This post originally appeared on Journey of Peace on 05/13/2012
One of my funniest memories is when my last employer congratulated me on getting my current job and said he would give me a good reference to my next boss. He basically said, “I don’t want to hold you back from your dream of being a counselor.”
My dream of being a counselor.
Is that my dream? Really? Huh.
Funny. Now that I’m here, I don’t really like it. That’s not completely true. I like so much about what I do. I like the people I get to work with. I like seeing people learn and grow and heal. I like understanding how people work.
I don’t like the endlessly accumulating mountain of paperwork. I don’t like the endless pressure to produce results, show progress, or the implication that healthy people are products. I don’t like when people are petty. I don’t like when people don’t want to learn. I don’t like when people’s problems are too big for me to fix.
I don’t like sitting inside all day.
(Even as I write, one of my colleagues is shutting the drapes, closing out the bright and warm sun.)
Today was hard for me. I caught myself thinking of all the things I don’t get to do as much as I want because I’m working a job that I don’t really love.
Lately, some of the things I love the most are writing, bouldering, and I’m starting to learn yoga poses.
Writing I have always wanted to do.
Bouldering has come and will go and is part of the larger schema of physical activity and care for the body. This love is only a few years old, but already something I don’t want to live without.
Yoga? Well, I’ve always loved stretching. Now that I’ve learned to love mindfulness and activities that are calming and centering, I find yoga to be perfect. And I figure that because it’s low impact, I can continue doing it well into my nineties.
When I don’t get to do these things, I feel imprisoned. I’m surrounded by fluorescent lights, sad people, people out to make a profit from medications, people running kingdoms as big as their cubicles, people who talk in initials and acronyms, handouts upon handouts upon handouts, microwaved food and billing codes.
Sometimes I get back to my cubicle and just sit because that’s all the will power I have.
I tell myself that I must be at peace with my situation. This is what I would tell a client or a younger friend. That is what both my faith traditions would say. That is what existential and person centered therapeutic orientations say.
I tell myself and others this because I think it’s right. But DAMN! It’s hard!
This is the conflict I’m working through now. In truth I’ve been working through it for years. (Beating my head against it for years?) I want to be at peace with myself, at peace with my situation, at peace with God’s will for me. But I don’t know how to do this without completely losing every shred of who I am.
I want to be able to teach others how to find peace. Be peaceful people. Be at peace and strong and healthy and fruitful in their situations. But I don’t even know how to do this for myself yet.
Perhaps it’s a choice each one of us must make. We must choose to see our situation as a prison or a gateway. We can choose to give up and be miserable, fight against things we can’t control and be miserable, or fight to change what is changeable and be liberated.
Can you tell I’ve been spending time in 12 step groups? I swear I just saw the Serenity Prayer fly from my fingers.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the thing I can
The wisdom to know the difference.
I like this idea of one day at a time, one moment at a time, working through hardships instead of just trying to escape them.
Thich Naht Hanh talks about the inner smile. Smiling at one’s self. Intentionally smiling in response to all situations. Smiling at beauty wherever it exists. In his idea, I think the smile is much more than what the lips do. I think it’s an attitude made up of choices. It’s a way of approaching life that doesn’t see the world as a grim enemy.
Maybe I can do this.
Maybe I can smile and surrender to the will of God.
I must confess, though, that my conflict still remains…I don’t trust. Not very much, not very well. Maybe if I could learn to trust, I could learn to be at peace. I could surrender, but I don’t like surrender because I’m afraid to die. Or rather, I’m afraid my situation will kill me.
But then I look around and see that I haven’t died. Nor have I failed. Nor have I missed out on enriching life experienes. And in fact, I have grown stronger. Acquired some wisdom and experience. Made connections with people. Once in a while, helped someone in a way that I can see and measure and feel good about.
Maybe the key to being at peace with a situation is to simply wait it out.
That said, my disclaimer is that, if you are in an abusive situation, don’t wait it out, get out now!
Otherwise, this is my conundrum and I want to learn more. Good people, dear readers, what are your thoughts? How have you found peace with situations before?
May God’s peace, whatever that is, be with you now. May you find safety and wholeness. May you be surrounded by people who love you. May you find ways to do the things you love.