When we try to dig into the deeper parts of ourselves to lighten our being it is easy to go along the path of least resistance. Recently I have been on a journey to discover the root cause of apathy and a lack of drive. I had thought that it might have something to do with feeling unworthy of my work role, feeling as though somehow I am not good enough. Work takes up so much time in my life that it is easy to view it as being at the core of all that feels uncomfortable. It is not.
There is a space in each of us, filled with moments from our birth until now. Filled with experiences, good and bad whose echoes linger. We have fears that we try to quiet, hiding them even from ourselves. So when something needs clearing from our psyche, it will likely manifest itself in the place we consciously have to stretch the most. Where we spend the most time. Where we have the greatest responsibility. For me that is work. It was a natural process for me to think that was where the problem lie.
I would have been satisfied with that discovery and set-to on a pointless journey of trying to ramp up my enthusiasm for my job. Except that repeatedly I catch myself buzzing with excitement when I talk about my project and the work that I am doing. I grin like an idiot when someone asks me a question about work and I have to invite them to signal when they’ve had enough because I can go on and on and on! And self-efficacy? In the throws of responding to any work related demand there is only joy, curiosity and complete focus. And when I think of my perfect job, where I can make a difference in peoples lives, have a broad spectrum of tasks from hands on with participants to writing and analysis, travel and flexible work hours- this is it! I couldn’t see where I should start my repairs. I can see now that it is not my work, or my ability to carry it out, or the space in which I undertake it that is causing my unease. It has nothing to do with my work. My work is a blessing, it is a vehicle for me to express my soul’s purpose. My discontent runs much deeper than that.
My growing levels of stress and subsequent poor health is caused by a more permanent, unavoidable terror so I just stick my head in the sand and break into a cold sweat every night pretending like I’m not scared out of my mind. It was easy for me to claim that the thing I needed to express was a feeling of inadequacy at work. Simple. The ramifications of that are that you simply work harder and problem solved. No. That was too convenient. And this is difficult for me to write.
When I realised I was wrong about where I am getting stuck I wanted to delete my last post. It simply is not true, work has nothing to do with it. It is beyond simplistic to even have thought so. It is embarrassing and makes me wrinkle my nose at myself, how could I have let myself be drawn along that line of thinking? Well, I happen to know that it was because I was highly stressed and anxious recently about doing a presentation. I got stuck on it like I have never been stuck before, but that doesn’t mean that I am not good enough for this role, it means that was a difficult presentation and nothing more. It took a great deal of reflection on being vulnerable, being okay with sharing a journey honestly that stopped me from pressing that oh-so-easy to select button. After all, I did think that it was as simple as a crisis of confidence. I hoped, because I know what to do with that. But pressing delete was only going to deny that part of this journey.
Thinking, even for a short while, that work was the sole cause of my growing angst was important. I was able to explore what work means to me, what I want from it, how it contributes to my life in good ways and bad. It was this process of trying different ideas on for size, seeing what felt right, what really rang true, that I was able to figure out that I was sniffing at the wrong tree. Well, maybe I was just exploring at a too superficial level more so that at the wrong tree. I have been conflicted about work because it takes up so much of my life. A life that is so full of promise and adventure. There is much to experience and to learn here and I can’t help but feel that we have done ourselves a disservice by designing our culture around full time (and then some) employment. By celebrating over-workers and not having enough time for ourselves or our loved ones, the days merge together, seasons speed by and the years pass without notice. Suddenly we have spent a lifetime in busyness because that is what is expected and what do we have to show for it?
What scares me most is something we just don’t like to talk about. It stops me in my tracks and makes me question everything we value in our society. It leads me to think that we shouldn’t be spending our lives engaged in the slavery of full time employ. It causes me to wonder how our moral compass can be so offline in the face of it. Our culture avoids it. Popular media devalues it constantly. It makes people uncomfortable. We focus on accruing shiny objects and filling our lives with the newest gadgets, faster cars and bigger homes so that we don’t have to face it. The end of this life. Our mortality. The fragility of life is what most frightens me. And our lack of care for each other and our natural world compound it.
The truth that I must speak to myself. The empath I wrote about was totally right. There is a truth I must speak to myself and it has everything to do with the only thing that has ever really worried me. The truth is not that I have this fear. I have always known it. The truth is that I know how to alleviate it.
“Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark.” ~Zen Proverb