeper, not wider, but that’s not entirely true.

Even those of us who seek change, who actively work for change, are afraid of risk, of pain.  I doubt that I will ever be fully comfortable with taking risks, but that little taste of simple curiosity helped.  If I can get there once, I can get there again.

Motivating Giraffe and FromTheLaundryRoom today had posts that I found helpful and comforting.

curious