Friday, February 20, 2009

World and Wilderness

Yesterday I walked and talked with a very insightful woman whose career is in marketing. She is a naturally intuitive person, picking up immediately on the nuances of things I said, and willing to challenge me on my assumptions. I want to get better acquainted with her. What she reflected back to me was that I love writing and I love teaching, but I hate marketing. She wondered aloud why I would want to run my own business, this being the case, but she understood that I like to have control over my endeavors.

This last sounds unsettling. I'm not eager to be perceived as a control freak. But I do understand that I'm happier and more effective if I have creative freedom both in my writing and in my teaching. When I have this, I am able to share more authentically my thoughts, feelings, visions and dreams. And these things, both in writing and in teaching, are at the heart of what I do.

Of course, it helps to be reassured that these things are helpful to my readers and my students -- that we have somehow made a human-to-human connection. When I receive emails from a classroom full child readers, as I did the other day, or words from a parent that my class is sparking her teen's creative imagination, I use these good words as fuel to continue my work.

My friend, J, calls the dual realms of creation and people-connection "wilderness and world." Sometimes I think that for me, the two realms overlap -- as they do now, while I blog very private thoughts, knowing that there may be a reader or two. Maybe it is my inclination to live as an open book that brings me to jarring moments where wilderness and world collide and I want to scurry for cover. (This is why I avoid PTA meetings.)

Do others have some extra layer of protection that I tend not to bring with me? I have the writer's "thick skin" recommended by all editors. But I do not seem to have it in the world of "marketing." If I get a vibe that I'm annoying someone with my notices of classes or church services or books available for sale, I use that as fuel to postpone mailings until it is nearly too late, to hesitate before sharing, even sometimes to procrastinate on sending information to interested parties.

So if marketing is about perceiving what people need and then seeing if I have something to meet that need, I seem, in my more vulnerable moments, to be favoring those who don't need what I have.

And this is silly.

What I need is a sense of "holy apatheia," similar to, but not exactly the same as the Buddhist's detachment from the self. I am clinging too tightly to myself, to my ego, so that I am not allowing the Spirit to work in me. I am equating my gifts with my survival.

Today I will focus on the work -- the writing and the teaching -- as its own self, an entity that can exist under its own power with or without me clinging to it like a worried mother.

And I will bless each emotion that comes and let it come and move through me, but I will not follow that emotion until it leads me away from my center.

In order to do the work, I need an emotional attachment to it. But I also need a strength to separate from the work and trust that neither it nor I will disappear.

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