How to Heal

TRexDuckyI don’t make my living doing marketing anymore. I work for a small software company in the Silicone Prairie. I have made my way into another niche market. Instead of pipe organ building, I now work with people in heavy truck salvage and food production. It’s one job, two product lines. I’m doing what I thought I’d never do again, what I thought I’d never want to do again. But, it’s different this time.

Bye-bye Lily Pad

I spent a couple of years convalescing from my awful work environment in the used textbook wholesale industry. It took two full years to stop wincing every time I saw someone walk by my desk. I was afraid I’d never be able to work in an office environment again. But, my marketing job allowed me some freedoms that helped me heal my sense of being an oarsman on a slave ship. That sounds hyperbolic, but that old job took parts of my soul that I am still trying to recover. It’s going to be a slow process.

I landed safely on a lily pad. Financially, it was difficult. I kept hoping for a sale to supplement my income. That sale never came, the company changed hands, and I was offered a cut in pay. That was my signal to leave. It just about crushed me. I had stayed long enough to invest some identity in the company and the job I was doing. Few people knew what I did in my old job, but lots of people knew what I did while I was on my lily pad. It was a good fit for my skills and personality. They simply couldn’t pay me enough to live on, so I leapt.

The Healing Place, 2

I’ve landed in a good place. I have gone back to technology. I am among my geek people again. I have a sense of stability. I can pay my bills. I have health insurance through my employer. I get to work with kind, smart people, who work together as a team. We have lunches together. People bring their dogs to work. I spent less than $10.00 on gas last month.

I’ve also had the chance to pull on the threads of my old, soul-sucking job. I’ve been given a clear image of what was job and what was work environment. I am grateful. I occassionally wince, but not as often. I was battered. I was thrown away. I was picked off the garbage pile and given an experience completely different. I leapt. I ended up in a similar and better place. That is what healing is. T. S. Eliot put it right in his Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Try Not to Act Surprised

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I spent last weekend in LA. This was not your typical, go to Disney, happen to see a B-level celebrity at Starbucks trip. This was business with a bunch of pleasure thrown in. The weather was great. I stayed with friends. I rented a car so I could get where I needed to go in my own time. And I spent some of my time attending the Taxi Road Rally, an annual songwriting conference.

Nearly everything exceeded my expectations. Each morning, I enjoyed coffee in a beautiful garden. I easily moved through traffic. I even got a private tour of Disney Hall and their pipe organ. I met some great new people and learned some valuable things about the music industry. I even found a beautiful scarf on sale in a drug store. I felt completed charmed.

On Sunday, I sat with new friends on a deck in Laurel Canyon. The view was stunning (see the photo above), and the conversation hit me like a ton of bricks. I have been standing in my own way. I have been limiting myself for years. The midwest and plains states are filled with talented people who are taught to never be a bother. All the time I was trying not to inconvenience anyone, I was inadvertently limiting my own potential.

“Ask and ye shall receive,” is one of the most paraphrased Bible verses (Matthew 7:7-8). How did I miss that? Over the years, my desire not to impose left me never really asking for what I wanted. You could say I wasted a lot of time waiting for someone to offer me something they had no idea I could use. I became good at identifying what I didn’t want, but that’s not the same thing as naming your desires. “Sometimes just saying it out loud is enough,” was one of the bricks lobbed at me on that deck. I wasn’t avoiding putting someone else out. I was giving away my own power.

Then I caught myself sounding surprised. Humility is a wonderful trait, but it almost sounds ungrateful to someone who gives you something from their heart. Here’s the way it should go. Someone asks you what you want. You tell them. They give it to you. You thank them. Our big world wonders what we want most from it. It’s impolite not to answer. What I learned, just last weekend, is receiving life’s gifts and being grateful isn’t selfish. It isn’t the same as grabbing food out of someone else’s mouth. I will work on asking for the things I want. The biggest challenge might be to not act surprised when I get them.