Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Last week I was asked to teach a class on Nonviolent Communication for a local hospital. It was an online workshop, and even though it was a quick, one-and-done kind of gig, it took up some time in the week I would otherwise spend writing.
And that’s what I’m puzzling over this week. Once the dust settled and I was done with the workshop, I found I was pretty disappointed I had said yes to that job, and no to myself. It’s important to note right away that I’m in a position right now where I don’t need the money I would make from a small job like this. That's a privileged place to be, and I understand and many of us need to hustle to make ends meet. Trust me, I spent decades hustling, I know what it’s like, and I know I’m lucky to have the space to think about this.
That said, I'm still living the hustle mentality, which is no longer serving me. This job, even though it went well, and, based on the feedback, folks found it useful, is not work I want to be doing. I’m not interested in corporate work, I tried and it’s out of alignment for me energetically. I also don't want to teach NVC as a regular thing. The work I'm calling in right now is different.
Here’s a caveat - I want to be fully honest with you. At the moment, my mind is screaming at me that I sound like an ungrateful, spoiled, asshole, and I should never never publish this. Ok - just wanted to let you know, I’ll circle back in a minute.
So, a question has arisen for me out of this experience. If I am feeling disappointed by this situation, what got me here in the first place?
What exactly is "intuition"?
For the longest time, I understood intuition to be a “gut feeling” about someone or a situation. My basic understanding of it was it's usually a feeling of something being off, as in not right. Like, “I don’t trust that guy, I just have a gut feeling about it” - that sort of thing. My point being intuition is physical and used to avoid a bad situation.
I wrote off the idea of intuition at a young age, for two reasons. One, I don’t feel stuff in my gut, so I just never understood what people were talking about with that. And two, I had convinced myself over the years that rational thought, critical thinking, and reasoning was far superior to this gut stuff.
There’s a lot of reasons I had that belief. But by and large, I blame the patriarchy. There is definitely an old fashioned idea about "women’s intuition" The myth is that feelings, in general, are faulty and unreliable. Feelings are somehow opposite to rational thought. Rational thought, weighs the options, it looks at the facts, it tries to make sense of things, it creates hypotheses, and tests them. It comes to infallible conclusions. It’s trustworthy. It’s masculine. It’s serious. Feelings (and women) are mutable, changeable, unpredictable, and therefore, not to be trusted.
Feelings are messengers
So, back to this work quandary. It’s very subtle. I got offered a gig, I took it without thinking, it screwed up my week, and I could have just gotten back on track and gone on from there. But I recognized something. I was feeling angry and resentful that I had ended up in this situation. I felt that old familiar feeling of “how did I get here?” It’s hard to describe, it’s like I say yes to things but I’m under hypnosis and afterward, I can’t figure out why I said yes.
There are feelings here. Feelings like frustration, resentment. I pay attention to them now. What would I have done with these in the past? All sorts of things. Drowned them in alcohol, picked a fight with my partner, complained to anyone who would listen, villainized the people that hired me. The list goes on. What do you do when you find yourself feeling resentful?
I’ve learned resentment is a huge key to boundaries. If you want to get better at boundaries, pay attention to your resentment. I had so many emotional blocks around resentment last year, I denied I'd EVER felt it. I was triggered even by the word resentment. If it came up I would brag about never feeling resentful.
I had some work to do. First of all, my therapist at the time told me that resentment was one of the number one emotions leading to drinking. That was an eye-opener. I started to wonder if maybe I did feel resentful. And I started to really look at my resentments.
Boundaries and Resentment
Most importantly, I realized resentment was a sign my boundaries had been crossed, that I had allowed my boundaries to be crossed. Can boundaries be crossed if you never have any in the first place? I actually had to start there, with a lack of boundaries. Before I quit drinking, I was totally at the mercy of other people. I would find myself in situations rather than choosing what situations I wanted to be in. Then the resentment would set in. But I denied I was feeling resentful. So, it festered and came out in passive-aggressive ways. And I drank. I drank to get me through situations I didn’t want to be in, and I drank to cover up those feelings of resentment. A vicious cycle.
On my journey towards sobriety, I started to pay more attention to my feelings. It started with a meditation practice. And it started years before I got sober for good. I started to say no to some things. Slowly I started asking myself whether I really wanted to be in certain situations and what was making me say yes when I didn’t want to.
So now, I want to come back to that caveat from the beginning. My brain screaming at me, remember? Yeah, that’s what makes me say yes when I don’t want to. Those judgments. I’m ungrateful. That’s a BIG one. Especially at work. I should just settle for any little scraps I can get and be grateful.
For years I said to myself “Bloom where you’re planted.” I did not realize I fully had a choice whether or not I was going to stay in that soil. Nowadays I can see that phrase for the sexist nonsense it is. We are not plants. We have agency and movement. We create our own realities.
If it's not working, change
This is where I’m at right now with this work. It’s becoming more subtle. Initially, when I first got sober and realized I had no boundaries, it was like hacking away at my life with a machete. A lot had to go. I had to reign in so many things and create super strict and strong boundaries for myself.
But now, it's become more refined. My goal is no longer survival, it’s thriving. I no longer want to just settle for something, or do things out of some sense of obligation. I want to do the things that light me up, and bring me joy.
Even though writing this week has felt like a slog, it’s what brings me joy. The work of helping people lean into their true nature and open up to their gifts is something I am truly passionate about.
Build a bridge
In the end, what should I have done when I was asked to do this job? Or maybe a better question is, what will I try to do in the future? It’s deceptively simple. I have to stop, drop-in, and listen. This means closing my eyes, tuning in to my breath and my body, and listening. I have to ask from a place of quiet and see if the answer is coming from my heart or my ego. It doesn’t take long. I notice when I take even a little time to do this, the answer is crystal clear. But I have to actually take the time to do it! The question might be, “if I remove money from the equation, do I really want to do this?” I’m certain the answer in this case would have been a clear "No."
Again, you might be thinking - "Sure, that’s great for folks who don’t need the money, I wish I had that freedom." Here’s the thing, you know if you’re on the right track.
I have worked dozens of shitty jobs, no joke. And there were situations where I was staying in something toxic because I didn’t believe deep down I could get anything better. On the other hand, there have been times in my life when I was working at a job that wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do as a career, but it was a bridge to something better.
You know if you're at a dead-end versus a bridge. And we can definitely make the move from a dead-end to a bridge. You don’t want to stay on the bridge forever, but at least you can see where you’re going! The way to do this is to stop ignoring that inner voice. Pay attention to your emotions. Don't drown them out, don't rationalize them away. They are messengers, and they are here to point you in the right direction.