Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pre-Thanksgiving Prep and I'm not feeling very thankful

It's been 6 1/2 years since I came to Mississippi. Though it has had its major trials and I have spent much more time in the valley than on the mountaintop--though valley may be a misnomer; it's more like in the desert wandering with the herd of goats--I have always managed to pull my usual rabbit out of the hat. I have always tried to take my failures and inspect them relentlessly--after the pain of it, of course. I have tried to find the learning in failure and to use it in a growth-producing way. I usually succeed and as a result, have had some of the most awesome experiences that allow me to actually be thankful for the painful or difficult circumstance I have endured, coped with, and ultimately, turned into a positive and useful learning.

I have had more opportunities to do that here in the last 6 1/2 years than I think I have in the previous 25 years of career, work, and relationship. To say that my reality of my previous 25 years of experience has been upended by my experience here is such an understatement that it defies measurement.

So, last Friday when I came home, I sat outside in the perfect chimenea weather and enjoyed a fire. I remembered my beautiful house back in Texas, with it's lovely fireplace and two bathrooms that worked all of the time, and an in-ground swimming pool, and a two-car garage with a door that closed, and a stunning view of the lake and park behind my house, and all the terrific friends I had there. Then I thought about this house that is the nightmare from Elm Street x 10; another bathroom improperly done that we are having to re-do; the mold in the bathroom that is eating the walls due to the first improper remodel done by the unskilled person who did it before we bought the house, the constant battle with the water...and mostly, i thought about the reality that was my work and my passion and my career before I came here, and the reality that it has become here...and I said for the first time that I regretted the decision to come here.

While part of me truly wishes I was still back in my great house with my great friends and my work that had been successful on so many levels, and the hell with a new challenge and the desire to take it on, at the least, I found myself wishing I had stuck with the original decision we had made for the other university on the northwest coast. I thought of all the things that I knew for sure would not have happened: my dog would not be dead from a tick borne illness; my son would not be seriously ill with a tick-borne illness; my house would not be washing off a hill rotting away with mold; and most of all, I would not be in yet another deep valley of doubt. Not about who I am in the world--I am clear about that and I do not let others define that reality--but about how in the world to make this workable given the barriers I continue to face.

Just when I think it is safe to go back in the water so to speak, out come the sharks again. Just when I think I have weathered the worst of it and am feeling inspired and hopeful and motivated and supported, the rug is suddenly not under my feet but firmly grasped in the hands of the other. Even when the rug is gently tugged out from under me, it still causes me to lose my balance.

Once again, I have examined, questioned, looked at the evidence, lain awake hours each night, never had a moment without "it" out of my head since Friday. It reminded me of a conversation with a friend not long ago. She was talking about wanting a relationship and being so tired of being alone and relationships that seemed promising suddenly turning to crap right before her eyes. I said something to the effect of perhaps it was an opportunity to look within and seek better understanding of herself that it continued to happen. She replied, "I have looked inward until I am sick of it. I just want a decent relationship."

Friday, I understand that emotion at a gut level. I have looked inward for 6 1/2 years on a regular basis, and finally, I am sick of it. I just want this to work. I just want to be able to fulfill my life work without looking over my shoulder to see if someone is reaching down for the rug. I just want to understand why the reality that was for 25 years of my career is suddenly--at the point when I think I have the greatest skill and understanding and compassion of my life and have put forth the most effort in my life--is not the reality that is seen in this place. Clearly, there is a disconnect, and clearly, I do not know how to go about connecting it.

During my time on St. Paul 2 summers ago, my true reality was validated and affirmed. I left that island convinced of my capacity for self-efficacy and totally at peace with myself. I've been in that place now for well over a year...until Friday...

Now I know myself really well by now, and I know that (a) regardless, it will turn out. I never know what "turn out" means exactly, just that it will...well, because it has to. Nothing can not turn out; it's just that you can't always predict how it will turn out. I also know that (b) given a few days to be on the pity pot, the angry pot, the annoyed pot, the depressed pot, and I will say, okay, well enough of that, and go right back to doing what I always do, which is the best I can to matter and make a difference in the things that matter and make a difference. I also know that (c) these things tend to happen when I am least expecting them; like at times when I thought everything was going swimmingly. That is what makes it such a kick in the gut--I don't see it coming.

Remember the movie "An Unmarried Woman" when she is out walking down the street with her husband, just prattling on about her women friends and suddenly he says he is having an affair and in love with someone else and wants a divorce? She steps over to the gutter and leans down and pukes her guts out. Then, she goes about setting her life back in order.

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