Analysis, Memories, Narrative, Reflection

CPJ-7: A Brief, Optimistic Theory

I’ve been meaning to make more content for a long time.

I’ve meant to create more artistic value in the world and on the web for a long time.

I’ve wondered why I keep dragging my heels, seemingly self-sabotaging, taking two steps forward and one step back (yuck). I wondered if there was something ‘wrong’. I wager I’m not alone.

I’m going to skip most of the details. I was looking at a job I’m qualified to do and considering what I might write in a coverletter and a personal statement (this application wants both and I’m happy to oblige). I’ve spent more time looking at what I learned during my MA. Maybe I wasn’t “upside down”.

My new theory is that I’m a valuable person and acting lazy couldn’t change that.My value might not go up when I’m not cultivating my talents but it doesn’t just disappear, either. Feeling lazy isn’t indicative of anything in particular. I don’t know “why” and perhaps I never will. If you feel lazy, don’t feel too guilty: you’re probably wrong about why, anyway. Just find your way through it and share what you learn in the process.

Soon, circumstances will put me under pressure again. My time to relax will be over by necessity. Though I wanted to end my unemployment and ‘fluid attitude’ by choice, I know I’ll respond well to the pressure this time.

I still tell myself stories about what I did overseas, especially in Palestine. Up until last week I thought I was being pathetic, living in the past. It’s been 10 years since I left for Bethlehem, 10 years since my first olive harvest there. Soon it will be 10 years since the Switzerland and Ireland excursions and 10 years since my Maundy Thursday exile — the exile I was trying to reverse when I started this blog.

10 years since Amman, Hong Kong, Mindanao, Hong Kong (again), and Amman again. 10 years since the fever that didn’t kill me and the 30+ hours waiting at the Israeli embassy for nothing*. 10 years since I spent 7.5 hours with Israeli Border Patrol to get a visa I technically already had — the contest of wills! I didn’t do it on my own but no one could do it on my behalf, either. I really could’ve written a book. I wager I would tell the story differently now; maybe I would tell the story better with the voice I have now than I would’ve then.

Somewhere in the process of reminiscing I believed I was an extraordinary person. Humility tends to mingle with insecurity, though. I wonder if telling myself “you’re extraordinary!” will turn into narcissism, a black hole of insecurity that’s nearly impossible to escape.

Confidence isn’t arrogance. To be arrogant, I would have to insist that I made all those things ‘happen’ because I’m ‘better’ than the average person. I grew-up with unaddressed/untreated rejection sensitivity; I relied on arrogance to get me through secondary school without folding. From time to time, I wish I had the ‘right stuff’ to be arrogant. But it’s like a suit of armor on a scuba-dive: I’d only be safe until I drowned. That’s what I used to say about militaristic regimes (don’t get me started, right?). Now, I’m turning that lens on myself: maybe I don’t want something superlative to feel arrogant about. I want to make good things happen, again.

As Michael Gibbons and Tom Lent told us in training design (as they had once been told), “the great is the enemy of the good.”

I wanted to at least be ‘great’ before I would say, “by the way, I want to be good and happy because those matter more…”

That last sentence made me laugh. I can be confident that I’ll do something good; I have to let my best be good enough. Like I said, though, I slid too far in the other direction. I could be offering more, investing more in my talents/skills. I could be ‘more gooderest’ *winks* –the potential to be extraordinary never leaves any of us.

Those stories I keep telling myself are to remind me that I’m still capable of surprising everyone– the first person I’ll surprise is myself. As long as I’m still learning, there’s still hope.

*Epilogue: The Belfast Assignment Wasn’t Meant to Be

It wasn’t nothing. I have to give credit where it’s due: bureaucrats at the Israeli embassy trained me to beat the border-patrol officers. They didn’t mean to do that but they did make it possible! I waited 16 hours my first visit to the embassy, 14 hours the second visit. Then they held my passport for a four day weekend; I think that happened because of my ‘Entitled American’ gambit. I’d never done it before: when a guard asked me about the Belizean stamp in my passport, I said he was being ridiculous and demanded he take my passport inside and have someone else look at it. “They’ll let me in, I know it! Watch.” I got in but they gave me a runaround and held my passport. That was a tough weekend but I can laugh about it, now.

Halfway through the third visit, I decided to just get my passport back. I befriended a courier and convinced him to bring it to me. Maybe the pencil-pushers assumed I was giving-up but — like I said — I was technically approved. I don’t remember how many hours I spent that day. Time didn’t mean much, by then. The weeks spent in exile steeled me and sitting quietly at the embassy ensured I was equipped:
1) Seven hours doesn’t feel like a long time compared to 14+
2) The ordeal felt ‘personal’ enough to activate my stubbornness
3) I thought many times about seeing my coworkers in Bethlehem
4) I had plenty of time to rehearse my check-point story in my head

Being honest would have ruined my integrity. Buzzword jockeys, self-help gurus, and toxic meme-culture might not understand integrity but I know it well. I could’ve been reassigned to Belfast if I failed to make that crossing. I wanted to go back to Ireland; all I had to do was be honest with Israeli Border Control. My supervisor(s) would’ve been understanding without fully understanding what I’d done. Yet the bureaucrats at the Israeli embassy were what they were. Busy? Inefficient? Petty? We’ll never know. They gave me all kinds of time to realize that I wanted to do something extraordinary: return to Palestine. The ability to do it was already in me. I just needed the right incubator.

So, I toast the Israeli embassy in Amman! The border guards played a great game but that visa was mine to lose and I wasn’t tapping-out of a good fight. Imagine: I would’ve spent seven months in Northern Ireland feeling guilty/unworthy instead of…

…being me! That decision became part of who I am! I’ll be extraordinary for life!

When Sabrina Benaim challenged us to write as if we lived in an alternate universe, I thought about writing from Belfast — as if I’d asked border patrol to turn me away. I didn’t come up with anything as interesting as the life I led in Bethlehem from June 2012 to January 2013 so I scrapped that poem. I’ve still never been to Belfast but I’d love to go.

Thoughts? Please comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.