In my twenties during a job interview the president of the company asked me something like, “ What code do I live by, or what personal ambition do I have? “, something like that which prompted this response:
Reflecting upon this unexpected old memory popping up this morning, I see that some of the motivation for ‘reasonable’ came from being a people pleaser both by nature and by cultural nurture: It was important to get along with others. I valued cooperation. And I valued harmony. Compromise was an important skill.
My twentysomething self was also wise enough to know I equally valued loyalty to myself, my heart, my vision, my truth.
This interview cemented the arc away from my parents’ ambitions for me to become a “professional” of sorts. After training concurrently as artist (true to myself) and teacher (my mom encouraged it for practical purposes of employability- therefore reasonable), neither turned out to be quite right. With this job interview I fell into the accidental career of sales in the graphic arts industry. Because I impulsively bought a house a couple of years later, I needed to stay in the field to support the expensive roof over my head. That was reasonable. And for 14 years I concurrently trained part time in the healing arts to be true to myself because graphic art sales was killing me slowly.
My insight today was that my father had been firmly denied any art training by his father and my mother had completed but didn't use her teacher qualifications. Seems I unconsciously chose to study both their abandoned fields… with no regrets: the transferable skills and knowledge I gained in my 5 years of university have served me very well for many decades.
Christmas 2020 I wrote ‘The Long Goodbye’ about my dying father and the covid-19 related difficulties surrounding that process. I shared that the word “consciousness” was my guiding principle for myself and prayer for the world to achieve. (It is one of my best written pieces.)
By summer of 2021 when the dust of grief and stress had settled enough I recognized that for the first time in 20 years I didn’t have a sick or needy parent to consider or help to care for. In fact I had created two ventures from the ground up in that distracted climate. My retreat company was born the same year my mother was diagnosed with cancer and increasingly over the next 7 years every time before I was away or while facilitating a personal growth program I had to wonder if I’d be getting a call. When my dad became a widower, the family dynamic changed completely. Again, and increasingly over a dozen years he needed more help and attention. During that time my retreat company gradually transformed into a brand new creative venture of original textile and clothing design, a venture that maintained my need to be away regularly.
In 2021 I had for the first time in 20 years, for the first time since becoming an entrepreneur and starting two companies, for the first time I breathed in the new experience of complete absence of family obligation. I was a daughter no more. Then the unfamiliar miraculous release of the multi-faceted, complex, relentless guilt that comes hand in hand with balancing a life and work with aging and/or ill parent(s). I imagine many readers will be nodding at this point.
The remainder of my life lay glistening before me, free and clear, fresh like uncharted territory. I wondered what it would actually feel like to be undistracted in my focus, not only vocation but on every aspect of what makes up an unobligated life. Covid-19 provided the bittersweet and ironic abundance of time to consider my new freedom in lock down.
Did I need to remain reasonable while being true to myself?
Who am I if I’m not chronically obliged? What can I dare do or be if I’m not tied down?
WHAT DO I WANT NOW THAT I’M FREE?
The pandemic has put a temporary lid on the immediate options available.
But I will share this- my highlight of 2021. Early in the year, not yet knowing how I’d afford it in the barren lands of cancelled events, and months before my father had passed, I booked a long vacation for the fall at a familiar local escape. I had faith my life would continue to work out. Why not? I needed to look forward to something during such a difficult time, and intuitively I proceeded with my commitment not realizing just how desperately I’d require this time away by the fall.
For those of you who still have parental obligations, I want to urge you when the time comes- after the passing- go away, take your leave. Go get your self back. Find a way to make that happen.
And please trust me when I say, those who pass are never truly gone. My parents are around in spirit, having a marvelous adventure in their own newly found freedom...
One auspicious part of the story is that 10 days before embarking to go away, a brand new client made an enthusiastic clothing purchase that covered my vacation cost! Free and clear, I could venture forth into self-care without any lingering form of stress.
Since many of you now do, you may agree that working from home has a side to it that’s not so great. You are always in your work place, always aware of what still needs to be done for both job and your home. You never really get a true break from the burden of your roles. The sanctuary is also the place of constant reminder, if you’re anything like me. Finding peace with the “To Do list” is a spiritual practice that sometimes needs the help of pure and simple abandonment. Away.
Abandon to being in a rental that didn’t need my attention or inspire ambition, being in a gorgeous natural space, being able to flow with the rhythms of the day uninterrupted, being able to swim (very cold!) and walk and linger lying down sheltered under the beaming sun, being and discovering myself without a whiff of guilt for choosing to be true to me, only me, for as long as I want. Being without burden.
That’s a new kind of hard won 'reasonable'.
There’s a much bigger picture of possibilities out there and in my heart now, ready to explore day by day.
2022 feels like such a blank slate. Even amidst all the global unknowns my optimism is high because being true to my self comes really easy now, faster and without a wobble of concern for being unreasonable. Nothing else matters when I’m listening to my head as it’s informed by my heart. My heart (and yours) that is connected to Divine wisdom so much greater than all this stuff... True alignment makes me a better person.
The rewards are glorious and inherent in the choices made from that kind of unwavering loyalty. Highly recommended.
I call it Sacred Selfishness.