Thursday, October 19, 2006

This Friday, Go to the Well

Irrelevancy is tortuous.

I remember the feeling I had when I started to look for a job a few years ago. My marriage was at an end, and after almost four years at home with my kids (I started with one and ended up with a bonus, my daughter) I had to start the process of re-entering the world of work.

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine I didn’t work outside the home for almost four years. In fact, I didn’t think it was that long until I checked to see when I actually left my previous job and started this one. It went very quickly, despite remembering how tough it was to get anything done with a baby, or how long the winters were cooped up for what seemed like weeks at a time. But while I devoted the majority of my time to my family, I also did a great deal of professional-level work as a volunteer and a good bit of self-development in reconnecting with and exploring my interest in music. So when I hit the pavement in search of a job, I figured I’d have a much easier time. I was wrong.

Now, as a recruiter, when I look at those gaps in a resume, I know how to ask about it sensitively rather than put a person in the “circular file”. All I could think was, “There has to be a place out there that needs someone like me.” I had a lot to give and could be a great asset – why didn’t anyone else get this?

In some – many, in fact—ways, I’m very lucky. I stumbled into a job that brings me real satisfaction and I work with people who are fabulous, not to mention I come into contact with some pretty strong leaders in the music business. I’ve found a hint of belonging there, in a place where I feel moderately competent, welcome, and can make a contribution while working on my own “thang.”

I’m also very fortunate that one of my friends has encouraged me to dig in to my playing and singing and is willing to work with me on that part of myself that hasn’t seen the light of day for a long time. It feels to be doing that a little again, and it’s encouraged me to bring that out in others and to seek out opportunities to help bring that about.

But outside of all that, despite the friendship and love I have in my life, sometimes I feel a little like I’m standing alone on a raft in a lake surrounded by a desert 300 miles in every direction.

Relevancy matters to most of us. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be such a powerfully profitable pop psychology industry built on the basic human need to forge connections, sustain successful relationships, have notable careers, and create families. The desperate need to attract a mate is manifested everywhere in our society, and in many of the wrong ways. Our instant-gratification modus operandi has caused us to expect more without working harder at the most important things.

Choosing a path that doesn’t race at breakneck speed, doesn’t feed into the notion that you can pretty much buy anything you want (including love), doesn’t require extremely high voltage, and doesn’t cost as much is kind of lonely at times. But I think it’s more related to the present state of my life and the forces I have to work against, and the fact that most everything else in society seems to be incongruent with these values, than some notion that I’m flawed in some way. It’s really that we’ve lost touch with our humanity and think we can pay a price to regain it. We’re paying, all right. With our soulfulness.

I don’t believe in the same notion of “God” that I once did, and I no longer have that notion to lean on. But there are ways to cultivate inner work and peace without “faith” as it’s popularly known. Going back three or four years, to another time I felt deeply lost and surrounded by the loss of my mother and a significant friendship, I recall leaning on a connection to ancientness, to nature, and to the reality that I am but a tiny piece in a very big picture.

That is the truth for each of us. That is the reality. While many are busy trying to fill a hole they never can with Hummers and electronic toys and beautiful lawns and unending social engagements, the continuum rolls on and meaning slips away.

My heritage is English and Welsh, and I’ve always felt a connection to that past, to the way my ancestors were mindful of the fleeting nature of life and the way we are intricately entwined with each other and with the elements. This is one of my favorite songs because it celebrates that honorable view. I have always felt a connection to water and its power and symbol, making this song especially meaningful to me.

Take a drink.

Holy Well
From Two Journeys
(Tim O'Brien (Howdy Skies Music/Universal Music Pub., ASCAP--2001)

Let’s go down to the holy well
Down among the heather
Hear the water make a gentle sound
We’ll heal our souls together

Where the water flows from a deeper place
And it starts it’s life anew
We’ll plant our wishes there with love
Let our dreams come true

Let’s go down to the holy well
Down among the heather
Hear the water make a gentle sound
We’ll heal our souls together

We’ll linger there for a quiet hour
By the grasses flowers and ferns
Just put your ear down to the ground
Let simple thoughts return

It isn’t all the far away
Just a few steps from the road
But we can leave our burdens there
We can lighten up our load

Let’s go down to the holy well
Down among the heather
Hear the water make a gentle sound
We’ll heal our souls together

Hand in hand and side by side
And heart by loving heart
Sit quiet there in the misty shade
And let the healing start


At October 24, 2006 9:18 PM, Anonymous Kathy Barthway said...

>sometimes I feel a little like I’m standing alone on a raft in a lake surrounded by a desert 300 miles in every direction

One of the few good things my ex-shrink Gladys used to say was, "Loneliness is the adult condition." (I used to threaten to cross-stitch it on a cushion for her.) I'm passing it on to you, but, um, it didn't make me feel any better. Asking questions IS good, though; I know that.


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