Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gathering the Threads

In between times always throw me for a loop. I don't do drifting very well. I work best under a little pressure, with a goal or a deadline or a finish point (usually defined by someone else) clearly marked. And life right now, in this post-graduation limbo, appears a little hazy. More than one project clamors for my attention, but I'm not very interested in tackling a big project right now. I'm doing what has to be done but not making much progress on things I should and could be doing.

Here's what's next:

A trip. An important adventure. One that feels like it has the possibility of blowing my world apart in a myriad of ways. Other than a brief little cruise in the gulf, I've never been on a trip that required me to carry a passport. And although I have found the safest, easiest, least adventurous way to do it - I will be traveling internationally for the first time in my life. It feels big, and the preparations have brought with them more untangling of deep stuff than I expected.

An test. An objective measure that puts a number on all the of experiences I've had over the past three years. A numerical assessment of whether my knowledge and skills meet the requirements. Two hundred questions that mean everything and answer nothing about the real reasons I do what I do. I've made my life around such tests, with right or wrong answers and perfect scores. I know how to take a test. The results of the tests I've taken before have set me apart from the crowd. Others look at my scores and recruit me to their teams. But those test scores have covered up the real me. They are a mask I can wear. They are an ideal I feel like I have to live up to while underneath I often feel like a fraud.

An interview. A chance to practice what I've learned. Maybe a place to stretch and grow and begin to let this person I've found under layers begin to emerge. Maybe. I feel a resistance in myself though - and I don't know what it is just yet. This interview fell into my lap, and for that I'm thankful, but I didn't anticipate everything falling into place as it did. So, somehow, I feel like maybe I haven't paid my dues. And the process of meeting all the regulations and requirements in order to be able to work in my field circles around on itself, without a clear linear path, causing me additional distress. Exactly what order should I do things in? Can I interview before I've posted a score on the above mentioned test? What should I do first? And then, too, what happens if the interview doesn't go my way? Should I have a backup plan?

A death. My grandfather is dying. No one knows the timing. The process may be long, drawn out, painful and exhausting. Or, the end may come quickly and unexpectedly somewhere along the way. But recovery, returning home, relief in this life are not options. He is a lynchpin in a system and process that spans generations of my family. A system I've worked desperately to differentiate myself from, one small and painful step at a time. This incident, this illness, should be a time to rally around, dissolve into the family unit, reprise my role as good daughter - but I do not want to. I haven't made the trip out yet. It's been convenient not to go. I have a myriad of excuses and I've used them. A truly differentiated person would be able to stand and say "I'm not coming" and offer no excuse. I am not there yet and I'm struggling with obligation and duty and compassion and comfort and how all of those things look inside my family system.

There are so many threads, so many pieces to fit into the puzzle. So much to look and and examine and decide about. Where am I headed? What's next? Why do I do what I do? On one hand, I see myself making progress, taking small steps and big ones to move me forward. On the other hand, somewhere in the deep recesses are distant dreams that I am afraid to even articulate. So do I celebrate the progress or confront the fear? Can I do both?

Every thread I gather only seems to increase the tension, making it impossible to hold without stretching out my arms to embrace the totality of it all.


  1. Trust your intuition.
    Recognize the difference between a "should" and a "want-to". Shoulds are red flags. Beware.
    Trust your intution.
    Spend time wallowing in the space of "in between".
    Trust your intution.
    Don't play the logic head game to much.
    Trust your intuition.
    Visit your grandfather in your meditation. He'll tell you if he wants/needs you to come to him.
    Trust your intuition.
    The interview--is it what you WANT or is it something you think you SHOULD do?
    Trust your intuition.

  2. I thought of this poem while reading your words, Renae. You know, you may look back on these things and not remember why you were in a quandary. It works that way, doesn't it? In hindsight, of course...

    I always have to remind myself that I can only do one thing at a time. Notice ONE thing. And Angie is right. Trust your intuition. Do what you feel is right. No excuses. EVEN THOUGH someone may demand them. Do I sound like your mother right now?

    Let's practice.

    E: Why on EARTH aren't you doing such-and-such?
    R: Why does it matter to you?
    E: Oh, you know, I have to know THE SCOOP.
    R: Hmm, well yes, I know you do.
    E: What? Aren't you going to tell me?
    R: Maybe some day.

    LOL. Now here's the poem. Note the fourth stanza, especially.

    "The Book of Hours" by Joyce Sutphen

    There was that one hour sometime

    in the middle of the last century. 

    It was autumn, and I was in my father's 

    woods building a house out of branches 

    and the leaves that were falling like 

    thousands of letters from the sky. 

    And there was that hour in Central Park 

    in the middle of the seventies. 

    We were sitting on a blanket, listening 

    to Pete Seeger singing "This land is 

    your land, this land is my land," and 

    the Vietnam War was finally over. 

    I would definitely include an hour 

    spent in one of the galleries of the 

    Tate Britain, looking up at the

    painting of King Cophetua and 

    the Beggar Maid, and, afterwards 

    the walk along the Thames, and

    I would also include one of those

    hours when I woke in the night and 

    couldn't get back to sleep thinking

    about how nothing I thought was going

    to happen happened the way I expected, 

    and things I never expected to happen did—

    just like that hour today, when we saw 

    the dog running along the busy road, 

    and we stopped and held on to her 

    until her owner came along and brought 

    her home—that was an hour well 

    spent. Yes, that was a keeper.

  3. Elissa, thank you for the poem. And the "mothering". Angie, "wallowing in the space of in-between" -- YES. That's what I need to do - and what I get impatient doing. I'm so glad both of you are here sharing this space with me.

  4. Oh, I feel this very same way. The in-between, the drifting is the worst. Since finishing my graduate degree this past December, life has never been so difficult. And to think that all the while I imagined everything would be easier once I was done with school. Ha! It was the catalyst for starting my blog baby which is often neglected. Turns out my real life babies and j-o-b demand more attention. All the while the thoughts floating in my mind pile up like a bad game of Tetris. Shoot.

    "Where am I headed? What's next? Why do I do what I do? On one hand, I see myself making progress, taking small steps and big ones to move me forward. On the other hand, somewhere in the deep recesses are distant dreams that I am afraid to even articulate. So do I celebrate the progress or confront the fear? Can I do both?"

    If only answers would come...

    Love your blog and it is so nice to know we are never alone in our feelings.