I wrote a couple weeks ago about returning to the paid working world. The compulsion thrust itself at me on the heels of believing we would go penniless due to the impending college bills for our three sons. I was anything but a yoga teacher. I was anything but a leader. I panicked.
I started a search for jobs on LinkedIn and an app named “indeed” and started to ask friends and former coworkers for their impressions and ideas.
After a few days, I realized this wasn’t about just college. I began to feel my mortality.
I believe that if you’re a normal, balanced and participating member of a progressive and valuable society, there’s an inner need inside you to add to that progress and that value. It’s not just a matter of “giving back” but also a matter of an exchange of a higher energetic vibration: that when you do something which you value and you are recognized for it (free or not) then that also raises the energetic vibration of the world around you.
It’s very simple: when you are valued, and told so, you feel a sense of reward. That sense of reward goes with you to your car on your way to the grocery store / park / day care / carpool / walk with the dog / answer of the phone. That raises the energy you possess and which you share with the world (corporeal and spiritual) around you.
This is easy for me to say, right? Last week, I was completely unhinged after a soccer game due to a self-proclaimed ignorant center ref’s increasingly faulty calls. I behaved like an ass. I regret that and I am happy to say that our coaches accepted my authentic apology and that I had repaired back to my normal cheerful self in the stands yesterday. I thought I could take a vow of silence, but … no. My son’s matches are such a pleasure to watch.
Right after the half, one of our players erroneously made an own-goal and and gave the other team a point. Because I was visually accustomed to hoping for a shot into that particular net for 45 minutes, I cheered when that shot was scored. We were still ahead, but our coach smiled at me and said, “NO! Not ‘Yay!’ …” Whoops. I sucked it up and said, “That’s my karma for last weekend…” and those who were in the know knew exactly what I meant and they laughed. My point is that after I verbally charged that ref last week, I lowered my own energetic vibration. I put myself in a bubble of discontent, which I deserved. And to prove the point, I felt as though my karmic debt was settled with my own public display of ineptitude exactly one week later at the scene of my outburst.
We are all learning something all the time. We are all teaching something all the time. The lessons will continue to be taught and learned until we are finished learning and teaching them. Then a new one. And another. And another.
I feel that my outburst was directly related to my sense of needing to be “of” or to add value “to” the world. That sense of ‘place’ was suspended (I believe) until I learned my place *in* the world. Again. The week following my urges to find work, my oldest son needed me to drop off something to him at school –immediately– in order for him to complete a test in this math class he’s taking, which has problems that looks like this:
The next weekday, which was a day off from school due to a teacher workday, my youngest son fell off his bike and hurt his knee. Then two days later, my middle son needed me to take him to the doctor’s for a strep test (negative). These things occurred in the middle of what most people would consider a 9-5 workday.
What I failed to realize, in the midst of all my urges and needs, was that I was right where I was supposed to be. My place in the world was clear to everyone but myself. I was not holding a space for myself. I was holding a space for everyone but myself.
I have a friend who wanted to become a therapist. She had successfully ended her graduate work, although as a mother, that had its challenges. As a form of her internship, she was engaged part-time in the services of a group home for runaway teens and was enjoying it. Just as a full-time opportunity arose, one of her children became very ill. When she was ready to return, the part-time work was still there (because it seems there will always, sadly, be kids facing troubles), and in the midst of the full-swing and coming opportunity to join full-time, another one of her children needed her long-term advocacy. Her place in the world for that season in her life was to be not far from home.
We sighed and shook our fists at the fates, at the belief that women, specifically mothers, have to either fit someone else’s definition of success by doing and having it all (career, family, marriage, hobby, Bravo-TV), or redefine their lives for their children’s wellbeing. We sighed at our consternation of feeling “trapped” by motherhood, yet knowing deeply inside that we could never change a thing about how life has played itself out.
She and I are the type of people who could go either way: be stay-at-home mothers (because all mothers are full-timers) or have a career. Careers change and come and go; motherhood is a one-time gig, no matter how many kids one has, and while the world might be changing, motherhood will never change: our children’s needs are constant, unpredictable, demanding and wholly irreducible.
Despite this, some women know about themselves that they are not cut out for the doilies and teddy bear tea parties under the dining room table and other at-times mind-numbing activities. They know those moments will send them to the padded rooms. They need adult stimulation and interaction, they need not to be constantly answering “why ____” when chances are their child really isn’t tracking (and neither are they), and I applaud them. I support those women. For some of them, that choice was a clear as tap water. For others, that choice was rife with ambivalence and guilt. I want all of them to know this: that I’m helping to take care of their child when I volunteer at school. I am honoring them by honoring their child and I know they would do the same were the roles reversed.
The bottom line is that these mothers all fiercely love their children and to them, no matter what they decide, they know that being a contented and purposeful person means they will be a contented mother and being a contented mother means they can raise content, secure, and resilient children.
I wasn’t there. I was nodding numbly at the imginary motivational speaker in my head, but I wasn’t there. I still felt I brought no value. Without knowing it, I was still ceding to an extrinsic value system. Then I finished Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, and it became clearer to me: my value system was what he termed “heirarchical” — I placed my value in the opinions of others. The outside world was where I had based my worth. What I needed to do was switch my perspective to what Pressfield calls “territorial,” to wit: that when you are doing what you do for the sheer SAKE of doing it, not just (or at all) for praise, you are in your “zone” / territory and that judgments of the outside world fade away (because they don’t matter and never will, nor should they) and that you fall in [love] with your calling.
Some of us are at work at jobs we don’t like. Or those which drain our last bits of enthusiasm. I am hopeful that there is something in that daily existence which we can find that brings us satisfaction or contentment: the smile of a customer, the reliability of the work, the appreciation of a co-worker, the paycheck… that “thanks, Mom,” from a child. It’s no surprise to me that I was wanting daytime work outside the home as a possibility of escape and validation as well. Just when we think we have one situation sewn up, another one pops a seam.
Raising teenagers can be DEPLETING — they are like zombies: dirty haired and ripped clothes; grunters, their circadian rhythms are all out of whack, clumsy, music seems to be the only thing which quells them, they turn toward the scent of food, they offer only monosyllabic replies, and roar when surprised or disturbed.
What I liked about working is that the jobs were often finite and certainly NOT defiant; that I had support from peers; and that I wasn’t always the boss who denied and disciplined. With teenagers, everything is a negotiation. Those maternal ghosts from toddlerhood, “Do you want to move your body, or do you want ME to move your body?” are like a fantasy, an ice cream sundae, of discipline.
I sort of miss those days. My back doesn’t.
Once I have taken stock of my place in where I am, where things are in my life and how my family needs me, I can step back and figure out how to get into what I [want to] do in a “territorial” way which sustains my spirit and fuels me for the inevitable moments when heirarchical demands raise their heads. And maybe even then, I can find a way to become territorial about those situations, because let’s face it: unless what we do is rewarding, there is little drive to keep doing it. It shouldn’t always be about the money. It needs to serve the spirit — that sense of accomplishment, that we did it all by our BIG PEOPLE selves — as well.