empathy · rage · tools


8.23.18It is the very rare occasion that I become embroiled in a battle of wills with a colleague, so it was and is all the more momentous to me that it happened yesterday.  Because the details do not matter, I will say I felt as though I was being told to lead my students in a way that is anathema to me and antithetical to the way teaching literature says to lead.

And yet, this is also “how it is” right now, and my work today is to come to grips with that.

Unsurprisingly, the Universe has its eye out because I found a notepad this week from 2008.  It’s one of those small writer’s notebooks in which I apparently jotted down all manner of things, including the following questions I flipped to at random when I found the pad:

“Am I willing to let go of my need to know?  Am I willing to let go of my judgment of right and wrong?”

OH BOY! Is this up right now?!?!

These fears (because ultimately that’s what my rage is/was) prevent me from being in the moment, and if I’m not in the moment, I can’t lead my students in any which way whatsoever.

So, this morning, I finally remembered I have tools to deal with torrential emotions such as these, and I began to write in that more formalized process of processing.

Part of that exercise is to write down everything I wish I’d said or would like to say to that person.  And, boy howdy! WAS THAT FUN!!!!  It’s one of my favorite pieces about that work because, this morning, all I’m doing is trying to construct ways in my head to “make nice” and how I can approach this person today to “make it right,” but I cannot at all do that if I’m still irate.  Which I am.

So I have to purge.  I have to get those torrents out of my brain and onto the page, where they can live, honoring my experience and feelings and without harming someone else or myself.

I’m allowed to be angry; it shows me where I need to grow.  But I am not allowed to hold it in my head and let my adrenaline rush when thinking about work relations.  Because then I’m not present and I’m not doing what I’m actually paid to do, which is to be of service.  I’m there to be of service to this colleague who is trying their best, even though those efforts are to me presently staccato.  I’m there to help my students along a new project that hasn’t been built yet, and to have empathy with my coworker as they build the bridge they’re asking us to walk across.  (Forgive the gender-smudging but grammatically incorrect “they.”)

It can’t be easy to do what they’re doing.  But, I guess what I riled me up was the fact that it’s not easy to do what we’re being asked to do either.

So I got to rage on the page.  I get to keep my feelings to myself, my notebook, and a trusted friend on this one, and show up as a teammate.

Our jobs are hard enough without cutting each other down with dissent.

Luckily, today is a prayer service day, in a synagogue, with songs, and music, and stained glass, and stillness, and calm, and I’ll get to land back in my body, where the only work I can ever do is found.  Please please please, amen.

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