Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #116: Happy Endings

[Detail from the infamous Logo-Board that blossomed one fine week in Mr B's classroom: starting with NM's nifty YouTube, it grew from there, grades 7-12 participating.]

I’m not sure of the exact time, but it was probably around 1991 or 1992. I was living in New Orleans, and was about two or three years into my immersion in all things metaphysical (psychic channels, astrology, healing touch, bodywork, past life regressions: it was the New Age, baby!). At the Golden Age Bookstore, I consulted an astrologer from Memphis who, amongst many other things said: “What’s with this psychotherapy thing? I see you as a teacher.” I gave her a standard Scorpio hmmm, and trotted out some pat rationalizations: supervising graduate social work interns, staff development, therapy as teaching—“No, teaching. In a classroom. That’s what I see.” She could bulldoze as well as the Scorpio across the table. Sarah was her name: Sagittarian, I believe, was her game (same, no surprise, as my son).

I didn’t seek out astrologers or my spiritual mentor Mary Jo McCabe (a psychic up in Baton Rouge; I’d see her once a year) for predictions, much as they might like to give them: I was looking for an understanding of who I was in the moment, not where (they thought) I might be. Of course, I missed the point that, as far as Sarah was concerned, she was not predicting: she was just stating the facts. My fault if I was off course.

I didn’t come to think of myself as off course, but in my last few years as a therapist, I found that I kept looking for ways to push beyond the classical structures (and strictures) of talk therapy into movement, bodywork, healing energy work, and other spiritual explorations. I also found myself wanting to just jump ship and do something completely different, things that invariably looked like minimum wage work: working in a bookstore, an art gallery, an organic nursery. Teaching never once entered the inner computations, computations that invariably led me to conclude that I was not yet ready to make the leap out of my comfortably-incomed life as a psychotherapist.

And then along came a Libra who I left an entire life for, and not too long thereafter, a young Sag swimming in her belly. His presence in our lives was as forceful as that other Sag who sat across from me six or seven years before. His importance to us and our commitment to him blew up all my sense of who I was, what I was, what I would do with my life. I made the leap from my comfortable life and, as I have said before, “trusting in the universe,” I leapt into a void of not-knowing.

And landed flat on my face in a deep swimming pool without water. Bloodied? You bet.

I limped out of the New Age, and took my bruised body into four years of Iyengar yoga: I felt betrayed by the universe in which I had (I now say naively and arrogantly) trusted, and I wanted nothing to do with metaphysical speculations: I wanted to heal a body, and came to see that the body was THE site and intersection of all things metaphysical. For us, on this planet, anyway.

Finding a work life after my life as a therapist was torture: part of my naïve arrogance was also a belief that the world out there would scoop me up with all my “transferrable skills,” that it didn’t take a genius to see that I had plenty to offer. “World” didn’t seem to agree. “World” mainly remained silent.

In my old high school stomping grounds of Jackson, Mississippi I managed to crib together a job as an archivist with the state Department of Archives and History, a wonderful job as it turned out, but one that walked on the thinnest of threads, a government contract job in a frenzied budget-cutting state: the blade came down fourteen months into that experiment in living.

From Jackson, I tossed myself up on the “shores” of my hometown here in Tres Leches (San Antonio, for the uninitiated) and ran into more closed doors than I would have thought possible in a city of over a million residents, the self-proclaimed “seventh or eighth” largest city in the US.

One day a new friend marched herself down to our local literary center and, as far as I can tell, virtually browbeat the wonderful Ms. Nan Cuba into offering me a part time job as PR Director. The writer in me was delighted, Nan was extremely supportive and loving, and the staff she had assembled, well, my nickname for the joint was the Love Shack.

But PR was just a part time gig, and I needed another part to go along with it. Through yet another odd labyrinthine passage, I landed a gig as an instructor at a local career school, what in the old days would have been called a vocational school, trade school, what have you. I taught the light, non-techy stuff, some of it mildly interesting, most of it drivel. I thought I had landed in hell.

Except that, over the next four years, I came to see that teaching was largely about building relationships and exploring material from that established trailhead. Social animal that I am, I grew to love working with the students, as did they with me. Over at the lit center, founder Nan was on her way out to a well-deserved extended sabbatical: let’s just say that the center has yet to recover from that jolt. A year and half later, I walked out myself, no longer trusting any universe to step in, but too miserable at the time to give a damn.

But the “teaching” gig continued, and sunk in deep enough into my bones that when word came two years ago that our program was being cut, I could confidently say that, for all its warts, the school had blessed me with the opportunity to “discover” what Sarah had tried to get me to see a mere fourteen or fifteen years before.

Two years now into a full time teacher’s gig, and ensconced in the Xanadu of my second summer vacation, I cannot imagine a better life, short of full time slackerdom (this 10 week slackerfest is plenty good in itself).

I just hope Sarah hasn’t got something else up her sleeve. Scorps are fixed signs, creatures of habit.

Happy endings sometimes take a while for slow learners. And fixed signs at that.

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Blogger jsd said...

To happy endings no...even while I was working on and finishing my degree I knew with every bone in my body that computer science wasn't really for me - but at the time I felt that my choices where pretty limited, and once stateside again - I was so close to finishing and knew that I was close to divorcing my ex, that not finishing and getting a well paying job...well, just seemed not the thing to do. Then I stayed almost 10 years employed as a CS major and utterly miserable for over half of it.

But, for all that my job took good care of my food, shelter, clothing was just the price I paid for that, I paid with my physical health and emotional well-being.

Well, as you know I'm now trying to discern and follow. But, though my co-workers are super nice, and the company super relaxed...I'm still paying a price for following an optical thread to destination unknown. If the destination isn't to what seems to be, then perhaps I too can sit down across from a universe reader with the correct calling card just for me.

6:28 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

jsd: And there are, of course, for both of us, happy endings and beginnings all along the way. VT, union, diocesan haven, new work (new BAREFOOT work) for you, these babes in my life, Rec, y'all and other human life supports, the many blessed angels and on and on and on...

Still, it is hell to feel as if you are living in exile from a land toward which you are traveling. If biblical time has any benefit, it has opened up my sense of how long things can take, and yet how necessary the steps taken are.

Peace on, discerning traveler. Good to see you back on the e-waves. Best to all the beauties.

7:45 PM  
Blogger San said...

Thanks, Paschal, for sharing more of your life's trajectory. I'm always dazzled by the way the trajectory of lives isn't really that direct. Trajectory's the wrong word. More like a scenic route wandering in and out of sometimes dangerous territories, where snipers await on the side of the road, hidden in the bushes. It's the beautiful vistas, however, the soothing swimming holes and companions who will swim with us, that make the trip all it's cracked up to be.

I celebrate with you and your students a vocational match arranged in heaven, the equation of which must have been written on a cosmic blackboard in the stars.

And as to that 10 months of slackerdom--where do I sign?

11:28 AM  
Blogger Tammie Lee said...

first~ you are a wonderful writer!
2nd~ I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story.
3rd~ indeed having a child changes everything and what a glorious experience.
4th~ I am so glad to have met you, in blog land that is.

11:29 AM  
Blogger rebecca said...

when my daughter entered college she informed us that she wanted to study accounting. a tremendous shock since a) she was not good with numbers, and b) both her dad and i "saw" her as a teacher all along. she has tremendous patience, is very structured and organized, has good rapport with children and kids love her. can't say she got that from me! long story short, one class in accounting that she barely passed and she knew that perhaps this was not the way to go. she immersed herself in liberal arts courses waiting for that epiphany and, finally, 2 years later, she had it: "Mom, I think I want to major in Education." Really? Today, she's the bilingual reading teacher for her elementary school and spends much of her free time volunteering for any and all workshops, events, etc. at school. she's in her element and she loves it.

isn't it funny how sometimes others can see you and know you better than you can see or know yourself.

so you're a scorpio and your beloved a libra...well, same in my household. i find my scorpio does not like change either and, like you, possesses much gray matter.

1:46 PM  
Blogger danni said...

and so you took the long way around, but there you are, having had some life lessons and experiences along the way --- you will have had a very full and rich journey before you are finished --- i enjoyed reading about your zig-zag path - thank you!!!

7:15 PM  
Blogger Granny Smith said...

Sometimes it's a long road to that happy ending. Congratulations on having reached it! The picture at the top is a perfect accompaniment yo your happy ending.

12:26 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Busted me, you did there, Ms San: ten "months" of slackerdom? I only fessed to ten "weeks." Guess you've read tween the lines long enuff.

As blessed as I felt through my life as a therapist, it was until Tina and Walden came into my life and the journey that ensued, that I felt myself to be truly grounded and living the path before me.

6:05 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Tammie Lee: Thank you for your good words again. Your photos continue to keep me connected to a part of the world that I still consider holy ground: your pix certainly show that holiness.

6:07 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Rebecca: "Astrologically," Scorpio / Libra is not supposed to be the best of mixes (blending non-complementary elements), but you could have fooled me.

For years in my youthier youth, I was asked if I were a writer. It took years for me to give into that bit of seeing by others that you referred to. We certainly need the eyes of all to see ourselves. And our inner eyes to complete the vision.

6:12 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Thanks for following the zags and zigs, danni. Switchbacks, eh?

6:14 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Thanks, Granny Smith: the logo board exemplified what I find best about "teaching": collaboration, spontaneous inspiration, "multi-media," and the exercise of our multiple intelligences: the amazing memories and eyes for detail that went into the logo board: kids would watch other kids doing a logo and know exactly if they were on or off track with the smallest of details.

6:18 AM  
Blogger alister said...

Hi Paschal. I enjoyed the heck out of that. It’s a variation of my tune. Sure do miss my big fat telecom paycheck among other things. When I did my swan dive, “World” was no help to me either, so when the “self-discovery money” I’d saved up had been spent, I crumbled and went back to telecom—a different facet of it, a fraction of the pay.
Well, I loved your happy ending! It gives us hope…us being the slow-learners still doin’ the breaststroke in our own blood at the bottom of the deep, waterless cement pond. Mmmm…salty nuance…full-bodied…possesses a well-integrated metallic structure…

12:38 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Swan dive: I like that, Ms A, and swimmin' in blood was not far from the truth. As with your return to telecom, part of the interim conundrum was that, in the interminable job searches, my mind would routinely route itself back through considerations of counseling jobs: Sarah would be happy to know that the offerings sucked so much to high heaven as to render them unfit for the living (or the daid).

Good to hear your chimes.

2:40 PM  
Blogger San said...

The ten months was my own subliminal wishful thinking, Paschal.

Another award awaits you at my place...

8:30 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

San: And ten months is the slacking I do in the company of urchins, natch. We'll all dream on.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Meg Wolff said...

I came over from San's blog and enjoyed reading your story!

5:21 PM  

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