Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

Well, it’s finally official. Effective this Friday at 5 PM, I have been transferred to another engineering team: my original team (going back 5-10 years)–and have been granted a 3-month leave of absence to finish my thesis and recover from the pain and burnout of the last year. When I come back, I will work under a manager that I’ve known for a decade and I trust “gets” me and will act on my behalf and my peers will be people that I also have a good rapport with and know will respect and encourage me. I’m quite happy.

I’m trying to focus on “quite happy” and not on the desperate measures it took to effect this change and how cynical and betrayed I felt in most of the process. I’m also trying to look at the valuable lesson I learned …

I recently asked my friend Art how he is so positive and loving all of the time. (He really is quite phenomenal in that way.) And he said that he just knows himself well enough to know when a situation is likely to knock him off his sense of center and his core connectedness with people, and then he draws a line well before that point and communicates clearly what that line is. Then, if the line is crossed, he simply takes his leave of the situation. He doesn’t go in a huff because he has acted before he got angry. He doesn’t need anyone to apologize for the infraction because he has taken care to protect himself and the relationship from injury.

On reflection, I realize that I also have a sense of that line in myself, but when people cross it, I compromise. And then I compromise some more. And I make excuses why compromising is OK. Until I’ve finally compromised so much that I’m angry and bitter. And who’s fault is that?

Now, had I used Art’s approach, I wouldn’t still have my job. I would have quit in the fall of 2006. But I also probably wouldn’t be quite so traumatized and protective and have been reinforcing the grooves in the less pleasant parts of my psyche. I know I have ugly, self-righteous aspects. It’s not like I’m going to become a saint and transcend these any time soon. But, if I’ve learned anything after countless hours of psychotherapy, the human version of perfection doesn’t mean being able to handle anything that gets thrown at you; instead, it lies in learning one’s own weaknesses and tendencies and respectfully navigating around these more destructive ruts and traps in one’s personality, even if that means sidestepping situations that make one react in these ways.

Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to practice this boundary enforcement some more soon, before I forget the lesson.

So, I’m sure everyone expects that a person with 3 months off would go do something adventurous. But, frankly, I need to eliminate as much stress as possible. A couple of my coworkers (who know the difficulties of my departing situation) have said that they personally don’t know how I put up with the maltreatment and shenanigans for so long. And just yesterday, another of my spine doctors expressed how relieved he is that I will have such a long break because he can feel all of the tension and toxicity in my body. So, I’m going to write, be with my pets, sit by the river and catch up on my tall stack of reading, exercise, and see if I can re-establish that sense of the sacred in every day life.

Peace, friends. May this be a summer of rejuvenation and deepening for you all.

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13 thoughts on “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

  1. This. Is. Beyond. Wonderful.

    In the interest of perspective, I think of you the way you think of Alfred – a guru of self-care and psitivity. And I’m pretty proud to have drawn similar conclusionsfrom my therapy as you verbalised here.

    I can’t think of anyone who deserves the time more, or who would use it more wisely.

    • I think of you the way you think of Alfred – a guru of self-care and psitivity

      Wow, I’m … I’m honored. Thanks. A lot. It’s little gifts like that that show me how far I’ve come in the last 10, hell even 5, years.

      I can’t think of anyone who deserves the time more, or who would use it more wisely.

      Thanks a bunch for the vote of confidence. You always seem to say such unexpected things that are so what I needed to hear. I’m glad you are here.

  2. That’s wonderful!! Good for you.

    And for what it’s worth, I think you did a fine job of sticking up for yourself. It’s always hard to know when to stay engaged and when to extricate yourself from a situation, and each time you make a choice, you get to learn more about where that line really lies for you (and it’s probably different in different relationships). Maybe you could’ve gone to HR directly earlier (circumventing manager), but that’s about the only thing I can think of.

    So in a similar situation in the future, you get to see where you want to draw the line and how firm a line it is. Fantastic!

    Another thought… somehow in my career, I’ve come to understand that some things are just business — it’s just the way it is. And I’m trying to apply that to taking care of myself, so that taking care of myself is just the way it is. (I’ve tried 5 times to explain what I mean and deleted, so I’m going to think on it some more and maybe post a deeper exploration of what I mean… sorry)

    • Thanks. I think you are right: if I took a step back, I’d see what a success this is in self-learning.

      As for the “just business” stuff, people have suggested something similar to me in the past. My difficulty is that I don’t seem to be able to hold that line, especially when it comes to something that I do for the majority of my daily life. Also, I’m such a relationship person. It kind of kills me to hold people at a distance, to not be completely open, or to not expect the best of their integrity, especially when these are relationships that are years old. So, I really struggle with keeping the “just business” dynamics in relationships separate from the more personal dynamics in these relationships. I’ll be curious to read your thoughts on this one.

      • One thing that really helped me was a book called “Hello, He Lied” by Linda Obst, about being a producer and a woman in Hollywood. In a business where people work closely & intensely on things they care about passionately, she found the idea of defining your relationships really useful: alliance or friendship. An alliance is with someone with whom you work because you have similar goals with respect to a particular project (for example). It may be friendly, but if a situation comes up in which the choice is between self-interest & your interest, your partner in alliance will choose self-interest. Friendship goes deeper and involves actual interest in your succeeding (and not just in conjunction with the alliance) and of course is far more rare. An alliance can, over time, develop into a friendship, but most business relationships are alliances. And often bad feelings arise when someone mistakes an alliance for a friendship. She gives an example of a date she went on with an actor, and she thought it was a Date and that he was into HER, but after a bit and while making out (!), he pitched casting him in her next project. Alliance disguised… She also talks about her relationship with another high level female producer which started off as an alliance and developed into a real friendship.

        I think that you absolutely should expect the best of people’s integrity (based on their history of having integrity) and be as open as you want to be. What I mean by making self care “just business” is a way to draw that line: “I need X, Y, & Z by this date” and if that deadline isn’t met, it’s just the next step to go over their head or quit or whatever feels like self-care to you. It’s not a betrayal of the relationship to have the consequence.

        That doesn’t mean it’s easy. My boss is also my friend, and going to her to ask for a raise, knowing I was going to have to leave if I didn’t get it b/c I just wasn’t making enough money, was just terrifying. And I got it. And she wasn’t being a bad friend for not suggesting I get a raise earlier — it’s just business that there’s no automatic review/raise process for temps (who I guess aren’t supposed to be here long enough to merit a raise?), so I have to ask. So my asking has to be just business too, even though it’s scary.

      • further to: “I need X, Y, & Z by this date” and if that deadline isn’t met, it’s just the next step

        If you needed paper or measurements or documents in order to do your job, you would ask for it. Would you also have the same sense of ickyness and mental anguish over the incident if it wasn’t provided? Would you fret about missing your deadline because you didn’t have what you needed to do the job? The you in my head would simply go to whoever could get you what you need and get it without being emotionally involved in the paper. (Bad example, but do you get what I mean?) I’d absolutely be frustrated, even angry, but I hope I’d be separate enough that my anger is for wasting my time rather than having my worth connected with the event, y’know?

        I’m not explaining well, but… I’m trying.

  3. That really sounds wonderful, good for you!
    The “line crossing” thing was something I spent a lot of time thinking about last night.
    I think I will be posting something related to that later tonight.
    As you say, the concept about being a “perfect human” is not as we think it. It is not to one day just be so blissed out that we never get angry or upset, thus those of us on the spiritual path feel anytime we react strongly to a situation we think it is a sign that we are not trying hard enough. The important thing is to be able to observe how we react so we know ourselves better, to accept ourselves and thus accept others.
    Unfortunately, sometimes we just cannot remove ourselves from a situation when we want to. As you said, if you did as Art did you wouldn’t be working there anymore. If I did as Art did,then last night I would have either stranded one of my closest friend’s friends at a restaurant with four orders of food or completely ignored her. . . and both of those options sound rather. . . immature to me. Instead, I resorted to sarcasm (pretty reliable) and to canceling the after dinner plans because I was too “tired”. So I guess that last bit was Art-like. I guess you have to cut and run at the right place. It sounds like you got a good deal though by toughin’ it out a bit- alhumdulilah!

    • Yeah, that’s a tough one. We can’t always choose to just walk away from a reactive situation. To take it one step further, I think about all those people in poverty who truly are trapped and how many social ills (crimes, wars, and other forms of desperation and bitterness) would just suddenly disappear if everyone were sheltered, fed, and given proper medical care. We do the best we can and then sometimes we are called to do even more than that.

      My mind knows that forgiveness of self in these situations goes a long way towards compassion for all. But my psyche has a long way to go in cultivating that habit. Thanks for the encouragement and reminder.

  4. Whew. I glad it’s finally resolved, and I’m even more glad that it resolved for the best.

    Even though you are a little frustrated with yourself for letting it go so far, at the end of it all you got to be the stand up person you want to be and you got what you wanted. I think sometimes those of us that strive to avoid confrontation and unpleasantness underestimate the value of anger and other “negative” emotions that actually serve us. If you hadn’t acknowledged those bad feelings and taken the action they demanded, the end result would have been very different. So, while I know you’ve learned a lot about boundaries in this process, I wonder if there’s also a place for honoring the “negative” – you know what I mean? Maybe you could think of it as yang energy working for you, and at the end of the day it tempered well with the yin and got you what you really need. Maybe you could cut yourself a little slack for sitting with the bad feelings for so long, and embrace the alchemical process that takes a little cooking time.

    Just a thought from someone who is trying to learn the lesson of the shadow.

    Love to you.

    • Thanks. I’m not even sure if I got what I wanted. I just ended up being so drawn into fighting for what was offered that I don’t really feel like I had the spaciousness I needed to really settle into my happiness about my choice.

      I like what you said about the time needed for the alchemical process. I’m definitely a more slow cooker in that regard. And that often means that I end up having to carve out a space for myself to have this process and then continually defend its boundaries. It’s very much in conflict with this archaic expectation I have that I don’t be too much of a burden on people.

      I guess that’s what my 3 months are: my alchemical stew pot. We’ll see what insights bubble up to the surface over time. And if they are ones that will disappoint people or force me to reset expectations, then I’ll get more practice at this self-care thing.

      What I’d like to take with me from this incident into the next one is the permission to stop compromising earlier. It’s hard for me to not give when I still I have a few pennies of energy in my pocket. I bet if I could learn to enforce better boundaries, I would be more comfortable at wielding that yang energy without feeling like my sanity was on the line.

      Thanks for traveling with me to all of these places and sparking that thinking.

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