Giving our selves permission to let opportunities pass when their timing feels wrong for us, knowing that Spirit will continue to send us more/better opportunities until one that feels just right shows up.
Feeling Not Ready
If you don't feel ready yet to move with an opportunity that presents
itself in the moment, let it pass! There will always be another one…
And, another one and another one – until you are truly ready to take it!
Trust in that, despite all you've wrongly been led to believe!
My friend B and I had just ended a long season of doing Spirit work out in the world. It was Winter Solstice 1996, the end of a year of coordinating women's drumming circles and almost three and a half years of mounting local and geographically distant road shows selling her handcrafted drums and rattles and my For the Little Ones wares. We were exhausted, done with being around large crowds – even if they were of wonderful women. (See Too Much Work for more about that whole experience.)
B was on a sabbatical from her ordinary professional life, in a season of exploring new possibilities. With this more open time, she began to lobby me about creating a website. It was, she suggested, a way to put my work, my way of looking at life and growth out into the larger world without me having to actually be out in that world. I listened without much enthusiasm. I was too worn out to consider any new undertaking, even if it didn't involve people contact.
I was neither ready nor willing to engage with the world of computers. Though not techno-phobic, I had no interest in incorporating the fast track of technological progress into my slow lane life of no cell phone, no FAX, no microwave, no TV, no using ATM cards, no computers, and no email. Cordless phones and a small word processor were my concessions to technology. The word processor had come only when the limited 17 character erasing capacity of my 16-year-old electronic typewriter started driving me nuts. Too many experiences of (painful) frustrated desk pounding and rageful yanking and ripping of error-riddled pages had prompted my capitulation.
Had we started building a website at that time, we would have had to learn to write HTML: an interesting stretch for computer literate B, an impossible prospect for me. Since it was a perfect time for B to launch such a project, she gently pressed her case. In the face of my continued resistance, she backed off.
When web-authoring software became generally available a year or so later, she again broached the possibility with me. I responded as grumpily as before. Though I was more rested this time around, I still wasn't interested in anything that would feel like work and this project certainly did. I had no investment in getting my way of looking at life and growth further out into the world. I was happy sharing what I'd been learning with my clients and friends. That they in turn shared with their own friends whatever in my sharing was of value to them – this was enough for me. And, too, the Rememberings and Celebrations Cards were finding their way out into the world even though we weren't any longer traveling to fairs and festivals to get them seen and known.
B kept nudging me. I kept crabbily opposing her website idea. After a while, she again gave up.
Another year later, at the end of 1998, B – amazingly persistent – re-opened the topic. This time she presented a less ambitious framing of the undertaking: She would scan the texts of some of my earlier writings. She would help me adapt my word processing skills to the Microsoft Word program on her computer so that I could copy edit the scanning errors in those texts. Then, together, we would put up a bare bones site. No bells and whistles, no re-framing or reorganizing of all the material I had been creating over the years: just a few selected pieces. Later, if and as I felt moved to, I could occasionally write columns about one or another of the cards from the Rememberings and Celebrations Deck.
This time – with the simplified conception and her promise to go as slowly as I needed to go – I finally, though grudgingly, agreed. The challenging and often incredibly tedious process of creating the first For the Little Ones Inside website began. I spent days word processing in her study, yelling for help when I got stuck or in trouble. As she learned the web-authoring software, with me watching – riding shotgun as it were – we'd spend long hours putting it all together and test mounting it on-line.
There were computer glitches of one sort or another almost every time we got together to work on the project. It inevitably took longer to do anything than we thought it might. From the beginning, we understood the need to set sacred space with candles and smudging, reading oracles and asking the Grandmothers for their help and guidance. We learned (as we had before with the drumming project) that we needed to be impeccable in our processing with each other about the work. New to collaboration as a creative field, I often hated it and wanted to give up. I had zero frustration tolerance with computer misbehavior, usually ready to either take a hammer to it or shut it down and go back home to my un-computerized little cottage. Nevertheless, I knew in my bones that this was a right thing to be doing and a right time to be doing it.
B, unlike cranky me, was an old hand at creative collaboration, an enterprise she found rewarding. She was adept at processing the interpersonal difficulties that came up as we tried to integrate our different styles of working. She had limitless patience with computer/software problems, taking much pleasure in finding routes under, around or over the obstacles that littered our path. She'd always find a way to the other side. How long that took was another matter. I'd fidget, grumble and get bleary-eyed. I'd want to bail many times along the bumpy road to that other side.
Over time we learned to listen better to Spirit and to stop persisting when things got tangled between us or with the computer. We started seeing the obstacles as opportunities to take a break, a walk, get a bite to eat, stretch or talk about other things. We found a balance between B's dedication to staying with the difficulties and my inclination to walk away from them. (As the work continued, we noticed our selves sometimes actually switching these roles.)
I grappled with anxiety around allowing someone to give this much time and energy to a project that was all about me/my work. Finding a way to feel comfortable receiving this from someone who wouldn't accept payment for her time was very difficult. I had a hard time trusting her take on the collaboration as a gift to her, her Spirit work – especially since she had to deal with a lot of my grouchiness.
It was a powerful and transforming process. I was delighted with the site that we launched in July of 1999. Even more, I was thrilled to be done with a project that had taken eight months from scanning texts to being fully functional on-line. I wanted to enjoy the relief of having finally made it through to launching. The Grandmothers, however, were nudging B into nudging me onto the next threshold. She and they were relentless as they pushed me to see my writings as a body of work with a form that was trying to reveal itself. The idea of building a second website from this framework dismayed me. Again I resisted. Then, there was an unaccountable moment in which I suddenly got what B and the Grandmothers were trying to get me to see.
That moment propelled me wholeheartedly into the new, more complex undertaking. I was amazed, as we began building the second (current) incarnation of the website, by how much the collaborative process had opened in me. We designed the site together, with some consultation from a young woman computer expert much of whose input I could, surprisingly, understand. We got a lot of inspiration and support from the Non-Designers Web Book (by Williams and Tollett). In the early stages of the venture, as B's professional life shifted into high gear, I got to discover just how much computer technology I had osmosed during those long hours of riding shotgun as she tried to get around obstacles. In the end, I astonished my self as, for the most part by my self with only occasional coaching or technical input from B and our consultant, I built, rebuilt and refined the more than 60 pages that comprised the earliest version of the current website.
I was soaring with the exhilaration of developing a new set of competencies, stretching my envelope as I began using the computer as just another creative medium – like the pen and ink, paint, yarn and hand-written word with which I was more familiar and comfortable. I was giddy with the excitement of using my mind in ways I hadn't in years as I problem-solved computer, software and design glitches. I was doing this on my own a good deal of the time and becoming a more technologically creditable collaborator with B for the rest of it.
B had been (and continues to be) an awesome mentor/collaborator through the entire process. Quite amazingly – given my past experiences with academic mentors (see The Power of Vulnerability and The Vulnerability of Power for more about that history) – she's also been as delighted as I've been with my growing competencies and my fledging independence from her help.
As I worked on the pages for the current website, and with B's encouragement, I began to see her little Mac power book as my own. It had been living at my house through all the months of constructing the second website. I'd become attached to it. Though claiming ownership of a computer was a huge step, it became truly mine when she (reluctantly) let me replace it with a Titanium power book for her.
Over the more than eleven years that the second site has been on-line, we've marveled at all the magic and slogging that's gone into it. We're both proud of how easily you can navigate through it and go out to links and back again. Each month as first we and now I ceremoniously upload my columns, we grin at how beautiful it is and how readily it accommodates expansion.
The website journey has provided a powerful lesson about not taking advantage of what feels like an opportunity-coming-at-the-wrong-time, about not doing whatever one doesn't feel ready for. The cultural pressure is to seize opportunity when it comes, no matter how it fits or feels. It encourages us to fear that, if we don't, the chance we've allowed to pass will never come again and that we'll regret missing it for the rest of our days. What a terrible lie to be taught to live by.
Life, the Grandmothers and my deep self show me repeatedly that opportunities that I don't feel ready for or that don't feel right to me are ones that I can allow to pass. Different, better-for-me opportunities will keep coming until the one that feels absolutely right arrives and I take it up. When we choose our moments out of an inner sense that the time is ripe (even if we feel crabby about it) we are being kindheartedly supportive to our growth. When we choose the moment because it's there and we've been taught to be afraid to let it pass, it's inevitably a rockier road for our tender selves.
If you don't feel ready yet for an opportunity that presents itself, consider letting it pass and trusting there will always be other more-right-for-you openings down the road.