This past weekend I attended a Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea workshop about Calling a Circle and Listening to Story. Afterwards I was talking with a friend about some of the issues that came up in me during the workshop. She asked: Why do you think that we keep ourselves small? In answer to her question, I wrote:
For me, the question has now become, as of this moment: Why and when do I choose to SEE myself as small?
Yesterday I wrote this story:
Once upon a time there was a chicken just walkin’ on down the road … pecking at the seeds. She looked into a puddle, there, just past that pile of corn that the farmer had spilled. She thought that she was just looking at corn, but she had, indeed, looked into the puddle. Her reflection caught her off guard, so off guard that this time she actually saw herself. Black stripes. White mask. Little ears. Flat head. She looked just like a badger. She picked up one leg and looked at her clawed feet. Clawed feet? Uh huh. Feet that turned furry right before her eyes. She turned and looked over her shoulder at her butt, and there trailing behind her was a long, furry tale. She reached around, picked it up and chomped down on it with her long white teeth. Hard. Yes. With teeth. And it hurt.
She stopped. Stood very still. And then she claimed this new image of herself and looked back into the mirror at those black beady eyes which were so familiar.
I thought about this when I got home, and decided that the chicken is indeed a chicken, but not just a chicken. And she is indeed a badger. But not just a badger. The advantage of being both is that she can now put on either face, as long as she is free to pull out either suit as the occasion warrants. The secret to it all is the freedom piece. And the more that she learns and understands when it serves the Work best (yes, not her, but the Work) to be a chicken, she’ll be a chicken, and she’ll peck for seeds and cluck and be cute and funny and busy. But when it serves the Work best to be a badger, she’ll be that. And, sometimes, maybe, she’ll be a chicken with a long furry tale or a badger with a decided cluck and bob to her head, and that will be OK, too. Might even keep her dancing along that edge where the mystery and the magic and the sacred dwells.
Now, to undestand this story, it is helpful to define the word Work. For me, Work with a capital W means that thing that fulfills one’s purpose in life. And what occurs to me now, right now, as this is typed, is: What is the Work that will keep her (me) this focused? This centered? So aware of the Work that I forget to worry about how the world is seeing me? So passionate about the Work that I’ll risk discomfort, embarrassment, disdain? What is my assignment? It seems important to find an answer to that question. And to act.
I think that my work has something to do with listening to people tell/share/envision/create and inhabit their stories. I’ll learn more about that as my own story unfolds.
This change in thought, from concentrating on myself to concentrating on the Work, has come out of my realization that no one is small. We have different functions and different dreams and different assignments in this world, but none of us is small. We do, however, sometimes refuse to live out our dreams or pick up our assignments or turn them in on time. And we have differing amounts of influence and power. I believe that influence and power are material goods, though. They are bought, sold, earned, shared, gifted and taken. But they are just material goods. They are transient. Temporary. Borrowed. They do not affect how big or small the story is or how big or small the person is. Being big or small is a spiritual attitude that comes from inside.
I can’t make myself small, but I can act as if I were, and I can make myself invisible. I can act as if I have no right to be in a given situation. I can stumble over my own ego and get wrapped up in comparing myself or my accomplishments with others. What, I think, will bring me back to center, is to remember what Work it is that I am called to do, and then to focus on that Work What’s intriguing, really intriguing, is to begin to understand that each person’s Work is equally important. Now that’s a pretty elusive thing to wrap my brain around, but I’m starting to get it.
A book that goes along with these thoughts is the Tolstoy story of the Three Questions that was told and illustrated as a chidren’s book. You can find info at:
The three questions are:
When is the best time to do something?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?
I’m putting this book on my shelf as a reminder that I know this story, and that I know the one about the chicken and the badger, too. Help me remember.