Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth. Tom Barrett
Yesterday, I had a meeting with the artists in the art.studio I oversee at the shelter where I work. Along with three volunteers, nine artists turned up to discuss -- "What's going on? What can we make happen?"
In a cooperative, there is always room for discord and harmony. Often, the path to discord appears more clearly than the path to harmony. Habits, insecurities, fears, anxieties, a sense of powerlessness all contribute to creating that space where "He did. He said. I didn't. I wouldn't." preface every conversation.
Some months ago, one of the artists was barred for ninety days from the shelter for inappropriate and disrespectful activity. (Bars are a withdrawal of service or building access for a given period of time. Think 'consequences' for bad behaviour. Dealing. Alcohol or drugs on site. Pimping. Violence. Disrespect of staff or other clients. -- all of these activities can result in a warning or a bar. Depending upon the individuals history, a bar can be for 24 hours, a week, a month or life -- dealing, pimping and excessive violence with no remedial options result in life bars.) In the artists bar, his work was left in the studio and, after no phone call from him as to what he wanted to happen to his 'stuff', a couple of artists carefully packed it up and put it into storage.
Recently, the client came back and his stuff was brought out of storage back into the studio. Unfortunately, a couple of pieces of equipment were missing. They had both practical and sentimental value to him and he was upset at what he perceived to be our lack of care of his stuff.
"What are you going to do about it?" he asked when he came into my office.
"What do you think we should do?" I asked in return.
"Well, it's your fault it's missing..."
"Yeah. You promised the studio was a safe place. My stuff should have been safe there."
"The studio is a safe place. That's one of its primary purposes. However, we cannot be accountable for your stuff for you. Each artist is accountable for anything that belongs to them."
He was incensed. "It's not my fault. I couldn't be here to take care of it."
"True, you couldn't be here. And what is the reason you couldn't be here to take care of it?"
"I got barred. But that has nothing to do with my stuff going missing!"
"Actually, it has everything to do with it. Your actions resulted in your being barred which resulted in other people having to take care of your stuff. They did the best they could. That's all you can ask from them."
He disagreed and walked out of my office.
Later, I went to the storage space and searched for his bag. I found it. It still sits in my office as the client has chosen not to come and retrieve it.
Yesterday, in our meeting, the issue of other people's 'stuff' being left when they're not appearing in the studio came up. One of the artists who had helped pack up this client's items when he was barred said, "We need to set some guidelines, including timelines, on what we do with people's stuff when they're not here. How long do we keep it in the studio? What do we do with it after that time has expired? I don't want to be held accountable for other people's stuff. It's just not right."
Through the chaos comes order.
The artists are learning to set boundaries. To turn up and be accountable. To be upfront in their interactions. Good stuff!
We've experienced some growing pains. Some, this is working, this isn't. What can we do to make it all better kind of questioning. What can we let go of to make room for new growth explorations.
And through it all, fear of the chaos of not knowing, not understanding, of feeling powerless, of feeling like nobody's listening has risen to the surface and challenged each person, including myself, to really look at what is going on, and how can I make a contribution that creates value in the studio, and in myself.
For me, the client's missing stuff and his response to it triggered all sorts of emotion. In particular, it was his not coming to get his stuff that rankled. It was his not being willing to face his stuff that pushed me into my own stuff around being ignored, being invisible, feeling discounted and devalued. In delving into 'what's this all about for me', I'm discovering little pitmarks of discord within me.
It's been rather interesting! And challenging. And enlightening.
Last night, as C.C. and I were driving to meet some friends for dinner, I told him the story of the client and his missing stuff. As we reached the restaurant, C.C. said, "You sound like you're edging for a fight."
"No I'm not," I replied.
C.C. smiled, nodded his head and parked the car.
His words rankled. Sat in my psyche like a piece of steel wool grating against a teflon pan. I could feel the striations. Feel the gritty texture rubbing my thinking from the inside out.
Hmmm.... what is this all about?
Over the course of the past week, C.C. and I have moved towards our desire to be together and away from that place where there is no 'us', just me and you going our separate ways. It has been a conscious choice to let go of 'if only he would...' thinking to that place where I accept my accountability in creating what I want more of in my life.
If I want more love, I need to be more loving.
If I want harmony, I need to create it.
And, if I want C.C. in my life, I need to embrace him as he is, not as I want him to be. Conversely, I don't need him to embrace me as I am -- when I'm okay with where I am and who I am and how I am being...
One of the things I acknowledged one morning as we talked about what is, what isn't and what we want to be, was that I had quit being loving. I had let my upset over what I perceived to be his bad behaviour disrupt my peace of mind. In my upset I moved into victim thinking. I was using him as my excuse to act poorly, to be distant, to withhold love and affection. I let go of being 100% accountable for me and gave up my right and desire and joy in walking a path of love, forgiveness and compassion.
It's what I've done with the client of the missing stuff. I have judged his journey and found him lacking.
He is lacking. He lives in a homeless shelter. He is scared and frightened and confused and all sorts of things he doesn't know how to deal with. He's lacking in self-esteem. In motivation. In all sorts of areas of his life, both physical and emotional.
I can't fix any of those things for him. What I can do is let him be 'in his stuff' without making his stuff my stuff. And that was what I had done. I'd let his anger, his feelings around what I needed to do, be an excuse for me to become disturbed by the situation.
In my judgement of him I created lack within me. Lack of compassion. Lack of tolerance. Of openness. Of acceptance. Of grace. His discord reflected back to me some pit marks of discord within me, and I was balking at the projection.
C.C. was right. I was moving through the chaos of my own 'stuff' around what was happening, both between him and I and this client and me, and I was acting out my discord, looking for a fight.
This morning, as I sit wrapped up in the quiet of the household, I come back to myself in peace, joy and love.
I am okay when I breathe deeply into my emotions and open myself up to expansion.
I am okay when I love myself, exactly the way I am, and share that gift of acceptance with everyone in my life -- with grace and ease and without expectation of their response being anything other than how they choose to respond in the moment from where ever they're at, however they are.
And I am okay when I let go of needing answers and breathe deeply into the moment of now, at peace with where I'm at, comfortable in the chaos of not knowing where 'now' is leading, trusting in the universe to open up before me in all its abundance, truth and grace.
There is much to be learned in the chaos of my emotions. And so much to be embraced when I let go of needing to 'know' if I'll be okay in the chaos. When I move into knowing, I'm okay, just the way I am, exactly where I'm at, my world becomes at peace with where I am being true to my higher good opening up the path before me.