partying with parts of me
I’m a polytheist, but I think it’s more important to note that I’m a pluralist, because that actually affects every aspect of my life. I keep being surprised by running across concepts that seem to be sensible and appealing, until I realize they actually derive from an all-pervasive mindset that One True Way exists, and naturally we are all seeking it.
Seven years ago, I had the best job of my life, but I was dissatisfied with it. I had been hired by a really great boss, and at that time, our department bypassed several levels of middle management so that he reported directly to someone very high up, who liked and supported my boss’s innovative ideas. My boss had a vision of how to make things even better for creative and inventive people like he and I, and others he planned to hire. So even though my job duties weren’t very challenging, I was really looking forward to what was going to become possible in the future.
Unbeknownst to us, one of those middle managers had ambitions, and started annexing departments with weak leadership. She apparently saw our department as the potential jewel in her crown. Given the organizational structure at the time, she shouldn’t have been able to touch us, but somehow she prevailed anyway. It was a really grim day when she became my boss’s boss. (I always referred to her as EO, for ‘evil overlord’, because she really was.) My boss started looking for another job, and I started thinking I needed a big change. I was willing to stay with the job I was in, if I could somehow make it into a steppingstone to something better. If I couldn’t do that, maybe I needed a new career altogether. But what? So I started researching how to pick a new career from scratch– that is, something you didn’t have a background in, but it seemed like it would suit you. I discovered Nicholas Lore’s book, The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success, and I began working through the exercises.
Really delving deep so I could answer the questions he asks, and looking at my life through a new lens so I could start to figure out what was really necessary for my satisfaction, were immensely useful exercises in themselves. His book actually got me started completely remaking my life. A lot of the aspirations I dreamed about then — most of which seemed utterly beyond my reach — are things I’m doing now. (Although I’m not getting paid to do any of them.)
But the centerpiece of his whole philosophy is that there is one career out there, for everybody, that will fulfill everything you need to fulfill. If you just keep looking long and hard enough, if you understand yourself well enough, if you apply all his advice correctly, you will find the Holy Grail of One True Job/Career For You.
Since that matches what I kept hearing from everyone else, all the people who kept haranguing me about ‘settling down’ job-wise, and I was about to turn 40, I thought it was possible that this approach could work for me. I really wanted it to work for me.
So, I devoted four years to this project. During which I held jobs, some of which I thought might go somewhere interesting, but they didn’t. The idea of the Holy Grail out there waiting for me kept me going. Eventually I determined that the One True Perfect Career for me was ‘information designer’.
Right after that, I developed a whole panel of health problems, including finding out that I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and hyperextensible joints.
I can be on a computer is much as I (still) am because I use dictation software extensively, so I am rarely typing/keyboarding or mousing anything. That works well when I’m just writing, or surfing the Web. It is not compatible with GIS, graphic design, or information design, all of which require a lot of stressful and repetitive motions with hands and wrists.
(I might have been really bitter and despairing about the irony, but I was actually kind of grateful, because right around that time the graphic design industry seemed to also be imploding — it was getting impossible to make a living at it.)
But if some form of design was my One True Career, yet I wasn’t physically able to do it, where does that leave me? Do I turn to my second runner up? Do I start the process over?
Now, in hindsight, I can see I was asking the wrong questions. Because there isn’t a One True Anything for me.
I need a lot of variety in my life. When I’m involved with a project or an interesting topic, I dive into it and immerse myself in it, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time. And then I pass some kind of threshold, and I need to go do something different. Sometimes my new interests are more ‘light and fluffy’ than serious, but that is just as necessary — taking a breather from intensity means I can replenish that aquifer before I call on it again.
I have a suite of subjects that I have been fascinated with for many years. I cycle back to them repeatedly, in a spiral or helical pattern. As I’ve gotten older, some of them which seemed completely unrelated to others have begun converging; others used to be more similar, but are now branching out and diverging. It’s a very dynamic process. And I have never found one underlying concept that includes everything that I’m interested in. I’m a pluralist.
Nicholas Lore did add something utterly marvelous to my life:
“We have grown up in a culture that promotes the belief that each of us has one personality, one identity. In reality, it is as if each of us is inhabited by a whole cast of characters, each with a singular point of view and agenda. There may be a character who wants to do what feels good now, a hedonist. Another one may be cautious and security minded. Yet another has the soul of an adventurer. Perhaps you are inhabited by some rebellious characters and other more compliant ones. If you think of yourself as a single identity, you are sure to be conflicted. If you realize that you are an ensemble production, it makes it easier to reach a state of consonance. The problem is not that you are inhabited by all these different characters but that they don’t communicate. They don’t party together. (…) A parts party is the best way to introduce them and get them playing together. You might even start to have regular parts parties, every time internal conflicts arise. Or, you might just like hanging out with your internal menagerie.” (pp. 109-110)
In late December 2006, I started a list in my journal of my internal characters/subpersonalities/aspects. I eventually came up with 14 distinct characters.
Since I’m an introvert who loathes parties, we haven’t all gotten together in that way (a party), but I do like to get my journal out so I can refresh my memory about who they are, and see if there are places in my life where I could add (more of) the things that they like.
Here is my list, in its original sequence, with my original notes (examples/’role models’ from mythology or fiction or real life in [ ]). I think I have a few new ones that should be added, at some point.
- NF – idealist/practical philosopher/radical feminist [Artemis, Cazaril]
- Follower of Naamah/’working saint’ – subversive Chaotic Good
- SP – “bold, graceful, and impressive/expressive” — dexterity of thought and action — inner 7-year-old [my inner child, Amelie]: playfulness, whimsy, exuberance, ‘sparkle’, easily amused especially by absurdity [Kore, Inanna, Sedna]
- Chrestomathic NT – scientist, intellectual, scholar/lifelong learning, reader/thinker/writer [Athena, Ganesha]
- Dryad/Nature Girl – mitakuye oyasin, connection/communion, tree hugger, ‘very small beings’ [St. Francis of Assisi, Artemis, Naamah]
- Artist – color, dance, harmony & Chaos — weaving and tapestry — catalyst of change – trickster, phoenix [Coyote, Raven, Loki, Grandmother Spider, She Who Goes On Creating; Laima?]
- Pagan — grounded in the Earth/body, mind, spirit integrated — delighting in experiencing the senses, sensuality
- Cancerian – baking, cooking, gardening, creating a home/haven, decorating, nurturing those I love – ‘hearth witch’/wise woman [Gramma, Cali]
- Sagittarian – traveler/wanderer, interested in everything, independent, loner/Mysterious Stranger, Druid <Celtic ‘dru’ meaning ‘strong’ (+) ‘wid’ meaning ‘seer’, cf. ‘weid’ Indo-European, meaning ‘to see’, and ‘vedah’ Sanskrit, meaning ‘knowledge’
- Piscean – dreamy, mystic, free spirit, poet in n dimensions, sense of wonder subtle <L. ‘sub-tela’ meaning ‘thread passing under the warp’
- Leo — larger-than-life/’a real character, generous, bold, ‘wild and wonderful’, marvel-ous, colorful, has panache and presence, passionate, occasionally outlandish, firebird [Uncle Frank and Aunt Pauline, Gramma, Grampa, Uncle Ed]
- Acrobat, which means ‘one skilled in feats of agility in gymnastics’ – ‘frozen waveform’/’potentiality’/latent kinesthetic energy that demands movement, physical action vigorous exertion — Examples: climbing trees, scrambling on rocks, walking or hiking in the woods, wading, swimming, dancing, roller skating, canoeing, skiing, archery
- Logophile = word lover & Lexiconophilist = person who collects dictionaries and word books — love learning new words because nuances lead to complex concepts that can be explored — love seeing/perceiving different ways of perceiving the world, as in through different cultures or languages (or umwelt) — desire to learn more languages — love combing through dictionaries, thesauruses, word books [Suzette Haden Elgin, Laadan]
- Puzzle Girl — crossword puzzles, anacrostics, Sudoku; also psychological or meta-puzzles — pattern recognition [Enki, Ollie Longaster]
This morning I was flipping through the catalogue of noncredit courses offered by our local community college. And I found 7 that appeal to various aspects of me who have been dormant for a while. I think it’s time to shake things up!