Second Draft: On Hope, Rejection, Solopreneurship, and Spirituality

My first podcast is a recording of a piece I wrote for a service at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus on “Desire,” our theme for the month of February. In it, I draw on the work of Robert Gonzales, Matt Licata, and Janine Haris Degitz.

The transcript of the reading is available below. 

My first draft of what I was going to share with you today was a lovely academic piece. I quoted a Ph.D. It was great. But Bill, who organized this service, read it and invited me into vulnerability. I did not desire to be vulnerable. I desired safety. and, Academics are safe for me.

Instead, I will share with you the truth of where I really am and what I really desire.

My last corporate job ended in December 2014. Over the course of the following year, I decided to invest my time and energy into starting and building a coaching practice instead of returning to a “steady job.”

Less than a year into this startup, I am feeling the more-exciting, more-frightening
roller coaster effects. Like a teenager whose expectations seem unrealistic, I am managing much higher highs and must faster drops.

Here’s an example: A prospective client emailed me after taking a month to review my proposal to work with her team. “Thank you,” she wrote. “We decided to go with a  provider we are already working with on another initiative.”

I had assumed–like the newbie I am–that her decision was between yes or no. I had not assumed she might be deciding between providers. I had competition? Until that moment I had been excited. Relieved by the prospect of a big contract. Planning to succeed. All caught up in what it would mean to win. Not so unlike Powerball ticket buyers. Except they know their chances are slim.

The irrational, emotional part of my brain –known to some as the amygdala, known to others as the devil on your shoulder–immediately freaked out. “We’re going to lose!” it screamed. “We’re going to die alone, in poverty, in a cardboard box under a bridge!”

I discovered that my desire for this contract was entwined throughout my being. Its roots snaked into my self-esteem, my sense of personal value, and my faith in the future.

The words of writer Matt Licata reached me in this hour of fearing loss:

When your emotional world is alive, it can feel as if you must act urgently to bring relief to the fire within. A familiar sense of overwhelm is present. The panic has returned.

In these moments, slow way down. Rest your tired mind and your achy heart. Descend out of the vivid narrative and into the earthy, muddy ground of your body. Surround the sacred material with your presence and offer safe passage to the temporary, wavelike intensity that is washing through. It is not an enemy but a harbinger of integration.

The inner landscape is being painted by the abandoned ones of your holy nervous system, seeking the light of cohesion and wholeness. Dare to consider that nothing has gone wrong and that you have not failed. It is only the light of the path, come in a form the mind may never understand.

I ride this roller coaster, making a living and seeking to serve, on a path that is neither straight nor predictable. I desire light for that path, but when it comes, my mind does not understand it as light. How do I walk through what I am experiencing with patience and faith instead of diving into fear and self-judgment?

I am practicing (practicing because “just doing it” is not intuitive). But I practice affirming the value of the need and the value of the humanness signaled by the existence of this desire for success.

My desire is neither frivolous nor faulty. It is a clue. It can give me insight. It points to needs I share with humanity.

My unsatisfied hunger invites me to ask, “Aren’t we humans beautiful that we wake up with these needs? The desire to contribute? To serve? To value? To be valued? To be connected?” Without these desires, how isolated we would become.

We are all part of an interdependent web. Our desires create that web.

I did not desire to be vulnerable today, because these days, vulnerable feels a little too vulnerable. But, I have decided to be grateful for this experience, which teaches me about experience–common human experience–and teaches me to value ever more this fragile human life.