While sitting at my daughter’s soccer game last night, another parent asked me casually, “What do you do for a living?” I paused, opened my mouth, closed it again, laughed to myself.
I thought to myself, “Good question. What do I do for a living?” As a writer/business owner/consultant/Pilates Instructor that wears so many hats but somehow it all flows together perfectly, there wasn’t an easy answer to her question. And this was on the heels of reading my own words from a year ago… “I suppose it always comes down to a moment. A choice. Choose or be chosen. It’s in that moment, that space just before the choice that you are the clearest, most authentic form of yourself. You are in your own state of being. It’s in that flash, whether it be a retraction, a breath, a surge, a pause, or a pursuance that you are being yourself. To be… The truth lies not in the choice made, it’s in the moment just before. The choice is just the effect of the cause. The output of the design. The result of mathematical differentiation; the instantaneous change of one quantity relative to another. The choice itself has no meaning without the catalyst… the inherent be-ing.
The verb “to be” is said to be the most protean of the English language, constantly changing form, sometimes without much of a discernible pattern. By the time we respond with action (or inaction), it’s already been decided, we’ve already been revealed. We’ve already been. We strive, and struggle to find meaning focusing so heavily on the actions, the outcomes neglecting the precious spark, the essence, the being. Spend time in those spaces just before, the intangibles, the things we can’t define or contextualize easily. It’s only there where there is recognition, there is truth, raw and unrefined. It’s there where we are.
The problem is, we are so vast, so wondrous, unique and incapable of being bounded, defined or articulated we can’t appreciate what that means. That we are so inherently, inescapably complex and simple, complete and fragmented in the same moment that outcomes are no longer deterministic – that makes us uncomfortable. We are no longer predictable, we just are in that moment which escapes definition but is everything definitive. We are, in a state of being as ourselves. Perfectly complete. It doesn’t have meaning outside of itself so the enlightenment is achieved singularly, in a vacuum and without description or contextual value. The significance then is confined to the one experiencing it and can’t be appreciated beyond those margins and shouldn’t… or it would lose all it’s power.
I don’t seek definition, there isn’t a question. There is only space where you exist undiluted by frivolous designations. It’s more than enough, it’s everything actually, but it can’t be shared and it won’t ever be appreciated outside itself. All you can do is be. Just be.”
So, I told her, with some irony, that I didn’t really “do” anything for a living. I had a company and it kept me busy for 60 – 80 hours a week. I didn’t know how else to describe it to her. She crinkled her eyebrows in confusion and we kept watching the game in silence.
I gave her a decided non-answer and I thought about it as I was driving home. My business, my work has changed so dramatically in the last two years it was shocking to think back on how it all started and how thankful I am to be so completely submerged, saturated in living as opposed to existing in the space that surrounds me. How I don’t “do” for a living, I am richly, darkly, and deeply be-ing myself.
It wasn’t easy getting here and it isn’t easy now. This began a few years ago with whispers. There is no reason to return to the past but to say that I wasn’t happy isn’t exactly right. I experienced moments of happiness, I had plenty of things in my life that were beautiful; my children, my family and friends. I don’t want to appear ungrateful I think the proper word is incomplete. But mostly because I was denying myself, stifling my voice, and slowly sinking in a ship of my own creation. I’d always felt “different” somehow, not quite having the words to or the metaphors to articulate why, but it was always there. This questions in the back of my mind, that would rise up from time to time and I would ignore, brutalize or otherwise argue away because it was off course. It defied expectation.
My friend Meghan calls it trying to put a triangle inside a circle. “I’m a triangle,” she says simply, “I’m never going to be a circle.” I guess maybe I am a triangle too…
Like so many I did the “right” things. I went to college and got good grades, graduated with my business degree (I did have a baby in there – I couldn’t completely follow the path as intended) got a corporate job, earned my Master’s degree, move up the ladder, got married, had another baby, got a “better” corporate job, lather, rinse repeat.
I was told that the slow dying feeling I experienced every Sunday night leading into another work week was normal and that the stifled, unhappy person I became as a result of the work (which I was quite good at by the way) was exactly what was supposed to be happening. Actually feeling the life force of your soul being strangled slowly every day is natural. It’s the price for having the life that you want.
But it wasn’t the life I wanted.
It didn’t feel like any life anyone would want. At least I didn’t. But I kept telling myself that I was probably wrong. Millions of people did the same thing I did every day and they seemed satisfied with their Starbucks at 7 AM and their regular jaunt to the break room at 12 and the mass exodus from the office at 5:01. Why couldn’t I just be like that?
Rather than waste precious page space dissecting the basis of my loathing my professional existence, I lost my job. Twice actually in six months both times the victim of down-sizing and once immediately following my divorce. Ah the divorce. That’s a whole other book, but suffice it to say the marriage was a failure and as a result of my trying yet again to be something I inherently wasn’t with a good man who just inherently wasn’t either.
I realized over a year ago, as I looked around at the professional and personal shambles of my life that the whispers in the back of my mind were tired of being ignored. No longer whispers, it was like they were taking 2 x 4’s to the back of my head and it was time I start to listen.
And listen I did. I struck out on my own, I took risks, I made mistakes. I’ve lost a lot of ground, gained a wealth of knowledge, skills, experience, and most importantly relationships with people all around the world who have made me far better than I could have ever imagined. And when I think of what I could “do” for a living, I am comforted by knowing, by accepting that all that time I was moving towards what was supposedly “right” I was moving farther away, but closer to where I’ve always meant to be. And it’s not a place, it’s an awareness of realizing that I’m finally being myself.
One Comment Add yours
Wow…that sounds like exactly what I wish I could write. I feel like I'm exactly where you describe just before you started listening to yourself, except that, thanks to people like you, I never doubted that I need to listen to myself, abhor the 9-5, and do something scary and risky and different. I just can't figure out what it is. And I try so many different things at once that I don't move forward on any of them. But I'm slogging through.
Really, really inspiring post. Thanks for helping me keep faith I'm on the right track.