This picture is of my back yard about 3 months ago. The English ivy at the fore is invasive. The wisteria vines are ages old and have taken over my yard and trees with great, ropy Tarzan-tempters. There are so many scraggly vine-covered trees that there is only shade, and only more vines that thrive in the shade.
The gate between the front yard and the back yard broke about 3 years ago, and the man who mows my front lawn had no way to get back there. I don’t own any lawn equipment (I gave up after the 3rd mower was either broken or stolen). It was basically the dog’s toilet and nothing else. It just went crazy – unattended, untouched, unloved. It was a haven for songbirds, and the squirrels loved it. But the squirrels also loved Tarzaning their way right into my attic. Snakes I didn’t mind so much, but the rats tried to move in each winter.
The Back is as Big as the Front
Three months ago, I was also struggling to come to terms with the autoimmune disorder that had decided to enter my life.
Psoriatic Arthritis was forcing me to be still. It was forcing me to look at my personal shadow. It was making me sit down and deal with my shit.
One of the phrases you hear when people talk about shadow work is “the back is as big as the front.” I read that Marianne Williams said that at a Kripalu retreat. I still remember that line from Yoga and the Quest for the True Self. It rings in my psyche whenever I try to focus on only one flat half of what is truly a three-dimensional sphere of experience.
If the back is as big as the front, then I need to put as much care into what my back yard looks like as my front yard.
I have been tending my inner backyard. Learning to improvise. Letting my body teach me. My analyst pointed out that perhaps my inner world was as choked for light with untended vines as my outer one was. In the real world, I hired a dude with a bobcat.
I googled a lot about when it is time to get a new job. I weighed my options between going on short-term disability to heal (and perhaps get over some of the burnout I was feeling) and just leaving the company entirely. I called on a fellow quester, career coach Nancy Seibel, whose specialty is navigating these choppy waters.
As the bobcat grumbled and the chainsaw let in the light in my back yard, I learned new tools to figure out my path forward. I did an exercise or two to discern my most important values. I did an exercise or two to see whether the company’s aligned with mine. They didn’t. Not only did my health take a beating due to the stress at work, but I had fundamental disconnects in terms of my core values. Further, I had no faith that the company could ever adjust things enough to lighten my load or help me manage stress.
The Bare Ground
It rained most of the days following the clearing of my yard. It was a soupy mess, which was hard for me to deal with. My aching hands didn’t want to cope with muddy doggy paws. The rain makes my arthritis unbearable.
It was bare soil. Dark, loamy soil. Not the red clay you’d expect in Georgia. The back yard had opened up, and lay bare.
I interviewed and found a company whose values aligned with mine. Work that I could be passionate about. A culture that wouldn’t take kindly to me stressing myself out. I was in the final stages of interviews when I was promoted at my workplace. A promotion was not what I had been asking for – it was not relief. It was not an adjustment of workload.
I cried for a week. My joints ached and swelled. I laid in the dark, acknowledging that I had to grieve the love and friendships and connections at my workplace, and let them go. I drifted on memory foam, and I realized I had to leave my vision unrealized, my projects unfinished.
The pile of debris that was hauled away was twice the size of a pickup truck.
I’d like to think my inner debris was cleared out so easily. I did go back to the doctor, and they have adjusted my meds to see if that is better.
I start my new job on Wednesday.
Still Have To Fix The Gate
I think the gate replacement is scheduled for next week – the reason why the yard got so bad to begin with. In terms of the inner world, I envision the gate as a way to ease the communication between the “back” and the “front” – a better way between the subconscious and the conscious world. Maybe? We will have to see.
I’m setting up a new home office for my remote job. In honor of my now-acknowledged sensitivity, I’ve realized that a lot of my stress came from the physical space I worked in. That everything from the lighting to the interruptions made it harder for me to do my work.
For now, I’m buying a sprinkler and watering my new yard. I’m playing fetch with the silly dog, and spreading blankets out on the grass.