Saturday, July 09, 2005

An Insight Comes in the Form of a Voice and a Warrior Horse

How does this happen? Nearly a month of not posting? It's a constant struggle, keeping one's self on track. What interferes? What excuses do I have?

Work is always a good one. I have been stressed there, with increased responsibilities, including the need to mentor a new staff person and also cover for the resignation of another. And I have needed to do this while (1) continuing to serve as managing editor of a journal that publishes every other month (I do have two coworkers who are veterans of that with me, though, and who have been carrying much of that weight); (2) trying to create new online educational programming with that new staff person who, though her heart is in the right place, needs lots of coaching and steering in a social sense (some people inherently understand the boundaries and accustomed work style of the environment to which they are hired to contribute; she doesn't, but we're working on it); (3) becoming the lead on our residency examination process--working with a consultant and a new committee chair to improve the quality of the exam, overhaul the database, and retrain the committee of volunteers who write the exam; I was doing this already, and then the coworker who had worked on it longer than me, who was the main liaison while I was her supervisor and the editor, was offered a new job and took it; her last day was a little over one week ago, the day before my grandmother died (that's another recent stress factor, which I will get to momentarily); (4) continuing to serve as the overall manager of publications in my department, which means all the material for our Annual Meeting; that cycle is beginning again (on the plus side, I have another staff person working on that with me; he is approaching his first full year on the job and is eager and conscientious).

Those are my main responsibilities. Some say it is more than one person's job. It may be, but I am also expected to stay up on a perch somewhat, to learn the art of delegation, to remain sane and figure out how to grow those who work under me, giving them more day-to-day responsibilities. This is a constant personal challenge. What if they don't do things as well as I would and the quality slips? (This is often my perception.) What if they think I'm pushing my responsibilities off onto them? (This is often my paranoia. But come on, they see I'm busy. They can and should do as much as they are capable of doing, too. *A point to debate sometime, perhaps, but that is the culture we're part of [and that I certainly perpetuate, for better or worse, with my own work ethic.*) What if, what if, what if. Those "what ifs" also contribute to my stress level.

So I was struggling with all this at work. The more I struggle at work during the week, the less I keep my focus on my innerwork, the less I know what the hell I'm supposed to do to maintain any balance in my life, to grow as an individual. I lose all energy to be a creative person. I begin to resent my lot in life. What happened to me? I think. I thought I would be a novelist, typing away at my inner thoughts and obsessions, transforming them into something meaningful and entertaining. I would be an attentive, nurturing mother and garden and knit and make my home a haven for myself and my family all after a good six hours of daily writing.

There's still this strong part of me who thinks I could succeed at this if only given the opportunity. Given the opportunity. See, that's the catch. It's just not like that, is it? It's a fight, those dreams. Do you really want it or need it that badly? If so, you will find a way to get there and make that your reality. But you don't have what it takes, do you? You obsess about work and come home beleagured and with responsibilities to your family. You will never accomplish that dream.

Whose voice is that? That voice berates and exhausts me. That voice has no charity or perspective. A different voice inside me is in control right now, for instance, as I write. "Voice" is perhaps not the best word. It's a different side of myself. The side in control right now says, "Look, you do have a lot on your plate. There is no indication that if you quit your job your life would be all roses and sunshine and well-acclaimed books. You need to acknowledge that the horse you are saddled into is tall and lean and powerful and complicated. A warrior horse at the height of its powers. [Ed: Not sure where this side is going with this image.] Yes, a warrior horse at the height of its energy and powers who CAN handle many things. The trick, I see in this moment, is to give that horse a compassionate rider who acknowledges the horse's drive, who steers it properly or at least consciously, and also makes sure it gets proper rest and grooming and nourishment and praise. Praise and love and kindness for its many and various accomplishments, not just certain ones. The rider must not be biased, must not judge the tasks and battles and journeys and loads that the horse is carrying."

"Also, that other side, that critical one, can't get over the fact that I wasn't "given" a certain kind of ideal life. To be more accurate, that voice thinks I blew it and made the wrong choices, jumped into the wrong job, altered my path irretrievably. Well, whether or not that is true, I have to make the most of my path. And, as I see above, I have a pretty damn good horse. It's the riders who are too changeable."

OK. That insight came unexpectedly. I started out berating myself for my many "excuses." I see now they aren't just excuses. They did really happen. For instance, my grandma really did die. We really did pack up and drive back to Michigan (680 long miles) to spend time with our families (we saw my husband's parents, too, and our sister-in-law and kids).

I was discouraged in dream group on Thursday. I'd just gotten back into town, only hours before. Still, I wouldn't have missed it. I read a dream from late June, a dream I had the night after a private dream session in which I read a dream from the night before that was highly encouraging and in touch with the unconscious. This next dream, the one I shared Thursday, I knew was disappointing, showing that I had somehow gotten off track (again). How? How had that happened right at that time? Thursday night, as I took in this information more consciously, I knew that I had gotten even more off-track during the subsequent week, but how, I wondered, had it happened the very night following such a positive and progress-showing dream? I'll never get it, will I? I thought. In that dream I was supposed to be nurturing two plants. I neglected them and then gave them a special miracle grow treatment and trimmed them in an attempt to save them. But I covered each of them with a pastel quilted "cozy" top and gave one each to a different friend for safe-keeping. One of the friends abandoned me and left the plant. When I peeked inside the plant had dissolved into what looked like egg whites--lost potential? And then the other friend abandoned me. I need to nurture my own plants and not leave them to others to care for.

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