Saturday, January 23, 2010

Self-pity Salve

Every now and then a good bout of self-pity is quite satisfying. This is not particularly grown up, but true – at least for me. Right now, I am sitting in a coffee house by myself away from home, feeling alone. The last couple of days have been spent with my peers and superiors, and I am feeling rather unfairly judged and misunderstood by my superiors. That makes me feel embarrassed to be with my peers. Surely they can perceive the ridicule I am getting from those who have some control over my work situation; I can tell by the way some of them avoid me or look at me with “concern.” Working relationships can be the pits, especially when the judgments of those in positions of control are ill-informed or unconsciously directed by their own baggage (at least that’s what I think in this situation). Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in positions that seem intractable and beyond our control. When I find myself in those kinds of situations, a little bit of self-pity sure feels good. And there is plenty of hurt and anger to fill the pity party guest list – and don’t forget to add a little indignation and self-righteousness. Even if I am alone, those guests bring me some shallow comfort. I’m not proud of that, but it is simply the reality of my present moment.

But then life goes on. I ask myself what’s next in this no-win situation. Self-pity may feel good for a little while, but too long in that place, and it becomes boring. One cannot stay there; it is a dead place. So I choose to get out. Here is an unlikely opportunity. Here is barren earth that needs to be planted. Here is a vacuum that cries out to be filled. A little creativity and energy can go a long way. When I simply turn in another direction, I find that the resistance that was blocking me in that institutional direction is powerless. The institution has no power outside of itself, at least not in this case. I can go around or over or away from the roadblock. I can remake myself in a place where the institution does not dictate the outcome of my life. I just go in a different direction.

I must discern the direction. Where is life? Where is the greatest energy? How can I contribute to the world? How can I use my gifts to the fullest? What gives me joy? How can I pay the bills…? There are many questions and a few worries. There is dream and there is reality and wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were one-and-the-same? When they’re not, what are the things that are most important to me? Can I give up some things to satisfy the needs of the other thing? Must I do that? The fruitful thing about a roadblock is that it provides us with opportunities to look at these and many other questions once again. I have a chance to remake myself. I have another chance to discern God’s guidance and love in a new way. I can take a fresh look at life and approach once again with a new wisdom and experience that colors the new direction. I can learn from my troubles and be better for it.

I suppose this really isn’t news to any of us. We all know these things because we have been there before. From time to time, life gives us experiences that challenge and redirect us. I find that, in hindsight (sometimes far down the road), I gain an appreciation for the roadblocks and thank God that they stood in my path. With some practice, we come to this place sooner rather than later. I can already see some of that in my current situation. There are certainly things that I am thankful for as I face the current dead end.

So I slog on, enduring when I have to and making the changes that are within my power; and trust the rest to God. Where I have no control, I can grow in faith. But the truth is that there is a lot more within my power than I may think. I embrace that responsibility for myself and accept another growth experience. Then I move on in the direction that feeds and nurtures my body and soul. It really is up to me. But now and then, it just feels good to whine a bit, wallow in my self-pity, and pour out my lament. I feel better already.

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