“Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness” — Lao Tzu
I love this quote. I love thinking that relentless softness can erode what appears intractable and immoveable. The visual of solid ground acceding to the dampening of the earth, redefining its crags and layers of stubborn solidity by the insistence of water, becoming a rivulet and ultimately a stream.
And then there’s the old water torture visual (drops falling rhythmically and slowly on one’s forehead) which is far more reflective of my state of mind at the moment. And may I say? The drops aren’t particularly doing much except making me feel like I’m getting a dent in my head.
Over the past two years, I’ve been contacted by executive recruiters asking about my interest in C-level positions – law firms, professional service firms – and I’ve never considered pursuing the inquiries. Last week I did, and yesterday I withdrew my candidacy. It was the drops you see. The persistent drops – “Do you have the chops to do this again?” “You don’t have the chops to do this again” “Do you want to do this again?” “Wanting is irrelevant – what if they find me too old (that’s illegal and I’m way too immature, but…), too irreverent, too out there, not out there enough” “But do you want to do this again” “I want parts of it and I don’t want parts of it” “That’s no answer, Mim” “Can you repeat the question?”…and so on.
And so it went until I was desperately seeking a xanax or at least someone to turn off the faucet. Oh, did I mention that I have a skosh of a problem calling a plumber when I really need one (figuratively speaking of course)? “My family will think less of me for walking away” “They will not, you doof” “Yeah, they will” This is ridiculous. I am ridiculous. Full stop.
I write Andy and the boys, send an email to two of my dearest friends. Aaron writes back first – “You’ve earned the right to be whatever you want to be…therapist, elephant hygienist..” (I love that kid). Paul chimes in next – “I think you should get re-accredited to be a therapist”..and paraphrasing here, ‘so happy you will pursue what you want’ (I love that kid too). Andy, oh Andy – with his platitudes and deft application of the cliché, rejected both and just reminded me that who I am makes him proud enough. ‘Do what you want, and if you don’t know what that is just yet, that’s ok too’ (I don’t feel that it is, but may I say that he’s a rock star). And my friends..”I’m so happy you said no; I didn’t want to have to share you with that many people” (she’d never have to). “You made the right decision – besides, I think you should write a book!” And here I sit, with a different type of water – the kind that traces down one’s cheeks, gracing each wrinkle, tickling my jaw as they meander down my neck.
How bewildering to be in my renaissance and discover that I am still arguing with these voices of doubt? How breathtaking to realize that with a little effort, I can change a path that has been shaped by years and years of the drip, drip, drip, drip of my own design? I am changing the flow, I am going to try to be more purposeful with this one life I have. Remember my passion, follow my fascinations, remember that it was my sense of integrity and what I believe to be right that prompted my decision to turn around and re-route.
There’s a place for me – little, idiosyncratic, idealistic, sometimes-savvy me. I’m not sure where just yet, and I have to be okay with that for now. For with absolute certainty I can tell you, within me there’s a river.