Aligning, Re-aligning, And Aligning Some More...
It's been a long day and I am lying in bed and I can hear my husband, God bless him, starting to snore beside me... but this does not stop me from yelling out in a panic. Awareness comes in it's own time... it's not always convenient. "Holy crap!" I yell slapping the bed for exclamation. "That's it!"
He begins to rouse.
"It's the same thing... that's why it's bothering me so much.. it's not the now, it's the always... it's always been the same thing and I... and I had completely forgotten. I had completely forgotten these things ever happened... How do I do that?"
"What?" he asks groggily.
"What did I just say to you?" I ask, as if he should remember, even though it has been at least 30 min since I have said anything at all.
He looks at me questioningly.
"I just don't want to make the cakes."
"Yeah..." he sighs.
"How did I even end up making them, when it's been at least 12 years since I sat there and said, I don't want to make the pies... and it's the same damn thing... over and over... I'm still in the exact same place..."
And that's a lie and I know it. I'm being extremely hard on myself right now; and maybe sometimes I have to be to motivate myself through it. I am not in the same place I was 12 years ago. Things have changed and I have grown and my life is a complete 360 from where it once was. But there's definitely another cycle coming up here. I may have worked through this problem ten times, but there's definitely more to do.... more to see... more to understand.
I try to explain...
"It's been at least 12 years since I sat in that bar in WV telling a stranger about the horrible waste... the wasted time, the wasted energy, the wasted food, the wasted talent, the wasted materials, the wasted me... I told him about all of the values I felt being compromised and all of the good I would rather be doing with my time... and before he left, he looked at me and he said, "Whatever you do... stop making those pies. There's more for you. Promise me? Don't make another pie..."
And of course I said yes at the time, but then, I swallowed it down and I made some more pies.... and cakes... and pastries... ethnic fusion meals... and ... cakes again... It may have gotten fancier, but it's all the same thing. And I am still saying the exact same thing... Waste of any kind really goes against my grain. Respect and compassion are huge values of mine... I value the people, the effort, the resources, the environment, the quality, the time. I hate wasted food, wasted money, wasted people, wasted resources, wasted energy, wasted anything that could be used for good!
That conversation was the second time I admitted what about my profession was so unsatisfying for me. Let's be honest. I love to create. I love to create anything. And I also like to work hard (call me crazy, I know). The problem was never "what" I was doing, the problem was in the end result... it had less to do with "what" and more to do with "how" and "where".
I knew it before I had even started that casino job. Before I began that job, standing on a Vancouver beach mourning the death of my lover and talking to yet another complete stranger I had told him, "I know it's a good job and good pay and a great opportunity, but I just don't want to go work in that casino. I don't want to contribute to the waste of consumerism... I want to help people. I want to offer something that matters." I had seen the bigger picture and I had recognized deeper truths in this world. I knew about the waste before I even got there, but I didn't know what else to do... it was all I had ever done, so I told myself later that I was just discovering it. It's what I do.. I "forget" what I know... I justify what I think I should do... and I bury what is right for me... until it forces its way back out... and it does... assuredly... again and again.
Why? Because there's an underlying fear. A fear of not having enough... (and if you know me, you know I have never needed much, evident in the cardboard furniture and other Macgyver-ish substitutes that have adorned my house over the years LOL)... a fear of not being able to support my family or keep a roof over my head. At times I am willing to compromise my values in order to keep that fear at bay. Are there places that I could cook and create that would be more about loving and helping and less about waste and consumerism... yes, definitely... have I found a way to support my family in such a place... not yet... but I am working on it... keep an eye out for future developments. Are there worries that hold you back? Are there certain fears or beliefs that keep you from fully honoring what you truly believe is important? And have you explored your options as to how to align that? Or have you been acting from the fear that none exist?
Before I even started cooking I remember standing in a college dorm room and shouting at my college roommate, "I don't know what the hell major I should be doing, but I'm thinking this isn't it... I'm tired of wasting all this time... I just want to help people... I just want to live and love!" So maybe that was the first inkling... and I did try to listen... in a rational and overly thought out way. Somehow I thought cooking would be an artistic form of nurturing that could still make me a living... and maybe it could be a form of nurturing... like when I used to cook for the soup kitchen on the weekends... but not in any of the places that I have ever done it for a decent pay.
Do you ever do that? Realize something powerful and swallow it down? Pretend you didn't see it? Or, accept how important it is to follow but overthink it and analyze it and squish it into a little box where it somehow seems to make more sense in the world? Are you ever afraid to be "wrong"? To admit that there may be a better path than what you originally thought?
I wonder how many of us do...
And if I knew it so so long ago, why am I again pretending it's a new discovery to me now?
There's a lot of talk about alignment and how to get in it these days. I don't think alignment is found in a single session or a single course or pamphlet or book or audio meditation or any of these things. It's a process. A process of not only learning who we are and what we value, but how to be it and how to honor it in a world where it doesn't always seem to fit. It may take some trial and error. It may take some uncomfortable change. It may take a lot of letting go of things that you really at some point thought were the answer, but in the end they don't fully line up. And that's okay! Release the fears of never getting there or not being able to make it work and allow yourself to grow into it... at whatever pace it takes! I don't think it's a ripping off a BandAid type of deal. It takes time. As long as you are growing into it, allow that.
How do you know when you're out of alignment?
Let me share some symptoms when it's at it's worst: fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, strong dislike around a certain situation that you don't completely understand, frustration, sadness, depression, feeling like you have no control, anger, stress. When you are doing something, anything, in your life that goes against a core value of your deeper being, you are stressed out by it... it is uncomfortable and no matter what you try to do to "fix it", if you haven't taken the time to acknowledge it, it doesn't feel any better. It doesn't feel like you have what you need within you to cope with it because on one hand, you may not recognize the value within yourself that is being compromised, and on the other hand, that value may seem so simple to you that you're unable to understand how a situation of this type could even exist. You may doubt your own perception of it. Or you may doubt your ability to create change in a world that seems to demand you follow suit. And it may not seem like there is any help available because it seems like you must be the only one who sees or cares.
As I mentioned, I love being creative in any shape or form. I especially love doing it to my own standards and where I have control of what gets made and how much waste is produced and how it is recycled or composted or used. Even in a position where I had that control, I was still flustered by waste in other areas that I didn't have control over. And now, in a position where I have no control, I feel like I'm selling my soul a little every moment I spend contributing to the gigantic carbon footprint, enormous waste, and horrible disrespect of individual workers in the level of corporation I am in. And I was frustrated there for a long time before I recognized that is what bothered me. I kept thinking, "Why do I hate what I'm doing, when I love what I do?" And talking myself out of the feeling before I could really examine it. Lecturing myself, with "Be grateful you have this... there's no reason to feel that way." Don't do that! Can we be grateful? Yes. It doesn't mean we must forsake the hope of change or swallow the discomfort. Acknowledge the discomfort and examine it! What about the situation is rubbing against your grain?
If you are stressed out by something you are doing, ask yourself, what aspect of this undermines my values? It might not be immediately recognizable, but you will find it if you ask. Does that mean you have to "quit" the situation? No. You can if you want, but you could also try to make changes within it to better align whatever part is bothering you with your values. Perhaps there's a practice you could change or implement. In WV I may have kept making pies, but I did help to set up a food donation program and I did start cooking for the soup kitchen on the weekends, so I took steps, and while it didn't always feel like enough, it did help. I went on to minimize waste in my own kitchen and even now, I do my best to honor my values while working in the midst of the waste for 16 hours a week as I try to transition my business into my primary support. It may not be that you need to walk out of any situation or it may not be that you can right now, it may be just what you can do to better align with your own values while you are in it. Speak up. Make what changes you can. Express your truth while you're there.
While I may not agree with the overall practices of the place where I make cakes right now, I do my best to express who I am in the way that I relate to people there... in the way that I help... in the way that I converse... in the way that I handle myself... in the standards I hold myself to... and in the way that I dig all of their recyclable packaging and compostable food out of the trash cans and move it to the right receptacles. I am taking the steps I can immediately see and working on a better solution. We do need to allow ourselves the space and time to make our transitions and find our best alignment in our own way. It may take some time. It doesn't mean you aren't doing it! Focus on what you can do right now to honor the values you know you have! Look for the best way to honor those values in each and every moment! And if you're not sure what those values are... take the time to look within and ask. Start with aligning on a personal level. As your awareness expands, you can then align on a professional level as well.
When seeking to align your life on a personal level, ask: What positive traits do I have? And how can I share them with others? What do I want to bring to the people I interact with in my life? And what current behaviors can I adjust to better do that?
When I began to align my life on the professional level to find my Ikigai, I asked the questions, "What talents/gifts/skills do I have that I am passionate about?" and "What do I want to bring to the world?" I explored career paths that would allow me to use my talents to bring those things! I then looked at those career paths and asked, "What do I want my day to look like, and which of these would allow that?" I then looked at that narrowed list and asked, "Of these choices, which of these am I willing and have the resources to put in the necessary steps and investments for?" While I may still be growing into it, I am definitely getting there.
Whats the point of sharing all this? If you are struggling, change is possible. Know who you are. Know your values. Align your life with them and find your joy. Through a lot of small steps and a continued commitment to grow forward, you will get there! Life will feel better and you will feel happier with each and every moment lived in alignment! It doesn't mean every moment HAS to be all lined up... we all have our zigzags... It just means, the more you honor yourself, the happier you will be, and the happier you are, the easier it will become to honor yourself. Things still come up from time to time... Like the self-criticism of not being far enough and the judgment of still "making cake" (i.e. contributing to waste). I recognize them. I own them. I do what I can to focus on how I am showing up and changing things from there. And I think that's okay. We are all growing at our own pace.
I am not upset that I keep coming back to the same realization... I'm thankful that I haven't completely blinded myself to it... I am thankful for the willingness to still create more change, still identify more deeply with my values, and still find fuller ways to express them in the world. I'm thankful for the progress made and grateful for the opportunity to continue growing. I am also incredibly thankful for the opportunity to share it with you!
Please share below what values you are struggling to align. Perhaps we can support one another in the process.
What can you change today?