Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin
cswallow

Long overdue

Glasses lost in the rhododendron groves of Shining Rock Wildnerness, eyeballs too tired for contacts, I see today through half-blurred vision. Fortunately the sun was strong, and even now as the hours fade into dusk, I still see its flat, bright light burning the edges of every building surface into my sight. In the 10:30 brilliancy of mid-morning hours the checkout counter of Bed, Bath and Beyond with a loaf pan and a towel, I hear the check-out girl say, "have a good evening." Unthinking, I tell her "you too," then languish back to my car wondering how to break out of this autopilot, established so early in the day.

The past weeks have been anything but automatic. In fact, every day I've felt my mind turned on, weighing my feelings and decisions, asking often "Is this what I want?" Precipitated by many things - a new relationship, the realized possibility of business school, my new role as a coach, the visit of a dear friend - I've felt constantly on the edge of discomfort, where every evaluation produces questions for which I have no answers.

Perhaps the most rewarding feeling of this past month has been at last, an acceptance of my belonging-ness at the Nicholas School. In some ways, I've forgotten the results of my time working at Google, the management and operations muscles finally slackening with disuse. In turn, I begin to feel less like a visitor in the environmental field. I begin to explore more finely-pointed passions. And as I let the veil of that past drop off, I realized how much image I'd built up around myself. It came from a conversation with one of my closest friends here in Durham. As I listened to her talk, I remember thinking "what beautiful uncertainties are here." And I began to feel my own closely wrapped vulnerabilities wanting to emerge.

Rather than letting others experience me in my faults and weaknesses, or letting myself be hurt by others, I learned how much easier it was, emotionally, to close myself off to situations and people that might be painful. No wonder my coworkers in my early career described me as "intimidating" and "difficult to approach." No wonder I learned coldness.

Spring's sudden blossoming - the pale green of tender leaves, the unfettered petal display, the dusting of pollen everywhere - accompanies my attempt to strip away this habit of slow death.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times has been writing columns over the past weeks about her troubled thoughts as a Catholic woman in a church that she feels makes no place for her independence, and indeed, has gone sorely astray in dealing with the many child molestation cases that are now being reported. In her writing is a certain pain, as she recognizes how long she has accepted her own self-defeat. Rather than letting it cripple her, she uses it to explore the potentiality for better-ness.

Flayed as I am, I wrestle daily with the acuity of these new feelings. What of my beliefs do I simply accept because it has always been? What must I change to live at harmony with myself?

I test myself again and again - my new relationship moves toward friendship, and I am unable to connect as I would like with my closest friends. Sometimes at night, every small pettiness of my life rises up, the press of loneliness and longing lie against me, and sleep does not come. Some days, I am overwhelmed by the restlessness of training so rarely for dance, of not being at Nationals in Los Angeles, caught between the financial strain of this self-ascribed hobby and the other things I have obligated myself for, and I think about throwing everything away to pursue the one dream of being only a dancer. And yet other times, I watch two people moving across the floor with more freedom because of one thing I've said, and I think of nothing else but their joy. Other times, I relax in the warm companionship of my best friends at the Nicholas School, talking about the farmers market and how to make black bean burger, setting plans for the weeks to come.

Today, rather than working on the many assignments I know are piling up, I clean incessantly while baking enough sweets to feed a classroom of kindergartners. I stretch quietly in the sunshine while reading about black-footed ferrets, Arabian oryx and California condor. Impatiently, absently, I scratch at the scabbed battle wounds sustained while lost in Pisgah with Andrew. And finally, when night falls, I feel the gentle tug of gratitude. All these beautiful decisions - mine and others' - linger before me and I open my heart to them and with gladness accept their consequences. And at last, I turn to look at the ignored assignments, focused.
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