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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Grain of the Soul - Revision #3

Have you ever been embarrassed of who you were in the past? Not what you did, but your persona, that particular conglomeration of self, circumstance, and belief that made you who you were for a time?

I've been facing a particularly embarrassing me these last couple weeks. Since moving to the San Gabriel Valley, I'm forced to remember her alot. Every time I get on the freeway, I remember her. Every time I pass the metro station at the end of the Gold Line, I remember her. Every time I drive down Sierra Madre Street, I remember her. I remember her because I used to work in the SGV, and that was not a particularly flattering phase of my life.

We had just moved to LA and I had freshly crumpled dreams of working in the film industry. Instead, I was working as a secretary in a mega-church. An occupation that, while perfectly respectable in it's own right, felt as comfortable to me as a bra made of wool. As you can imagine, I was a little disjointed, and I feel a great sense of embarrassment when I think about how I behaved with my coworkers those two years.

They didn't know what to make of me. I was emotional, easily offended and erratic, running off to cry for hours at a time uncontrollably, and then maneuvering to try and prove myself in the most awkward ways.

In his book _Let Your Life Speak_, Parker Palmer shares a story about his own embarrassment over a younger version of himself. The summer before he started grad-school at Berkley, he was fired from his assistantship. He and a fellow research assistant spent the summer goofing off.

In the end, he still regrets behaving so badly, and at the time he was crushed over his failure. But he acknowledges a measure of grace about the course of his life. He writes that he should have either quit the job before being fired, or exercised self-control and settled into the work. But he goes on to say, "sometimes the 'shoulds' do not work because the life one is living runs crosswise to the grain of one's soul. And at that time in my life, I had no feeling of the grain of my soul and no sense of which way was crosswise" (41).

There is no better description of myself during those first few years here in Los Angeles. My supervisor at the time, my poor beleaguered supervisor, had some sense of this. I remember he pulled me into his office one afternoon and after a bit of chit chat, said to me bluntly, "Christin, you can do what you want to do."

I remember feeling that he was trying to tell me something about my life, something to set me free. But as Palmer put it, I was still so out of touch with the grain of my soul I couldn't make out his message. I was so lost I couldn't acknowledge that I didn't like working at churches and that I wasn't a very good secretary. After all, if I tried harder wouldn't that make it work?

It would take me two more years and one more mismatched job before I finally had the presence of mind to let go of everything I thought I should be, and wait tremulously for who I was going to be.


Blogger Carmine said...

Wow, thanks for that insight- I can really relate to living life crosswise to the grain of my soul. My soul is in music, but hey, you gotta pay the bills. It's a struggle for me, and I'm desperately praying that I'll have the opportunity to pursue music full time. Again, thanks for sharing!

11:01 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

Oh how I relate to your journey written here Christin.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Rachael said...

What a nice piece. I think everyone can relate. I can certainly think of past versions of myself that are embarassing.

7:52 AM  

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