Sunday, January 24, 2016

Work, Ego

After 20 years in my chosen field of work, I still love what I do.  On Sunday afternoons, I start looking forward to Monday morning; what will I do tomorrow, what will I create?

At the moment, my position requires that I train and advise, in a day-to-day service environment.  I am an implementer, not an administrator.  My biggest decisions affect the agency, but not the whole field. 

So it was with some apprehension that I attended a policy group last week.  My boss couldn't make it, and she asked me to go in her stead.  Upon entering, I saw people I've known for many years, some for as much as twenty years.  They greeted me warmly, but I felt out of my depth.  There was nothing for it but to put my head up and act with confidence.  In the group, I began to share my opinions and my vision for the future of our collective endeavor.

As I did so, a curious thing happened to my sense of self.  I heard myself talking with confidence and with experience.  My views were careful and reasoned.  As I heard my own voice, I realized that if someone else had said those things, I would have thought that person was wise and determined and tough.  A person who knows that compassion is not easy or simple, a person who knows that the hardest thing about doing good is accepting that you will fail along the way, and you'll have to live with that.

As I heard my voice, I heard a stranger talking.  This hardened, patient, quietly wise person could not possibly be me.  My sense of self would not allow it.  But it was un-deniable that I was the one who was speaking.   And in that moment, I saw and felt my ego step out of the way and allow me to be the "me" that I had become.

In that moment, I experienced "me" without an ego in the way.  Just for a moment, I was only the assembled aspects of awareness and action, a point in space-time where something was being done without a doer.

These moments come along frequently in my work now.  I've learned to watch for them, to give in to them when they sneak into the room and sit down beside me.  I know now that every time they happen, I come away more aware than I was.

Friday, January 1, 2016


A few nights a week I stop for groceries at a little market here in Eugene called the Red Barn.  I love connecting with people, and going to a store is a place where it can always happen.  There's a moment of forced togetherness there that feels like an opportunity.

Because I like connecting so much, I know most of the people who work at the Red Barn.  But there's one who is newer, and I still haven't broken the ice.  Today could be the day, though, I can feel it.  As I come to the counter she smiles and says hello and starts checking out my things.  A few times, I've said things like "how's the day treating you?" But she's only given polite answers.  I'm looking for that unguarded moment, that "I know you now" moment.

I'm trying to think of something to say when I reach into my coat pocket to look for change and my hand rests on a chocolate-covered Oreo cookie. Before I even know what I'm doing, the words are out of my mouth:

"You know what's so great?" I say, holding up the cookie in its neon pink foil wrapper.

"What's so great?" She says, and her smile is a little skeptical.

"When you put something really nice in your pocket and then you forget it's there until later."

And then, it's there.  The completely un-guarded, we-connected smile.  It's big and lazy and lopsided, and it tells me a little bit about what kind of person she is.  She says something about finding money in her pockets when she does laundry.  But it doesn't really matter what she says, because the smile was the thing.  It was the smile that marked the moment when I made a brand new connection. My guard came down too, and just for a moment there was no "otherness" between us.

I wonder what will happen next time.