Monday, September 22, 2014
Comfort Zones and Demons (a meditation)
My family passed a landmark recently. We collectively took on different roles: parents became empty-nesters, sons became graduates, workers, travelers, young, semi-independent adults. We changed geographical locations, got new jobs, broadened horizons.
It has been exciting to stretch, for the most part, but with stretching comes tension. The new and unfamiliar comes with challenges, doing things differently, meeting and engaging with limitations.
My son Sean calls these limits comfort zones. That works for many situations, but each of us is entering territory that has been a bit charged emotionally, or it has been avoided, or is somehow contrary to how we traditionally "identify" ourselves.
When a person moves in the direction of something personally difficult, a shadow if you will, that person goes to meet a demon.
I respect deeply the courage needed not to turn away from something avoided or disowned or out of balance. That, my friends, is hard, real work.
Each member of my beloved family has taken a path that puts them on course to encounter a demon.
Megan has a new, hard job. She drives seventy miles a day to teach at a school in the Zuni Pueblo. The work is demanding, overladen with paperwork.The hours are long. She is living alone, without running water, in a remote part of New Mexico.
But more than this she is learning not to be "the star," to just do a good job, and to live withing limits of time and energy. That is very hard for her. There is more, much more, but she has taken on the challenge and deals with high levels of anxiety, frustration, and exhaustion.
Sean is in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru. He is alone as well, for the first time in his life, and is learning the lessons of solitude. He reflects on his privilege as an American abroad. The territory is new and uncomfortable.
Kyle is in San Diego and is meeting demons of his own. He goes door-to-door selling solar power to home owners. This is a young man who refused to read a poem to his school, even when threatened by his principal. He keeps his own council and would prefer to be left alone.
He is learning how to talk to strangers, to listen, to empathize, to put them at ease as he presents ways to use cleaner energy.
I am left without the distractions of family life and live alone. I have to look at how I avoid doing my job, how, now that I can, I have forgotten what it was I wanted to do. I am drifting and have to reinvent myself.
The script I live by is an old one and has to do with holding oneself back, always busy with what has been left undone, but avoiding really getting the work done.
I guess you could call this work psychological growth. Or maybe the human curriculum.
I can't explain why, but I keep coming back to it, find it very important, and see that something like my soul hangs in the balance.
I cannot overstate how much I respect my partner and sons for taking on the hard work of growing as people. I have to say I would like to see more of it, and more work in the world because of it.
Rather than list just worldly, financial, or physical achievements (all wonderful), I would like family communication like Christmas cards to report how we have met our demons, pushed beyond comfort zones, become more balanced, more energetic, more integrated, less egotisitical human beings.
To be in a family that shares that desire is more than I could have dreamed.