Here’s a reminder that popped into my head last night as I was sending out resumes, cover letters, ad composing writing samples: I can control the efforts, but not the outcomes. That’s a difficult house rule to accept, but it is true.
I continue to look for employment and it’s been challenging. I keep hearing the dreaded phrase (implied or otherwise) that I’m over-qualified.
I am trying to start an initiative geared to upgrading my social media presence (especially blog) with the purpose of amplifying the voices of the people we never hear. If you would like to support my writing and activist efforts, you can donate here [LINK]. If you are unable to donate, please consider sharing with your contacts. Thanks.
When Things Fall Apart
When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.
— Pema Chödrön
I want to say that from the get that it’s OK to feel bad. I mean, I’m going through a very dark period right now and it feels as if my life is falling apart. It seems that I’m losing not just my livelihood, but my identity. I am questioning myself and I am wondering if activism is something I should continue as my life’s passion. I mean, I try to maintain my sense of humor and I put in the effort every-fuckin-day, but there’s a sadness inside me right now and I need to honor that. I need to embrace that.
I think we live in a society that pressures us to feel “positive.” I call it the Happiness Syndrome — a marketization of modern life that tells us that if you are not happy (as with being poor) there is something wrong with you. But what does happiness or “being positive mean”? Sometimes we break down, man. Life is hard. And we need to embrace those feelings too.
Pema Chödrön, a bestselling author and famous Buddhist nun, was a regular woman who grew up in NJ, taught elementary school, and had two children. Her life fell apart, she says when she discovered that her husband of eight years was having an affair and left her while her children were very young. She wrote a book that has saved what little sanity I can claim, When Things Fall Apart. I have also been fortunate enough to have attended one of her workshops in the past.
All of us have at one time or another had our lives fall apart. A loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, we lose our job and in the process, our identities, a relationship ends, we are battling an addiction or someone we love dies. Whatever the event, we did nothing to deserve it. Bad things happen to good people all the time.
The trick is to reframe what is happening to us. To get out of the seduction of the story and get into the gifts and opportunities presenting themselves. I am not saying this is easy. Believe me, this is hard. But it is possible if we can surrender to what is happening.
Here, let use my current predicament as a starting point:
It seems I cannot get a job commensurate with my experience and education to save my life. I am about to get my phone cut off, I am living in my sister’s house, so technically I’m homeless. I was just fired from a job after less than three months. I have been turned down for other positions for being overqualified and when I apply for a higher position, my lack of a graduate degree is an obstacle (I never finished my graduate studies). No one seems interested in helping fund my initiative, and to add insult to injury, I was turned down for a job as a stock clerk. In addition, I am about to get my phone cut off and lose my property in storage.
That shit right there is deep enough to make one run for the serotonin intake line, right?
Well, here is another story, this story is true:
In his story, the experience being unemployed is a great lesson and a testament to my character. I am incredibly fortunate that I have the presence of mind and convictions to refuse to do work that is demeaning to me and the people I am supposed to be serving. In this story I am not some lightweight, but someone who has been recognized by his peers as an exemplary activist/ advocate. In this story, the universe has manifested an amazing opportunity to prove to myself and everyone around me how strong I am and that I could handle myself with dignity and grace in the face formidable challenges. Is that not a gift?
Admittedly, this version of the story is a hard one to swallow and certainly a hard one to tell. The “woe is I” version is easier and I do not have to stretch myself by having actual compassion for my situation and the people who have not hired me. LOL
But there is a part of me that says, “Wow. What an amazing lesson from the universe to teach you forgiveness and compassion,” when I am tempted to indulge a fit of pity and anger. There’s a part of me that says, “Look at all the amazing things you are doing with your life now. You wouldn’t be doing any of these things if this hadn’t happened to you.”
So in my writing and my actions, rather than pouring out all the self-righteous anger and sadness I am experiencing, I spend more time noting all the lessons. All the things I am learning about myself. All of the old behavioral patterns I am breaking. All of the amazing friends and family I have in my life who are there showing up for me and being there in ways you can’t even imagine. All of the friendships that have been strengthened because I was learning how to ask for help– something I almost never allow myself.
All of us are going through something right now. What I have learned is, as awful as these things are when they happen, they are always temporary. They pass in time and happiness and joy find their way to us again. So, just for today I have chosen to not be a passive observer of my “story.” Today I’m choosing to be an example of all the wonderful things that can happen when things fall apart.
As my life falls apart, I am broken open and I am coming together like never before. And as all these things happen, I see that I have a responsibility to be an example of how to reframe the tragedies in our life and create something magnificent out of it. Or I could choose to stay in the resentment.
I only wish that what follows falling apart — coming together — happened a little quicker. LOL
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…