Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Path with Heart

 Several years ago, I was in a director-level communications position and really struggling with the politics of the place.  My husband, who was tired of my complaining, heard of a job at Microsoft (where he was working at the time) that we both knew I could do with two hands tied behind my back; I'd spent much of my career in similar positions.

So I blithely said, "Alright, I'll do it.  If I don't get the job, I'll just ... move to the San Juans and write a book!"

It was a joke, really; we both knew I'd get the job.  So I applied.  And they lost the application.  I printed up another and my husband hand-carried it to a friend in HR.  Who lost it again.  But the third time was the charm, and I soon found myself on the phone with a young man, probably half my age, who was interviewing me for the position.

At some point in the conversation, he asked, "If you were in a group with 100 people, where would you like to be positioned in that group?"  I thought about it for a milli-second or two, and then replied, "Number two."

"And why is that?" he asked. 

"I don't need to be number 1," I replied.  "I don't want to be dealing with all the politics: I just want to be the person who gets the job done and makes number 1 look good."

I never heard back from them, and we agreed that it was probably because the young man -- and the company -- were too young to understand the importance of hiring Number Twos.

I've been reading Deborah Tannen's book, Talking from Nine to Five: Women and Men at Work this week, and now I see that in offering to be Number Two I was probably making the same choice I've made repeatedly over the course of my life, the same choice most women -- or at least ones in my age range -- make, which is "not to blow your own horn."  It helps to understand that that is a sort of cultural imperative -- and one that probably needs to be overcome if women are ever to reach parity with men in the corporate world.

But what I also know is that, having lost that opportunity, I began to look more seriously at that joke I had spouted, and eventually I did just that: moved to the islands and wrote a book.  And my life has never been the same again -- and I mean that in a good way!  So why is that?  This morning I began reading Jack Kornfield's classic, A Path with Heart, and in the opening chapter he quotes Don Juan, in his teachings to Carlos Castaneda:

"Look at every path closely and deliberately.  Try it as many times as you think necessary.  Then ask yourself and yourself alone one question...Does this path have a heart?  If it does, the path is good.  If it doesn't, it is of no use."

"Of course!" I thought -- I had chosen the path with heart!

Last night another job came across my desk, and again, I changed my resume and began drafting a cover letter.  But I could feel resistance building in me, and before long it became apparent: this isn't really something I want to do right now.  And now, this morning, I am beginning to understand: I'm looking for a path with heart, and this one isn't it.

Riding the ferry a week or so ago, before I left for camp, I looked out my window and spotted this heart on the floor between the two cars next to me.  Hearts always seem a sort of cheap and easy symbol to me, but I leaned out and took a picture anyway.  And now I see why: something out there was determined to remind me: look for a path with heart.

And though job hunting is becoming a bit of an imperative at this point, I suspect that even though money is the driving force behind the hunt, finding a path with heart is really the most important aspect of this project.  Surely there will be a way for me to do what needs to be done that will also prove to be a path with heart.  I will just have to trust that way will emerge.


Maureen said...

I support you looking for that "path with heart". I think there's a place where you'll combine your intelligence and learning and especially your artistic skills to make a difference. When the "right" offer comes, you'll know, because you won't have to talk about being a number on some scale or within some group. Everyone in the group will matter.


P.S. Let me know how you like the Tannen book. I've read most of her work but not this one.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Diane, you always cast such light and beauty on my path -- both with your words and your photos.

I love, "find the path with heart!"


KimQuiltz said...

I don't have to tell you to "stick to the path," you already know you need to do that! I'll just stand here on the sidelines and cheer you on as you run by.

Woot Woot Diane!!


I support you in your quest for a path with heart - so important - you're so full of energy and talent that there IS a path for you; a path just waiting for the person with a heart and passion to fill it and that will be you.