Friday, February 6, 2009

Awake and living

Wisdom is to the soul what health is to the body. César Vichard de Saint-Réal
When I was a little girl my father used to cite a Chinese Proverb that to this day still resonates with me:

He who knows not and knows not he knows not, he is a fool. Shun him.
He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is willing. Teach him.
He who knows and knows not he knows, he is asleep. Awaken him.
He who knows and knows he knows, he is wise. Follow him.

I've been falling into the 'asleep' category, not that I don't know I know what I know, but rather, I've been trying to avoid what I know. To stay asleep so that I could coast through my life, skirting certain issues so that I could fain ignorance.

Don't get me wrong. These aren't all about life and death. They're the little pieces life is made of. Those everyday issues that pepper my plate, over-spicing my palate, making it difficult to digest 'other people's actions'.

I was talking to a girlfriend last night about a young woman who is currently living with her while going to school. "I thought if I could just demonstrate acceptance, kindness, caring, she would be different."

"Different than?" I asked.

"Who she is," she replied.

We both laughed. "Oh right. Just like we thought we could change our husbands into who we wanted them to be. Change the cat into a dog. Change the world into a planet full of tiny smurfs laughing and singing through the day. That kind of different." I replied.

See, I know I do not have the power to change people. I still try.

I am awake. But I am still dreaming.

In my life, there is only one person I have the power to change. Me.

In my life, change happens when I let go of rigidly held views that believe the world should operate according to my dictates. I mean, really, don't they know they'd be so much happier if they did it my way?

Ahh, if my way were the way for everyone...

But, but, but... It's not that I want everyone to do it my way. I just want those I love to do it my way.

And therein lies my problem.

My way only works for me -- and sometimes even there it doesn't work all that well.

This past week has been filled with angst and turmoil. Feuding. Lying. Petty quarrals. Cheating. Babies arriving on the shelter's doorstep, having to be apprehended by social services. Clients losing ground. Staff losing hope.

It has been a week filled with the stuff that life is made of whether I work in a shelter or not.

And I have been balking at its unfolding.

I've been pushing against the flow, ebbing into the need, the desire, the want to make it go my way. Without the drama. Without the constant ups and downs. "Can't we all just get along?"

Reality is. Life happens even when I'm trying to stop the happenings. I can't stop the happenings in other people's lives. I can only stop them from having a 'happening' kind of effect on me.

And this week, I've been buying into the drama.

It's actually not the drama I've been balking. I've been running up against my fear of the drama. My fear of its hold upon me. My fear that I might become addicted to the constant turmoil and angst of working at a shelter, surrounded by people whose lives are in more upheaval than mine.

My fear has kept me from claiming my peace of mind this week.

I fear: That I might become so accustomed to the drama I can't live without it.

I fear: That the drama is why I love doing what I do.

I fear: The drama is what I do best.

I fear: What I do is not about the people I serve. It's about my own self-serving needs to feel needed, wanted, good about myself.

My fears are making me sick.

What I fear, I create.

Time to awaken to my fear and pour my heart wisdom into it.

Time to let go. To surrender and fall in love.

The world around me is filled with drama. I am not the drama. The drama is not me.

What do I want more of in my life? Peace of mind.

Will holding onto the drama, falling into its lure create more of what I want, or less of what I want?


My responsibility is to create more of what I want in my life. That's my job. My accountability factor.

I love what I do. I love my job at the shelter. Love the feeling of making a difference it provides me. Love the realization that what I do does make a difference. Where I get caught up in the drama, however, is in thinking I have the answers to make someone else's life better.

I don't.

I might think I do. But that's just my ego flexing its muscle.

Reality is -- we all have our own answers, even when we're sleeping.

This past week, my fear of not having the answers has driven me over the edge of reason. I've been edgy. Short-tempered. Opinionated. Frustrated.

Not healthy. Not the 'more' I want in my life.

I can make a difference.

By being different. By being my own true self. By falling in love with my life. Living this one wild and precious life passionately and fearlessly, and letting others be who they are in theirs.

I can share my wisdom. Share my light. But I cannot create the path for someone else to follow. I can only illuminate my path, and let my light spill into theirs, when they're willing, if they're willing, if they want.

At work, the difference I make is not focused on individual lives. It's focused on creating awareness in our communities around homelessness and poverty. Around the impact addictions and family violence and abuse and mental illness have on people. My work is about telling the stories of the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles who are real people experiencing the unreal world of homelessness.

My job is about 'the people'. It's not about changing them. It's about telling the stories to create openings for change to happen.

I've been fearing my job this week. Thinking it was bigger than I could do. Thinking I needed to be bigger than I am. Thinking I needed to have all the answers.

The truth is, my peace of mind doesn't come with having all the answers. It comes when I am open to all the questions without claiming I know the answers for anyone, other than myself.

The question is: Are you awake and dreaming. Or, are you awake and living your best?


Anonymous said...


You are a candle lighting the world of dark shadows. But the sun is shining too, it will help you.

It seems like you are somewhat of an adrenaline junkie. I am one too. There is no 12-step program for it, but looking at it and calling it by its names helps.

It sounds like you are ready to step out and up to a bigger stage because it sounds like you are limited in using your full potential where you are. Have you trained a successor so that you can leave to do other things?


M.L. Gallagher said...

Thanks Mark for your words and support.

Great question!

Now to search within for my answer! And to ensure, I have created in the world around me, the support to making my dreams come true!



Sarah M said...

Hi Louise,

Thank you for your thoughts this week. I have been absorbing them and allowing it to change my heart.

May I answer your question? I am awake, but dreaming.... I'm okay with that because it is a step in the right direction. I used to be awake and just existing. Now, I dream. One day (soon) those dreams will turn into me living my best. One step at a time. There is a time for everything, and this is a time for growth for me. I am learning and acknowledging who I am and what I can be. I am stepping out, expanding my horizons and creating a place where I can allow, nay encourage, my dreams to come true.

Thank you for sharing your journey with me. It helps and it inspires me to continue.

God bless you.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Sarah, I love your answer. What a gentle and beautiful spirit you are.

Thank you for being on this journey with me. I feel your presence and am soothed by your spirit.



M.L. Gallagher said...

Sarah, I love your answer. What a gentle and beautiful spirit you are.

Thank you for being on this journey with me. I feel your presence and am soothed by your spirit.