When it comes to Surrender and Trust, is there ever really room for the visitor called Fear?
I suspect that the dynamic duo is accommodating. Oh, they might pull up a chair for Fear but I doubt that they will make it comfortable for Fear to stay for long durations. Why would they? They have work to do.
Let’s face it: to surrender, to trust … it’s work.
I am not necessarily talking blind trust. I am saying that when you are given a divine clue on a certain direction to go, and you choose to go on that path, there is a certain amount of risk, not to mention grit, involved. Especially if that path is unconventional. And especially if that path leads directly on a journey that you never suspected you would ever be embarking on in the first place.
Maybe we’ve all had interludes like this.
When the media outlet I had worked at for fourteen years in Santa Cruz, California, was bought out several years ago, and many of us had been laid off, there seemed to be few options available to me. The biggest one, the one that shined so brightly like a neon light, was to Trust.
I knew I had to finish the memoir about my Polish family, and it seemed that one place to do that was back in the Midwest, near my family, something I did not understand or even know how to step into fully. I had spent so many years as a writer and editor in Northern California. I had morphed into a deep, esoteric, navel-gazing, yoga-practicing, acupunctured, sensitive man-child—in the best way—who often sought out the services of shamans. I was fortunate enough to have a job that brought in income, but that income was hardly the kind of wealth I kept envisioning for myself, which was, well … some mansion somewhere, paid off, and a long Jesus-like/Last Supper table on which to write passionately for days. The truth of the matter was that, oftentimes, writers and editors are often grossly underpaid. I guess I had been, too. I eeked out a living yet was able to enjoy the perks of entertainment writing—attending free events, film openings, soirees. I worked at these functions, however, but it was still fun. And yet … there never seemed to be an excess of riches.
There always seemed to just be enough to get by.
I remember the weekend before we all get laid off from the publication. I sensed that I would be let go, even though I had been editor-in-chief and, in many ways, a community ambassador. I had been meditating quite regularly at the time and my intuition was sharpened. So, that weekend, I drove forty miles south to Carmel, parked in the parking lot of a monastery run by Carmelite nuns, and meditated.
I did this for most of the weekend.
I meditated on what I wanted to feel—which was prosperous, ten thousand dollars flush, and free. So … that I could finish the memoir with grace.
At the time, I felt the burnout from running the editorial arm of a publication for many years. I also felt a childlike confusion. I repeatedly watched ad reps and a publisher bring in considerable more income while we writers, the voices and heart of the publication, were never paid what we were worth. I have always been an optimistic person, but sometimes, it got me down—how strangely the scales were tipped in favor of people who didn’t seem to truly value or understand the creative process.
So, there I was … meditating in the parking lot of a monastery. I sensed strongly that it was a time not to feel “in lack” … Rather, that it was a time to focus on all good things. Abundance. Several times during the weekend, I went inside of the church. In the afternoons, through the gothic chambers, the angelic voices of Carmelite nuns emerged. Singing practice for Sunday masses, I assumed. It was as if the breath of God carried their harmonic voices into the chamber and I into the ethers of the Divine.
Meditate. Meditate. Meditate.
I sat there. I just sat still. I just … allowed myself to feel abundant … as if there was enough.
More than enough.
All this while knowing in just forty-eight hours, I would be canned and there seemed to be no viable option to replace my job. I knew I had to do everything in my power to finish the memoir and turn it into the publisher by summer, which was four months away.
As the nuns sang, I imagined what it would feel like if there was ten thousand dollars in my bank account—at that very moment. I imagined all sorts of scenarios, but mostly, I sat there and just focused on the feeling; the vibration, the essence of that sensation of having more than enough to sustain me for a while as I completed the book.
(In hindsight: I suppose when you have lived without a steady stream of resources for quite some time, ten thousand dollars may feel like a lot of money. I wonder what would have happened if I had envisioned and felt the essence of one-hundred thousand dollars. Or two. Or three. Or …?)
The point is … by some grace, the ten thousand dollars manifested itself within a day’s time. During my exit interview, I was handed several envelopes and one of them was for three month’s of severance pay. The other envelope contained a check for vacation time and my final hours of work.
Stunned, I returned to the cottage I had been renting in Santa Cruz and sat there looking at the checks, wondering what had just happened. I may have gotten down on my knees. I probably wept … before freaking out. Because when you spend so much time living in fear and lack, suddenly a plethora of abundance might seem like the death to the Old You—the one you sort of have grown used to … even if you are tiring of it.
Let’s be clear: the amount came to nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-eight dollars. Nearly ten thousand, and you know, what’s two bucks?
The fact of the matter is: I had been touched by grace.
Look, there’s really no roadmap to how miracles work and let’s face it: trying to make sense of something mystical is simply a waste of precious time.
(But try as we might …)
Lately, I have been referring back to that moment. Actually, many times during the last three years, I referred back to it, because right after that, I had been thrust on an unpredictable journey of Surrender and Trust. Following my lay-off, I began a new cycle of living: nomadicness. It was for a purpose, after all—to get a book out; to show up and talk about Polish history in places far, far away from where I had been living.
And … to be sure, there were times when I felt exhausted. And in my heart, my search for something like home and place, and wondering when the cosmic rollercoaster ride I had been on, was going to finally allow me out of its compartment; seemed overwhelming. There were moments when I was consumed with Doubt; when Depression had me by the tail, rather than the other way around.
I did not know it at the time of that graceful occurrence that the few years ahead of me were going to completely foreign to me; that I would suddenly find myself not only producing a memoir and becoming a fierce advocate for the Polish refugees but that I would also be living back home with my mother in Chicago for a time—and on the eve of my fiftieth birthday to boot; that everything would become about the book and about revealing an underreported chapter of history; that life would turn into a mission of bringing justice not only to my family, but to the nearly one million Polish people who were deported by Stalin and sent to the Siberian labor camps. This was the mission du jour, and, like Groundhog Day, it kept repeating itself.
I also had no clue whatsoever that modern-day journalism would implode, writing and editing jobs would become far fewer than ever before.
In a way, I had become a latter day wandering Polish refugee, just as my family had—of course not with the external terrors. I was grateful yet often befuddled. I began wondering more about the ideas of home and place; about the essence of feeling rooted and being in communion with a vibrant community one could cherish and be of service to.
When all that you know—sanity included—is pulled out from underneath you, where does one go?
In the absence of having a real home and following the cosmic threads that led me to live and work in the desert of Coachella Valley for an entire year—let’s face it, the desert has its allure, but Jesus only spent forty days there—the furniture The Universe kept asking me to sit on within its spacious living room was Surrender and Trust.
So I wondered: How often do we allow ourselves to sit there—long enough? Especially during times of transition? And especially during times when the You that you once were seems to be becoming a You that you may not quite be able to recognize or identify as, well, You.
Maybe not just yet.
Maybe because you are—I am—looking into the world through glasses worn by an old You; a You, that by default, still believes, and often insists, that You are running the show; that You are in charge.
Sometimes, I wonder if we think we are just giving the steering wheel over to God, The Universe, The Divine … but in actuality, we suddenly become the most obnoxious backseat driver.
Maybe this delays the time it takes to get where The Powers That Be want to take us.
Maybe, if we keep insisting that we do it “our way,” it just takes so much longer to get back “home.”