The next number of posts, all titled Conversations on… come from email communications between a dear friend and me. With her permission, I am publishing excerpts from them because I feel they pertain to everything we’ve been discussing on the blog. Kate is in the process of trying to figure out how to be a writer and still maintain her teaching job. At her request I’ve changed her name and am using initials for people she brings up. It’d be great if you all would join our conversation…
You are such a wonderful friend and soul mate (the only phrase I could think of that approximates what I feel, if that doesn’t sound too odd).
I believe I hear your tone as you have written it, though there is a lot I am still learning from my experiences with this physical and psychological crisis. I have not in any way heard your deeply meaningful words as “too much” or “hard”. I hear them as loving and instructive, compassionate and wise. Don’t ever hesitate to speak the truth as you know it to me.
My complete honesty with you entails that I speak the “truth” as I know it in the moment, incomplete, emerging, growing. Though I am fighting to understand it all, knowing my life is at risk in my not doing so, I may only be able to grasp parts of the bigger picture that you see with more perspective than I have. But my perspective is changing every day as I try to process all that is happening and continue to search for the next place to step forward, around what appear to be fallen branches and stones today but what may be illusions that only seem like obstacles while I believe them to be real. They FEEL real enough.
One important piece I left out of my message to you is it was I who—in the conversation with the acupuncturist—said that all the work I do with him and with myself on healing will be undermined (that’s the word I used) if I don’t address the circumstances causing the problems. He said, “Yes, you have to address the source. It’s like putting a lid on a pot when there’s a fire burning under the pot. Putting a lid on it doesn’t put out the fire.” I realize that instead of grieving–as he sensed I was doing, or as my distress manifested itself to him–I am in the midst of figuring out how to stop the old patterns of being needed, setting myself up every day to give my life up to others who demand saving. The system on which my entire professional life depends is built for and upheld by people with this very dysfunction. I have learned this in the past few months and now accept that I can’t be in or part of that system any longer. There’s no choice there. I’ve made it.
That being said, clearly I’m not “there” yet because, as you recognize so well, I have not yet moved beyond the old ways of being, the familiar, the known pattern, the reflex, my default self. I must find a way to stop falling back on my default self and give life to the self that is asking—demanding—to be allowed to live. It must breathe and be nourished and supported. I am trying to shed one for the other, but here’s where I still get stuck. I hear your fear, and I think BK is coming from the same place you are, which is why he urged me to get out now.
You are right that I am working against this process when I allow myself to feel that I am up against a wall, anticipating the impact my leaving will have on my colleagues. Your experience is a powerful example to me right now, and I thank you for sharing it. I believe that I am still in transition to the place I need to be in my heart, where I can just stop listening and walk away without equivocation, without leaving any tiny spaces for their voices to worm their way back into my soul, which they will if I don’t shore up every tiny crack in my resolve. Yes, I still waver in some aspects, but I can’t go back.
I am learning how to change myself from the center out, more at a loss for how to do that than afraid to do it. I said to BK that it feels like I have to create the self that takes the mantle from the old self. And he said, “I miss that part of you,” meaning that he has seen and knows the part that I still believe I have to create. He’s seen it, which must mean it is there and I just haven’t fully recognized its voice as my own voice speaking to me yet. I don’t know if this makes sense to one who has successfully left her old self in the dust. But I think I understand what you are both afraid of.
One final note: I am going to try to hold out for the next few weeks, by finding every way I can to give to myself and limit what I allow for others’ consumption–every day. I have an appointment on Monday with my acupuncturist, whose office is within walking distance of our house. My herbs should arrive on Monday. I am going to tell my boss at my soonest opportunity that I will not return in the fall, which means I will walk away from several projects that would have carried through, giving me a little more space to do less, the minimum necessary to get through the remainder of the semester. I am also going to tell my boss that if it turns out to be impossible for me to do that without incurring further damage, they will need to find someone to cover for me.
Thank you for listening and reflecting back to me the places where, despite my efforts to break free, I am still caught up in cloudy dark spots.
To be continued…
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Love to you all,