14 June, 2011
I recently had a fight with a family member. I left the exchange feeling invisible, misunderstood, and worse, judged. What made it even more difficult was that I recognized it was a pattern - something, sadly, I'd come to expect.
Needing to process my thoughts, I turned to a wise soul who, happily, lives two doors down. He listened to my story with the patience and presence of Buddha and nodded his understanding. Then he said something which rang so true for me it left me slack-jawed and deep in thought for days afterward. Intrigued yet?
"Some people aren't deserving of a front row seat to our lives."
When he said this phrase, he continued on with his other thoughts, but I found I couldn't move on. I just kept uttering that phrase, rolling it over and over on my tongue, liking the taste of it more and more. It was like I had been given a truffle.
In my mind's eye, I envisioned a theatre filled with blood red lush velvet chairs. The notion that I got to choose who got the front row seats was thrilling. It wasn't new, exactly, but more of a refreshed understanding - one that I had let slide a bit. I was at once aware of the fact that I hadn't taken inventory in a while. Did I know who occupied those seats? And were they there by invitation or out of a sense of entitlement or by default? Was there anyone squatting, assuming their front row seat was somehow a tenured position and couldn't be revoked?
The notion of "being deserving of a front row seat" underscored my belief in the privilege of intimacy. I have long-since believed that to share in the majesty, the mayhem and the magic of another person's life is an extremely privileged and sacred gift. It is by invitation only and must be treated with the utmost honor and respect, even in the heat of battle - especially in the heat of battle.
It is in the spirit of this philosophy that I will often say, "our children chose us" when describing how we came to be as a family. It's also because of this that I see "family" having not a lot to do with blood. I see each of those front row seats as a place of honor - not one of politics, "shoulds" or guilt.
To be honest, I'm still unpacking the full meaning of that phrase "deserving of a seat" and considering whom I wish to occupy those chosen spots in my life, but I offer you the concept to consider with this question:
Who do you wish to have seated in your front row - and are they there now?
07 June, 2011
But here's the thing. What's the likelihood of that actually happening? You know the statistics on lightening right? How you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting struck by lighting? And yet, I've fallen prey to this seductive notion time and time again and so have my clients - joining the legions of people wandering around the open fields of our lives waving a lightening rod, desperately hoping for that lucky strike. While I will always hold a soft spot in my psyche for this romantic notion, I've come to believe it's actually not a winning strategy.
Like love, you can't go looking for lightening. It's one of those things that finds you when you least expect it.
It also has us looking outside ourselves for the answer, which can be an easier and yes, I'll say it again - seductive - trap when seeking the answers to those burning questions. You've heard the infamous story of the guy begging at the feet of the statue, right? The guy goes to the statue every day begging, "please, please, please let me win the lottery!" Frustrated, the statue comes to life one day and says to the man, "please, please, please buy a lottery ticket!"
The answer (the clarity, the understanding), I've come to believe, does not live outside ourselves, but inside our daily choices and actions.
I use this example a lot with clients when they are longing for some clarity on "what to do" or "where to go" next. Standing at those crossroads is not for the weak of heart, and it's only human nature to want to plug in our "next" coordinates into the GPS and get going. So what to do in the meantime for those brave souls who want to hold true to their intentions and stay open to possibilities?
Here are some perspectives and strategies for navigating those times that have worked for me and my clients:
Stuck is the New Black
The ecstatic Sufi mystic Rumi once wrote a poem about the pain of being a "chickpea to boil" in the stew of life, continually being whacked down by "the cook's" wooden spoon so that it may soak up all the spices of life, even through it is so damn tempting to jump ship out of the pot (eventually the chickpea is grateful, but clearly the stewing part sucks). That's kind of the idea here - shifting your perspective of the "pot" (or stuck place you're in) from being purgatory to being a teacher, actually giving you something you need for your journey. Let me reassure you, it seems we are in a time of great universal stuckness. You are so not alone if you are feeling this way - I see it every day in my work with clients. People are questioning the constructs of their lives and are reorganizing them around what makes them happy, healthy and more fulfilled. Yes, even in this crazy economy. So you're not alone. Stuck is the new black.
Shaking Pennies In a Can
This can be a great time to mix it up a bit. Take a different way to work. Tackle that basement and get rid of the junk in the trunk. Go out with some new friends. Try something creative - start a blog, take a pottery or photography class, create a garden, build a labyrinth in your back yard. Surprise yourself. Say yes to wild and woolly invitations. The idea is to create some friction, some noise and agitation. If that sounds unappealing, consider the things that can be born out of friction - a single grain of sand creating a pearl, an incredible work of art, an orgasm (yes, I said orgasm). So mix it up by design. Let in some oxygen, shake off the dust bunnies and see what emerges.
Lightening Bugs, Not Bolts
While lightening bolts happen as a freak of nature, sudden and surprising, often destructive, lightening bugs are more common and certainly more tame by comparison. And they also offer light on those dark nights. Consider how easily it can be to track a lightening bug on a summer night, following its arc and gentle journey. Now imagine how luminous it would be if you were to collect a whole bunch of them in a jar. They would work together to light up the night. The same could apply to your individual ideas - those fleeting thoughts or images that waft in and out of your consciousness. If you were to capture each of those and hold them in a jar, they might work together to reveal a clearer image or picture that could light your way; answer your question, if you will. Perhaps it could be that easy, that organic of a process. And it would give you something to do in the meantime. Becoming a student of yourself - witnessing yourself - can be a powerful exercise in unearthing a personal vision.
Control Gets A Bad Wrap
The word "control" - and everything that's associated with it - comes up a lot in the work I do with women. Most often, it has the tinge of "bad" on it (as in "control freak" or "too controlling"). But here's the thing...it feels good sometimes - especially in those times we feel most out of control and adrift in our lives. It's human nature to crave some control in lives in response to chaos and turmoil. It helps us make sense of our world - to bring order to a corner of our lives, to offer some structure, some predictability in an otherwise disorienting time. So during these "crossroad moments" in our lives, give yourself lots of latitude when it comes to that instinct to create order and, well, control. Get some Rubbermaid containers, a label maker and go to town on your basement or that hall closet. Create a new filing system on your C: drive. Sort through and box up all those photos. Color code your spices or DVDs. The bottomline: scratch the itch. You can still hold your intention while you're scratching...it will just give your hands (and mind) something to do and will offer a reprieve from the heavy lifting of the "what should I do with my life" questions.
Right Foot, Left Foot
When an idea does strike, take a step toward it. It's not a commitment, it's just a step. Martin Luther King, Jr. once invited us all to "take the first step in faith," reminding us that "you don't need to see the whole staircase" to take that first step. The same holds true for being at a crossroads. Too often I see "analysis paralysis" kick in with clients because they might see that first step, but they can't see clearly where it will take them. A first step of a career transition, for example, might just be telling your beloved or a trusted friend, "I'm going to leave my job" or "I'm not happy at work and that's not okay any longer". It's making it public. Sharing your intention. Another example might be revamping a resume or populating an excel spread sheet with potential contacts or networks to tap into. It's not necessarily quitting the job you're in, as some might think. The key here is small movement toward something more meaningful - even if you can't see it clearly yet.
If you are at a crossroads and you're reading this, I hope you'll share your thoughts and experiences. It can be a lonely and terrifying place, those transitional crossroads (insert a mental image of tumbleweeds at a sign-less intersection in the dessert, sun beating down, wind whipping, vultures circling.) It's a insanely personal journey, I realize, but somehow it feels better to know that people are standing at those crossroads in another town or country. So lend your voice. Be a lightening bug for someone who may be craving some light.