Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Yin Yang Thing

There are few things in life that evoke a pure emotion. Even in life's extreme moments of hardship there is joy and in the highest peaks of bliss there can be melancholy. The interconnectedness of opposite forces is what the Chinese refer to as Yin and Yang. It is what most of us come to know as "life."

I lost my job in late May. I was another casualty in layoffs associated with the economic downturn. As the office of unemployment puts it, I am now officially a dislocated worker.

Like most life changing events, I could instantly see how this was the best thing that could have ever happened. In the last few years, my stressful job had become uninspiring and felt more like an exercise in futility than a way to do meaningful work. I had taken the ride as far as a could and had an escape plan in the works. The layoff felt like time off for good behavior. There was also the launch of The Last Bridge at the end of July to prepare for and finishing my second novel and a chance to enjoy the summer. Sounds good, right?

Well, with exactly the same insight of this being good, I felt with equal measure that this was the absolute worst thing that could have happened to me. I loved working with my team, enjoyed the stimulation of challenges and had made invaluable contributions. I was planning my own exit, why was I forced out before I was ready? Then there is the whole money thing, could I make it? What am I going to do now? What happened to MY plan?

Happiness and Horror, Thank God vs. Oh My God!, What am I going to do? and I can do anything I want to! This is the loop that plays over and over during my waking hours, not to mention what goes on in my dreams. I feel at sea, tossed overboard a pleasure cruise while everyone else parties on. I have moments where I don't understand how this could have happened and then a few minutes later, I have complete clarity and understanding.

The hardest part is realizing there is a part of me that still believes I can control what happens. If I am vigilant and work hard enough I can be the master of my destiny and be in charge of my future. While there may be some security in that thinking, it is a false one. The truth is we can only control our response to what happens to us, we can choose what we want our struggles to mean. This is what the character of Cat taught me as I wrote The Last Bridge. We are not what happens to us, we are what we do about it.

Our lives are made up of moments of extreme joy and unbearable pain, some days drag by one second at a time and some live on in our memories and are recalled until our final breath. Living is done in the middle part, the intersection between these extremes. My dream of having my book published and read is about to come true at the exact moment the work I had dedicated a good deal of my life and passion to has ended. My life is changing in ways I cannot control, but in ways I have wanted.

The Chinese say this is called balance. As anyone who has ever done Yoga knows, balance is hard. The key is to focus on a fixed point in front of you while rooting yourself in place. So that's what I'm going to do. If I topple over, I'll just get back up and try again.

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