I was in the car driving through the beautiful Ojai, California area with a friend recently and I was explaining what happened a long time ago when I got laid off from a very well paying job. I often spent 17 hour days working through crazy deadlines as part of defining what websites should be, their interactions and what a company's presence was online. And when I lost that job simply because the client I was assigned to stopped their work on their website due to economic times, I lost my identity. My friend used the word detached to describe my reactions to this whole moment and it caught in my throat. I never thought of it that way. I did detach. Bigtime. Severely. In ways that still affect my ability to work for others. If you identify with your job as your usefulness, your contribution, and that is stripped away, who are you?
As we drove through the mountains, I told her that at the time I really had to reevaluate my place in the world as I identified myself with my work. I came up short and I have been chasing that idea of wholeness ever since. That event brought me to my knees and looking back on that lesson I have realized it was the beginning of learning to surrender. Though, until recently, surrender is not a word that I have even worked into my vocabulary.
I never really climbed back aboard that "work til you drop / take one for the team" train too often since. I work more efficiently and I define my output as part of the quality that I want to own. I redefined my sense of self and I moved it to the work that I produce and not the job that I am in. Now that I am updating and shifting the balance in my life to creating more art and really trying to find the "whole", I am finding that detachment and surrender aren't such dirty words to me anymore.
In those months after losing that job I quickly got another job. It was one of prestige in my industry and on paper, a beautiful experience. But I have been looking beyond ever since. I guess looking for some shiny object that does not exist. In Buddhism, the idea of desire and its cause of so much suffering is front and center. Sometimes you just have to run into a brick wall to snap you out of continuous cycles. Buddhists call it samsara, Catholics call it purgatory, but no matter what religion, it is the same. I am slowly eroding this ever present desire for more. A desire to have something else. A need to fulfill a perceived brokenness. A way to fill a hole that never seems to fill. And through this erosion, I am finding a sense of detachment. Not a cold or inhuman place, but an opening into being able to receive more input. It becomes like reeds in the wind on the marsh - you ride it and the effect of the winds are less destructive.
This place of detachment is like a deep breath of acceptance because at the end of the day, it is our reaction to the craziness of life that defines us, not what happens to us. I may even offer the word surrender...