Friday, October 7, 2011

Gut Check

So much for that Tues/Friday blogging schedule, eh?

I'm still committed to it, despite the fact that some nasty gut bacteria and/or pesticide invaded my intestines over the last week.  Not to over-share any details, as I'm sure you can imagine what "gut parasite" might amount to, but suffice it to say I've had a heavy dose of suffering, and of uncertainty.

Yesterday, after a few days of intestinal misery, I started to falter emotionally.  The question of WHAT THE HELL! could possibly be wrong with me began to loom very large, and I managed to think myself into some pretty dark places.  I lost any real sense of perspective, and devolved into incredibly implausible worst-case scenarios that ended in pain, suffering and death.

I'm generally not a hypochondriac, but five days on a toilet will do that to a guy.

As I have mentioned before, I'm a father of two.  And in the midst of my perspective-less sufferfest, I was filled with a nearly unbearable sadness as I held them.  I couldn't imagine not being there for them, to not be able to support them and love them through their growth and development into full-fledged adult humans.  I was in a hole, because the more I tried to convince myself that of course I am being rediculous and overreacting, the more I was confronted with the reality that of course I am not in any way guaranteed to see them into adulthood.  That simply is not how life works.  So the sadness, although triggered by a physical health problem that is likely fleeting and not dangerous (I'm feeling much better, thanks), touched into the real, non-negotiable pain of being human, and being finite.

At any rate, coming face to face with your own mortality is a pretty sobering experience.  And, while painful, when the smoke began to clear last night, I was able to note a few interesting insights.

Of greatest interest was a strong experience of the following sentiment: It is not about me.

The sadness I felt wasn't about my fear of being no longer a part of the world.  It was most poignantly about not being there for my boys.  It was about their experience of having or not having a father, not about my experience of being a father.

This makes a tremendous difference.  Being a good dad is not important as an identity, or as some sort of moral or ethical imperative.  Because I dearly love my children, I behave in ways that are consistent with their needs.  Now, the result of this is that I think that I am, in fact, an excellent father to my boys.  It brings to mind a passage from Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
      for a thousand miles, repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
     Love what it loves
Loving comes first, being good follows.

I also reflected on other areas of my life in which I don't feel nearly the sense of clarity that I do around parenting.  My livelihood immediately sprung to mind.

I don't have the sort of clarity in my work life that I do at home.  I am interested in a great many things, and have engaged with my work deeply and with commitment.  But at the end of the day, I can't honestly say I can answer the million dollar question regarding my professional life:
What do you wish for your life to be about?
I find that there are lots of things I care about; helping people realize their path, the environment, health.  But too often I find myself trying to be good at things, about trying to leave my mark, making my contribution.

I'm right there in the middle.

I could take a page from my parenting playbook here, and recognize this essential truth:
It isn't about me.
I have my moments: when I am doing a group, coaching or counseling, I dissolve into the background a bit.  But other aspects of my work seem stickier, and trying to create the overall arc of my career seems especially frought with ego-bound rigidity.  This blog, in keeping with my initial commitments to openness, will be a place in which I explore how to get out of my own way and allow for my contribution to emerge, rather that fit myself into an idea about how a "good" professional should behave. 

I hope you can learn a bit about your journey and your own stuck points as we go.

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