24 September 2011

Begun on 23 September 2011, and continued on Saturday, the 24th

I am at the Waisman Center, talking briefly with my mentor from last year, and now, waiting for a lecture to begin. The researcher and speaker for today, is Richard J. Davidson, head of the Center for investigating Healthy Minds, very distinguished and very brilliant, good writer, friend to the Dalai Lama. We pass in the hall. I smile at him -- knowing who he is and wondering if there is something that I can say to trigger some excitement about me, but there is not. I attended two lectures he gave and he doesn’t know me at all. He returns an absent smile and I must contend myself with that. A smile that only recognizes that I am not a complete stranger to these halls. Even that is nice.

Another person -- a youngish, blond man -- stops him in the hallway and spills out a project idea and asks, no, begs, for more time with him to fully explain, to gain his support, to put himself and his project under a wing. The director is unimpressed and wants to move on. He comments on the youngish man’s ideas and great enthusiasm -- salutes both. This is the kiss of death for sure. Does the younger man know that? The energy flow in and around the men has substance. I can feel it all, the rush of pleading, the muffle of rejection, the swamp of self-pity. Drama and despair in the hallway. Did someone’s life change as I was casually observing in a hallway?

The topic: Order and disorder in the developing emotional brain: Prospects for cultivating healthy minds. I am blown away. How I miss being intellectually overwhelmed! At times over the past few weeks, I’ve wondered how I possibly survived last year, especially during the Fall right after David died. Well, I survived because of lectures like today. I survived and dare I say very dramatically, found reason to get up every morning because I could go somewhere and learn neat stuff, listen to smart people, and indulge in disciplines that I had not even dreamed about. As I listened to the lecture, understanding every second or third word, and only barely grasping conclusions which were phrased in more recognizable English, I teared up remembering how this new world of development and brains and children and research demanded my attention and drew me out of my shock and grief.

I can feel the part of me that longs to belong there, at Waisman, at a place like Waisman, somewhere where research and good science for kids is going on. The work unraveling more and more of the mysteries of the brain is like food to my starving mind and heart. But although I can swear that what I just wrote is true, I have no idea whether this idea will come to pass.

During my meeting with my mentor, I asked her how the second year LEND trainees were doing and if there would be room next year for me. I am place-holding. Reminding. Making sure no one forgets that I want a place there. It is almost reflexive. I have been pretty awful about marketing myself during this lifetime. Maybe there are lots of reasons, that I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say that had I been able to market myself to any credible degree, my theater work, as well as law work, may have been more rewarding. And in neither world would I have, so obviously, self-advertised or would I even stay in touch with the people who could do me the most good. But here in this world in which I have no qualifications and in which everyone, I mean everyone has letters after their names, many of which are mysteries to me, I can just come out and ask to be remembered. But, and here is the rub, but as easy as it has been for me to speak up for myself, as I was doing it on Friday, I have no idea whether I will want to be there when next year rolls around.

Even as I was saying the words, there was a chill running down my spine and I had the distinct feeling that this was not the place for me. I wanted to fight that feeling, I wanted to ask for a second opinion, but it was no use. The impression was true.

And I don’t think that it necessarily means that I will not do a second year of LEND next year, I feel like it means that there are no assurances. Something deep inside of me has taken up this idea of a year of fallow and taken it very seriously. I have cut ties with my box, with my known world. I am exploring where I have been and what is inside. I am purging, cleaning out, emptying. And there is a part of me that will not allow any assumption of what comes next to enter. No comfort here.

For a long time, even years before David died, I felt to be on a precipice, waiting to jump and to see if the angels would catch me. Well, I’ve jumped, or been pushed, and indeed, the angels are taking care of me. But angels have their own rules and I am living by them.

No assumptions, no assurances. I don’t mean that I am walking down a totally unknown road. This is not some unique road to self-discovery, but I have not done this work before and I cannot count on where it will end up. This impermanence is not easy for me to live with but I am learning about the present and about today. And today, I am thankful for what I was doing last year when I needed to be at Waisman.

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