Friday, June 3, 2011

The Physics of the Quest - on Life's Lessons and Opportunities

Ten years ago today, my ex-husband and I went on a day hike together and transitioned from being friends to having a romantic connection.  We later counted that day as our dating anniversary and went through numerous trials and tribulations together during our years of dating, marriage, separation, and eventually divorce.  

Ten years later, I had a pivotal lunch today with a colleague who will be heading up our new Advising Center on campus and feel a sense of wonder and excitement about the direction that my life is now taking as a divorced, single woman – our upcoming transition into this new center may turn out to be exactly the opportunity and turning point for which I have been yearning.  Ten years ago, today signified an important beginning in my life, and I have a feeling that later on I will look back and reflect that today signified an important beginning in my life as well - the start of a wonderful new working relationship.

This past week, I have been reflecting on the many different perspectives through which we as individuals can view our lives.  A seemingly small event or introduction can someday turn out to have a much larger significance.  And, even an entire relationship can later be seen as part of a much larger arc.

This past weekend, as I re-read Finding the Right One After Divorce: Avoiding the 13 Common Mistakes People Make in Remarriage (by Edward Tauber and Jim Smoke), I saw clearly for the first time how my lack of healing from my divorce and my overall developmental needs contributed to my getting into and staying in a difficult relationship with my ex-boyfriend.  Because I am still mastering the art of being alone, I have been going through life continually looking for someone to rescue and take care of me – my mother, my ex-husband, my transitional partner, and now my ex-boyfriend.  I have not had the necessary foundation to form a healthy, non-codependent relationship.  I have also not fully developed my discernment and confidence to vocalize my needs – to fully assert my solar plexus and third eye chakras – thus, as I mentioned in previous entries, I have been staying in situations that are not right for too long in order to avoid rejecting others or hurting people’s feelings.

None of this makes me a bad person – and I am not the only person in the world who has developmental tasks or challenges that they need to address along their life journey towards self-actualization.  My observation is that some people encounter obstacles early in life and use it as an opportunity to grow – if they are lucky like me, someone or something in their life stands in their way and they are able to extract lessons from it.  Other people manage to go through their early life on autopilot and encounter their difficulties in mid-life – when something finally triggers them to start examining their life, their relationships, and their behaviors.  

Almost everyone whom I’ve met in Biodanza or meditation seems to have been drawn to that path by encountering one of the basic realities of life – suffering, impermanence, or disappointment – through the death of a parent or child, divorce, coming to grips with aging, health problems, etc.   We can choose to be angry and hateful about these turn of events, but I like to think of these realities as blessings and opportunities – to see the truth, clarify who we are, and grow.   When I look at my life as a larger journey, I do not regret a single experience – because they have all helped to shape the person who I am today and the person whom I am slowly but surely becoming.

These ideas have clear applications for career development work as well.  When I graduated from college, I accepted a job offer at Procter & Gamble and went to work for them in their market research department.  As a high achieving student with multiple majors, minors and certificates, a top notch GPA, and a successful internship under my belt, I figured that I could do no wrong – and I had very little idea of what my true preferences and talents were.  I had taken numerous career assessments and flat-lined most of them – for example, my Myers Briggs test results put me right in the middle on every attribute except the E-I dimension – I knew I was extraverted, but that was about it.  I had earned a Bachelor’s degree in both Psychology and Economics and had earned 5’s on the AP Calculus, Microeconomics, and History exams in high school – i.e. I was able to succeed at just about any topic in school if I applied my full effort and mental acumen towards it.

It wasn’t until I got into my full-time role at P&G with a highly detail-oriented, STJ (Sensing, Thinking, Judging) manager and started to fail miserably at my job that my true preferences emerged.  I recall sitting in a meeting with our senior manager and having her tell me, “Kimberly, I see the issue here – you strongly prefer F (Feeling) and P (Perceiving) and everyone else here strongly prefers T (Thinking) and J (Judging)."  To my strongly STJ colleagues, my speaking and writing patterns seemed highly disorganized, scattered, and off-topic and my desire to make a difference and serve others rather than make money and increase profits did not make sense to them.  That manager saw my inner strengths and potential and ultimately helped me to transition from that job at Procter & Gamble into an unprecedented opportunity to be an outplacement client through Right Management Associates (for which I will forever be grateful).  

Still, the important lesson that I learned there – and emphasize with students and clients – is that it was through failure and making mistakes that I was finally able to see clearly who I am – an educator and motivator who prefers ENFP (Extroverted, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving).  Sometimes we have to fall down in order to pick ourselves up and get ourselves on the path that we were supposed to be on in the first place – towards our true calling(s), towards our life partner(s), towards the experiences that are waiting for us to discover.

Over Christmas break this past year, I watched the movie version of the book Eat, Pray, Love with my parents and was really inspired by the quote / voiceover that Julie Roberts shares at the end of the movie.  As I continue on my current path through life, I feel this quote really fits with what I’ve discovering about life – and what I’ve attempted to capture in this post.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I encourage you to take time to do so!

"...I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call  'The Physics of The Quest'" - a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum. 

And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: 

If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and 

if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and 

if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and 

if you are prepared - most of all - to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself...

...then the truth will not be withheld from you.  Or so I've come to believe."

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