Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Let go of who you think you should be to be who you are

It's an odd thing that we single out "mid-life crises" and talk about them as a moment; an event suspended in time.

Nothing happens in a moment as if it were plucked out of nowhere and dropped onto the timeline of your life.  And everyone, not just those who are middle-aged, experiences profound changes throughout their life; vocationally, spiritually, personally.  Perhaps most of us just develop the capacity for, or appreciation of, self-reflection during middle-age.  And upon honest reflection of vocation, family, spirituality, possessions, etc. an impulse to change is not a surprising result.

My "mid-life crisis" began in 2010.  That year for my annual performance evaluation, after pouring myself into my team and project and working 80-100 hours per week for almost an entire year, I was given a rating of "developing" (only one step above "needs improvement").  Starting in 2011 my spiritual community split over issues of human sexuality, attempted transformation among those remaining, lost our vicar, and ultimately closed.  In the fall of 2012, at work I got a new boss.  He presided over intense and dramatic changes.  In March of 2013 I had the crushing responsibility of laying off 10 people (from a 20+ person team).  In June I found myself and rest of the team in the same cross-hairs of a layoff.  It may have been luck, intuition, or God but my angst at work had me exploring start-up ideas in April and May.  So when I heard the words "your position is no longer needed" at least I had something to pour myself into while I sought to make sense of "what I want to be when I grow up."

One summer when we lived in Seattle a family friend and sea plane pilot invited us to "get a slice of pizza in Poulsbo."  Poulsbo, is at least an hour and a half driving distance and involves a ferry so when I said "a slice of pizza?"our friend responded without skipping a beat "yeah, we'll be flying."  We boarded the plane, took in beautiful sights, did a loop around the Space Needle, landed in the middle of a carnival, had a slice of pizza, and returned home.  Back on the dock at home I stumbled to express my gratitude saying, "George.  You have ruined me for fun.  I may never enjoy myself again."

The past three years have "ruined" me for many things.  I'm ruined for "church"; at least the church that primarily concerns itself with buildings and "services" and bulletins, Sunday school, potluck dinners, small groups, and undemanding relationships.  I'm ruined for "jobs"; at least the sort of jobs where shareholder value is primary and it's people are secondary.  I'm ruined for "capitalism"; at least the capitalism that isn't deeply troubled by the impact of widening economic inequality and environmental degradation.  I'm ruined for "politics"; at least the politics that finds no compromise, even on goals, if not means, and is corrupted by money and powerful interests.

I recently re-watched a TED talk by Brene Brown about vulnerability.  She describes a group of people from her research whom she calls the "whole-hearted." They are people who have embraced vulnerability.  They have the courage to be imperfect, compassion towards themselves and others, and have relationships based on authenticity.  Brown says they have:
"let go of who they think they should be in order to be who they are."
 I may be "ruined" for church, jobs, or politics.  But I am NOT ruined in faith, enterprising ideas, or political convictions.  Quite the opposite...  I find myself pondering who I thought I should be, who I really am, and whether I've been fooled.  I haven't found the answers yet but I'm certain I intend to live "whole-heartedly."

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