Naming Your Work
I was driving along, humming a merry tune, when the black Dodge Ram 1500 approached from behind, driving right up to my bumper. It was so close, all I could see was the grill, filling my rear-view mirror. I stopped humming. I gripped the wheel. It was dangerous, and stupid, and discourteous. I was driving the speed limit. But for me, it became something else. It became personal.
My heart pounded. Inwardly, I raged. I considered pulling the stunt my brother once did, stepping on the brakes and watching my aggressor skid all over the road, trying to avoid hitting me. Instead, the truck pulled out to pass. I looked over to eyeball the asshole. It was a teenaged girl, talking on her cell phone. She didn't even look at me. I was nothing to her, just a speed bump. It wasn't personal.
When something like that happens, and all our senses go into fight or flight mode, it might be an indicator that we have some work to do. I was bullied as a kid. It left its emotional scars--the sense of invasion, being turned into a victim, made to feel small and defenceless. I hated it. I thought that was all in the past. Until the Ram queen rode my bumper that day. This is one way our soul's work comes to us, through what triggers us. We might call it the via negativa.
The other way, the via positiva, comes through our passions--what we really really love doing. Joseph Campbell said, if there is a life lesson to be gleaned from the world's great mythic stories, it's this: Follow your Passion. Do what you love, and go wherever it leads.
Twenty years ago, I was attending a concert by singer songwriter David Francey. As everyone rose to their feet, to give him a standing ovation, I stood too, but there were tears in my eyes. I wanted to be doing what he was doing. Music had once been my life’s passion. But life had carried me off in other directions. Now, as I grieved that part of me that lay dormant, I knew my soul was handing me my work, not on a platter, but on a stage. I needed to get back to my music!
Some of our work comes to us from our passions. They plead with us to take them seriously. When we do, the joy we feel becomes our gift to the world. Which is better than lamenting a gift we ourselves never opened.
Some of our work comes to us from our wounds. They call out for healing. As we revisit those wounds, asking, "What can I learn from this?" we're able to offer our more wholesome selves to the world. Which is better than slamming on the brakes, and endangering everyone.
Next Week: The Christmas Homesick Blues