It’s been ten months since I worked in Corporate. It no longer sets the tone for my life. The economic need to work is (ever)present, but the Corporate lifestyle doesn’t control my inner clock or dominate my thoughts. On a deeper, more personal level my corporate career went hand in hand with an intense desire to provide for my family. My career doesn’t define me, but this self-imposed role as family provider by and large does. I’m not the only source of income in the family, but I put a lot of pressure on myself regardless. When I was laid off last February, that burning need to provide continued. No one can accuse us of just sitting around.
In spite of this or maybe because of this, 2011 has been an intense year. It started with huge change, then settled into a splendid Summer, followed thereafter by an educational Autumn, and then a busy Winter/Christmas season. Like Christmas lights on a conifer, sparkling life lessons were everywhere!
I’ve come to think of my life lessons as lessons in training demons, life’s demons. The kind everybody has. Some people carry theirs with them allowing them to make trouble. Some drag them behind, where they are seen and never forgotten. I visualize my demons as little gremlins locked away in a small steel cage in the dark, cold basement of my psyche. They look like gelatinous ink spots, or like the kind of gooey toy that sticks to the wall when you throw it. They have long, sinewy tendrils that can borrow deeply in the mind and emotions to gain anchor. The earlier they take root, and the longer they remain there, the harder they are to extricate. The roots grow barbs.
My demons aren’t ignored, no. I’m convinced they are meant to be tamed, transformed, and absorbed gradually over time, as though it were the most important thing to do in a person’s life. I’ve worked hard to extricate many of them, tendrils and all, from where they had locked their greedy barbs into me. Consequently, there is only one key that can release my demons from their dank little cages, and I gave that control to the Great Mother a long time ago. Every once in a while, I bump into something I must learn, and so the Great Mother riles the little beasties until one sends a tendril up from the basement to where it gets close enough to become … ticklish.
And so it happened this Christmas.
In our family, Christmas is my department. Leslie has other departments like cooking, vehicle affairs, and ensuring we don’t dress like rodeo clowns, but it’s up to me to expedite the holidays. So, I began thinking about Christmas in October. This is when I usually begin shopping. In the past I didn’t stop shopping until the wish list was fulfilled and certainly not when good sense prevailed! It stopped when I thought enough was enough! But this year funds were low and there were other priorities. Our daughter is a typical 14 year old in many ways, but she worked just as hard as Leslie and I did all summer long. How could that be ignored? There was even a time when it looked like we’d have to skip Christmas all together, and truth to tell that made me feel panicky. I couldn’t indulge myself as I usually did, so I self-imposed an incredible amount of pressure to make every gift meaningful instead.
Our tree was lovely. It was a gift from friends of ours, which was a timely blessing. And we decorated the house with our 27 years’ worth of Christmas doodads. We couldn’t do much shopping until almost the last minute, but when we did we stayed within our tight budget. At the last minute I got full payment on an art commission that enabled us to finish Elizabeth’s gifts when the funds would have run out otherwise. Another timely blessing. I wrapped gifts right up until the end, and after finding all sorts of wrappings, ribbons and beautiful gift tags in the garage, I was able to make every gift package a work of art. I indulged myself with this, and it made me extremely happy. When Christmas morning came, every present under the tree was beautifully wrapped and each was meaningful. They were there because we put them there, with hard work, and we did so as a family. Consequently, we had invoked the true spirit of Christmas, making it a more meaningful holiday than we’ve ever had. It was beautiful. We put the Yule Log and Christmas music on, and opened all our gifts.
My internal conflict, where the demon tickled me, was in a bleeding desire for approval. Oh I know this demon. Would this Christmas be good enough? Would my hard work be appreciated? Would my family be angry because there wasn’t as much under the tree? As irrational as it seems, all these worries and more, as connected as they were to my self-imposed role of provider, plowed a path of insecurity through my brain during the entire month of December. And as Christmas approached, I battled with this demon, knowing full well that expecting approval from a 14 year was unfair and quite ridiculous and that my family appreciates everything I do.
When Christmas was over, I had a terrible case of the blues that lasted a few days. Recognizing this demon, and facing just how deep set my insecurities around provision, approval, and responsibility are took a lot of energy.
But then it was over, and I felt fine and ready to write about my experience.
Now 2012 approaches, and I don’t think the winds of change will stop any time soon. I feel that circumstances will continue to evolve for me and my family, and then one day we’ll wake and think, “Wow! How did we get here?”
When that day comes, I’ll remember that many timely blessings, the love of my family, and both my inner and outer work had everything to do with it.
Happy New Year!