The second part of getting unstuck is faith.
Faith that you have everything you need.
I have a convoluted relationship with faith. For a long time, I thought faith was something you bought on Sundays with the clink of coins on a shiny plate or the whisper of dollars disappearing into a basket.
And I tried, many times, to get close to my God this way. By going to church – or temple or mosque – and sitting quietly and hoping to feel.
And I never did.
I tried. I asked around. I had conversations with friends who are madly in love with God, or Allah, and they feel it. One of my friends tells me how she truly feels the spirit when she’s in church, how church is a sanctuary for her, how the fullsomeness of Jesus’ embrace can make her weep. When she told me that, I took my jealous ass to church and warmed a pew. And…nothing.
I’m an emotion-driven creature, and that applies as much to sex and money as it does to meaning. If I don’t feel it, I won’t do it.
So I didn’t do it. The faith thing. For years and years – forever – I never considered myself spiritual.
And all of that time, I thought I didn’t have faith because I didn’t have Religion.
There’s a difference, of course – but I only recently learned that.
I learned that from conversations with Ronna Detrick, who is a spiritual warrior, reclaiming her Christianity – and her faith and feminism – from dogma. From erasure. From automatic. From rules.
Because rules are for lazy people – and that I learned from Siddhartha Herdegen, philosopher, “Islamic finance scholar” (Siddhartha? Islam? I gotta know more!), wannabe economist and understated, poignant writer of The Principles of Failure.
His piece about rules and lazy people is living with me.
Siddhartha defines lazy, not as “ignorant or gullible or any other pejorative descriptor attacking a person’s mental abilities,” but as “a state of conserving effort or energy.” And he says that we make rules to conserve mental effort.
Effort is expended in all kinds of ways, mentally as well as physically. While we’re probably most used to seeing people avoid physical effort, the same tendencies apply to mental work as well.We will avoid it whenever possible.
This is because mental work is hard. Anyone who’s tried to understand Stephen Hawking knows this. But even thinking about things more mundane than the vastness of the universe takes its toll.
Thinking hard is one reason couples fight during home construction and remodeling projects; the stress of making the innumerable important decisions weakens their mental capacity to tolerate each other’s imperfections.
Have you ever looked at a whole aisle of different kinds of shampoo and inwardly groaned at all the choices?
One of the ways we’ve been able to avoid mental work is to make rules. We have to think hard about some things to reach a decision and come up with the best possible course of action. We don’t want to do that every time so we develop a rule. The next time we’re in that situation, or a similar one, we can simply apply the rule we’ve previously developed. Easy peasy.
So after we’ve decided on a brand and formulation of shampoo we are satisfied with we make it a rule to always get that kind of shampoo and shopping is less mentally taxing.
Rules are shorthand. And so (maybe; sometimes) is religion.
My experience – so far – with religion is with rules. Religion as rules and rules as a shorthand for moral decision-making – and making religious-, rule-based decisions in the best interests of your family, community, and culture.
Individual – and feminine, just ask Ronna, or every Catholic woman who ever wanted to be a priest – sacrifice is a recurring theme.
There’s wisdom there, and I can see it, but it isn’t mine.
And so, because I don’t have religion, and in fact am intensely repelled by the way the female body and experience gets constructed and controlled in most major religions, I thought I didn’t have faith.
But I do have faith. And I’ll tell you how I know that.
On Friday, I did something profound, meditative and woo.
I drove to FedEx.
You know when you go to conferences or retreats or workshops with granola-crunching types (I am currently barefoot and enjoying a breakfast of granola and raisins, so I know of what I speak) those new-age police-types enforce mandatory intimacy with trust-building exercises?
(You show up to hear about X and suddenly you’re threading string emerging from your neighbours waistband through your shirt-sleeve and out your pant leg to your next neighbour and pretending it’s fun and you’re such a good-and-transparent sport.)
(I hate that shit. Every time I sign up for a conference or a retreat I pray the leaders believe in personal privacy and organic – not forced – intimacy. My prayers almost always go unanswered.)
The reason that conference throwing/retreat organizing/kumbaya fascists make us do those things is because those activities are ice-breakers. Those things crack you open so the learning they’re about to throw down has somewhere to pool. Those things create a shared emotional experience and intimacy – and community – emerges from that shared emotional experience.
(Dave Doolin told me so. He doesn’t only teach me how to blog.)
So trust-building exercises…build trust and create intimacy.
And I wanted to get intimate with the universe. And myself.
(oh, so many ways to read that last bit.)
So I drove to Fedex.
There’s a backstory. Of course.
I was in Richmond (a suburb of Vancouver) checking in with a supplier, and after that I needed to go to FedEx, which, conveniently is located at the airport in Richmond.
Less conveniently: I don’t know my left hand from my right (unless I wear huge and wildly fake rings on my left hand, which is what I do most days), can’t tell time on an analog clock, and navigate by landmarks (you know the yellow church with white fence? Not there – turn at the next street just past the boxwood hedge) and mountains and the ocean.
If I’m driving towards the North Shore mountains, then I’m (perhaps obviously) driving north. If I’m driving towards Mt Baker, and it is the only mountain on the horizon, then I’m driving South. Whatever side the ocean is on is west. Abbotsford is almost always east and almost always a mistake.
Street names elude me. Maps confound me. Ask for directions? NEVAH.
And Richmond? Richmond’s landscape is flat, open, and devoid of good landmarks – except the airport – and mountains. Richmond’s roads, on the other hand, are as clotted, clenched and tragic as a failing heart. Always.
I worked in Richmond for almost two years and still, all I know how to do in Richmond is get to my former office, the bank, Amanda Farough’s house, the coffee shop, Ikea and the airport. Basically if you spin me around twice in Richmond and I don’t land somewhere Swedish for common sense or a hangar, then I don’t know I am.
And on Friday I was in a unknown neighbourhood in Richmond (which is basically every neighbourhood in Richmond except that of my former office) and had to get to FedEx by some unknown route (which is every route in Richmond that doesn’t lead to the highway home).
Now I’ve been to FedEx many a time, because when one is in the proposal writing business one gets pretty intimate with courier offices, especially at 4.52 pm on the day before the damn thing is due. And FedEx is at the airport, which is a pretty significant landmark, usually well-marked by big green signs and purple and orange planes (I would like to thank FedEx for the large purple and orange planes parked beside their building. That was a super helpful clue). So I decided to trust in my tax paying money at work (good road signage), my ocean-based sense of direction (it was on my left – you know, the hand with the ring), work with my profound aversion to asking for directions, and intuit my way there.
And I did it and it was an unabashedly woot woot experience.
It was a beautiful sunny day, I took my time, trusted my instincts, trusted my basic experience and knowledge of the way the world (aka “Richmond”) is plotted, and felt my way to FedEx.
And that was my simple, satisfying trust-building exercise with the universe and me.
I’ve written before about how this year at New Years I didn’t set SMART goals, nor did I break them down into milestones and plot out my path. Instead, I conceived of my goal as my mountain.
I can see my mountain. It rises above the houses, the city, the hills. It is off there in the distance but so large I can almost touch it. So large and so close that I can see it from everywhere I am. I believe – I know – that if I walk towards it long enough, eventually I’ll turn around and find I’ve climbed halfway up.
So this trust-building exercise I did with the universe – and myself – is like my mountain. I believe that if I keep my eyes trained where I want to go and trust in my general knowledge, intelligence, experience, talent, work ethic, judgment, and friends, then I have everything I need for the journey.
I have faith that the universe is both chaotic – but not malevolently so – and fairly orderly and is not going to swallow me up while I’m on my way. Or if it does, it isn’t personal. And I still have everything I need to get back on my way.
So this little woo-woo trust building exercise that looked like a drive to FedEx was about talking to my soul and saying it’s okay when you don’t know what the streets and landmarks look like, because you just keep your eye on that mountain – or the building beside the purple and orange jets – and you’ll get there.
It was about faith. In myself and in the universe.
And of course ‘the universe’ is just my hippy-dippy way of saying God.
This piece is part 2 of the answer to ‘stuck’ – which is where I’ve been, business-wise, for the last several weeks. If you want to follow the series – and hopefully, get unstuck with me – here’s where to start:the question I ask myself (wherein I wonder WTF is wrong with me)
How to Get Unstuck, Part 1: There Is No Stuck (wherein I decide nothing is wrong with me and that creativity requires rest. Holy newsflash.)