A Pillar, Such As It Is

I’m working today, but I’m struggling. There’s an online discussion in which widows hold on to so much rage. I want to ask what’s the point in holding on to it? What do you want? Will you get what you want if everyone acts the way you want? No, probably not. So what’s really driving this ressentiment? Consider that rage is the opportunity to dive in deeper to learn something new, and to heal. I don’t say that, though. I can’t open myself up to conflict. I got roped in to some work tension last week. I participated in as limited yet assertive fashion as I could. I resolved to leave the conflict at the table, but I wasn’t wholly successful. It unnerved me. It got under my skin. I am hounded by a student who is so full of enthusiasm that s/he isn’t living up to the standards of my class. Sure, the student is drawing on a newly legitimate form of theory. But, I want to counsel, being transgressive isn’t the same as copping out. It takes a lot of craft to employ this hip theory, and if student wants to do that, student had better step up the game.

These sorts of things are dancing around my head, luring me from concentration. (Coincidentally, I’m prepping a class reading in which the author unpacks her rage. In doing so, she reveals systems of power. It’s brilliant. I’ve taught this piece before, but this is the first time I’ve really looked closely at her discussion of rage. So I guess I’m thinking about rage, in both its constructive and destructive uses. I want to share its insights, but I don’t want to get in a conflict over it.) I’m so wary of conflict, even when I’m working at home, with no one to bother me. I could be at peace, if I wanted to.

I realized that dwelling on all this thinking about conflict was not productive. I cleared some space to meditate. Not real meditation, either, but a relaxation podcast that I really like. Despite its New Ageyness, it invites me to lie down, and it guides me so that I just follow along, and it gets me to the place that “real” meditation would.

I got cozy, fired up the meditation podcast and what did I find? Their newest podcast is about grief. Great, I thought! But I’m so far along in my grief, I probably don’t need this. After all, days go by without me crying. You know where this is going, right? Within minutes, I was sobbing. Ends up there’s still a whole lot of sadness, deep within, sadness I don’t think about because I’m so caught up in day-to-day living. Guess I’m still grieving, after all.

In the last week I’ve discovered a solid core to myself. In last week’s yoga nidra, I envisioned some sort of pillar of stability that is still while all these thoughts and experiences swirl around. I feel that pillar physically through yoga practice; I’ve been doing so much core work that I feel a belt of muscles that are holding me in and holding me up, strapping me up like a pillar. I used to feel that core strength from doing Pilates back in the day, when I felt so strong and could march ahead into the world. This time, it’s more modest. I feel strength that I can count on when the world comes to me. This pillar of strength helps me withstand a world that is coming at me, relentlessly, whether it’s work politics, drama, hardship, whatever. It comes at me, whether I march into it or not.

In today’s relaxation/meditation, I recognized how fragile I still am. I still carry all this sadness around. My pillar of strength is growing, but there are plenty of places to breach it. All this external drama pulls me away and pulls out the threads, revealing that this pillar is comprised of threads, and they can easily unravel. A pillar seems strong, but I’m also pretty fixed, like a pillar. I can be assertive but not aggressive. I can withstand challenges, but not take on new ones. For now, I’m here, just trying to remain upright.

I can’t retreat from the politics/drama/hardship. So here’s what I have to do: stop dwelling on it, and act when it’s time to act. Don’t talk about work politics outside of work, or even outside of meetings. Write a comment on that student’s paper and be done with it.  If “someone on the internet is wrong,” have compassion, and let them carry on in their journey. Notify the event organizer that I can’t make the wonderful upcoming event. (Did I mention that one yet? I feel guilty about that, too.) As much as I’d love to attend, I can’t add anything else to my schedule, I can’t socialize professionally. I’m not there yet, even for the fun stuff.

Act, just act. I have enough strength to act. But I lack the strength for the other stuff–for the malingering, the handwringing, the postmortem analyses. That stuff? I’ve got to let it go.

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4 thoughts on “A Pillar, Such As It Is

  1. I hear you. I avoid work drama, I let small stuff go that I wouldn’t have in the past. Who knows, that kind of stuff may never matter to me again. Try to hold to your pillar…keeping it upright, strong, nurturing it. I truly don’t think we should ask more of ourselves while still grieving. There is not enough energy to go around. At least, that’s how I feel.

  2. That’s right about the small stuff. I wonder if I’ll be a better person when I come through this–I may be much nicer and calmer than I used to be.

    As for the energy, my therapist tells me that I’m “doing this,” and I continually brush it off as an undeserved compliment. Last week, she tried a new approach. She told me that I’m tired because I’m doing it, not from trying to do it. I’m tired because I’m getting things done, and once they’re done, I’m worn out from all the doing. So rest! she counseled. Okay, that one finally got through to me. I gotta rest.

    And I can’t give this all away.

  3. Some people seem to need to hold on to their rage for whatever reason I haven’t figured out. I especially have a hard time listening to widows voice rage over small stuff or over not getting the attention they think the world/their world owes them just because of their widow status. A widow friend of my says they thrive on drama and I suppose that is true of some people but it’s impossible to make that judgement about someone you only know on the internet. So like you, I try not to get drawn into a conflict because I have my own mental well being to take care of at this point in time.

    Hold on to your pillar. It’s getting stronger with each new week that passes by.

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