This morning I was struggling with how to handle some complicated situations. I have a couple of crucial conversations coming up, and I was trying to see how best to approach them. I have been frustrated because I want so much to help these people, and I know there is only so much I can do.
One of the advantages of living alone is that no one is around to distract me from doing my morning meditation, exercising, etc. But it also means that I don’t have a handy sounding board for musing about things, talking aloud to get my thoughts clearer. Because of that, I have taken to calling my best friend, Lida, who lives in Houston, most mornings. We have become “inspiration points” for each other. We share stories about what is currently happening, raise questions, discuss feelings–we’ve been friends for almost 35 years, know each other inside and out, and have total open communication. I am certain that those conversations have been life saving for me, and helped me make sense out of what often seems impossible to understand.
The best thing about these conversations is that I can see patterns emerge once I get out all the “facts”–which come out as I relate various things I’m working through that at the time may seem disparate. Here’s how it played out for me this morning:
I woke up thinking about watching a few moments of an interview with John Kerry last night and wondering why we have to be so polarized in this country about politics and government. It almost seems like we are reliving the 60s, but this time the people taking to the streets protesting are the ultra conservatives, not the great unwashed youth population. Whenever I’m bothered about something, I look inside for the disowned part (love that Carl Jung!) and I realized that my polarized thinking wasn’t about politics, actually, it was about being able to communicate with people. I get stuck in “this is good, this is bad” when I get frustrated about communicating. When mentally preparing myself for these upcoming crucial conversations, I caught myself internally saying, “Why can’t they understand me? Why don’t they just stop holding on to that belief that is keeping them stuck?” The problem with that is it doesn’t take into consideration that we are all stuck in one way or another, and will be that way moment to moment throughout our lives, because the stuck points are the challenges, and we only work on them if they are “bad enough” to get our attention. And as we work through them, we get unstuck on those points, and immediately move to the next ones!
An eternal cycle, if you believe in infinity–which I absolutely do. Which means that I’m just as polarized as all those political thinkers. When I get frustrated about my “goods and bads”–if people wake up to their own self-limiting, self-sabotaging beliefs it is “good” and if they stay stuck by continuing to repeat ineffective behavior, it is “bad”–the fact that the subject is a little more esoteric than politics doesn’t absolve me from facing that polarized thinking is my disowned part. And I am just as guilty of it as the left/right political debaters. They are mirroring to me exactly what I do.
Getting back to my upcoming crucial conversations: one is with a leader of a non-profit who is dedicated and fiercely committed to solving the problem the organization is addressing, but lacks the skill to speak about it publicly in a way that engages people in joining her cause. The other is with a client who keeps getting caught up in a “loser” attitude cycle–she works really hard, gives 100% to her job, then feels the upper management doesn’t recognize it, treats her poorly, limits her ability to grow. My job is to help them see their patterns, appreciate the challenge and work through them to get to the next level, so they can keep going.
Until I saw the pattern this morning of how I was stuck in my own “goods and bads” over how I could get these two to understand what I wanted to say to them, I couldn’t see how all three of us were expressing the same pattern. We’re alike, but acting it out in three different forms.
The non-profit leader is frustrated in not getting enough community support to grow her organization. The client is frustrated in not getting enough corporate support to grow herself within the organization. And I am frustrated in not being able to communicate well enough with them to help them not be stuck–as if their being stuck is keeping me stuck.
The cosmic joke is that being stuck is what we can be grateful for! Being stuck is what gets our attention, keeps us working at it, fighting our way through it, searching, struggling, not stopping until we get that brief, fleeting moment of grace–the attainment of the thing we desire–and then immediately get thrust into the next frustrating, challenging episode.
What I realize is that I am just as prone to wanting things to “be all right”–right now–as everyone else. But the truth is, which I can see much more clearly from the vantage point of being in my early 60s, the truth is that life is about the pulsation of challenge, frustration, overcoming difficulties, moments of peace, grace and gratitude, then back out into the challenge. Living fully entails all that, and no one gets a “bye” or an “easy-out” of the human experience.
I love romantic stories where they live happily ever after–even though I know more challenges are ahead for them, I love to sit for a moment in the pleasure of a “happy ending.”
BUT, the “happy ending” is the beginning of the next challenge. So being infatuated with reaching it is the very thing that keeps us from finding fulfillment in working through the difficulties, actually enjoying it!
I’ve been teaching that concept for years, but can see how I have been teaching it to learn it. The true sense of fulfillment comes from embracing that we ARE challenged, daily, weekly, minute by minute, not that we are somehow going to do enough work, try hard enough, that we reach a point of being able to relax and just live.
Thank God for Lida, who gives me a way to sort through my thoughts and see things. Thank God for feeling so frustrated and afraid that I won’t be able to get where I want to go. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t pick up the phone and call her! I wouldn’t have seen this.
And I wouldn’t know what to say when I have my crucial conversations. But now I do. And I’m looking forward to it!