“You’re in trouble”

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Where was I? I’ve just crawled out of the bog of social media for business purposes, a terribly determined place.

It’s customary to say if I’d known what it takes to start a business from scratch, I wouldn’t have done it. Only I would have done it nonetheless, because I’m stubborn and bonkers, and because working as an employee I was often bored out of my brain. Very late in my so-called “career”, I cracked the secret of being satisfied and happy at work, and as soon as I got that I was done. Nothing more to prove!

Building a business is terrifying. There’s a neverending list of things I need to learn, things I need to get better at, constraints to be broken through (fear of being seen, fear of marketing) and lots of lean times and flying by the seat of my pants. I also feel proud and satisfied to be building something that didn’t previously exist and something that makes a difference in the world.

It’s the right-sized task for me where previous jobs were always too small (as is the situation for many in the workplace; we all need issues that are big enough, that are a match for us, that call us forth).

Boredom is a thing of the past. I’m alive and happy.

*

Speaking of fear, one of the biggest things that happened recently concerns fear. I assisted at a Landmark Forum for Teens in early December. There are three types of “forums”: one for young people (ages 8 to 12), one for teens (ages 13 to 17) and the adults forum.

I’ve assisted on many adult forums, and it was my first time on the teens. Assisting means helping with the event management on a voluntary basis. It’s equivalent to providing “service” at Vipassana.

It was one of the great experiences of my life.

I didn’t foresee that I would be doing my own forum for teens. It was like getting into a time machine and going back then. The issues that were there for me as a teen, especially as a young teen or preteen, came up in such a way that I experienced them as if I were a child again.

The biggest thing I got concerned an incident that happened when I was 10. It was a sunny morning and I was coming back from Sunday School. I walked in the front gate of our house and my mum was sitting on the verandah and as I walked in she said something like “I’ve got to talk to you about something.” I don’t remember the exact words, but I distinctly remember the voice she used to say them. It was the voice she used when I was in trouble. I remember the feeling of dread and terror come over me. She told me I had won first prize in an art competition for Girl Guides (I drew a vase of purply-blue flowers), and I remember feeling confused that I had done something good but I was also in trouble.

It’s not that I’d hadn’t remembered this incident prior to assisting that weekend; what was new was that I touched it, my child’s fear and dread and terror. It was incredible.

This isn’t about blaming my mum for what she said or her tone of voice. It’s inevitable that children make meaning from wisps, glances, mishearings, overhearings. It cannot be avoided. It’s how we’ve put together our identities!

When I touched it again, I got with a force like a blow the extent to which my life has been given by fear, especially the fear of receiving the communication, “You’re in trouble.”

I saw that I’ve lived my life always vigilant, always alert to the risk it might be coming in my direction; that I’ve quit jobs because of it, ended relationships, and tried really really hard to be good and pleasing in whatever I did. All in service of the fear that that communication might land on me.

I shared it with the assisting team and afterwards several of the women in particular came up to me and shared their fear too. When I shared it, the person who was in charge of the event, a wonderful woman named Sue said,

Now you’ve got it. It’s no longer got you.

The weekend was a brilliant experience, and the children, wow, they’re magnificent! We cried at their beauty. And in case you don’t already know it, they’re a thousand times smarter than us adults. The forum leader could go places with them in the famous denouement conversation that the adults can rarely go.

*

Image: courtesy of Drawing for kids

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15 thoughts on ““You’re in trouble”

  1. I had lunch with a good friend yesterday. She told me she had been clearing out her storage space and came across a journal she had kept as a teen. Yes, some of it made her squirm with embarrassment, but she was most impressed with the insights she had recorded, and the truthful acknowledgement of her own “shadow stuff”: anger, resentment, jealousy, fear.

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    • I get it. When I saw what the children were like, away from parents and peers and all the social agreements that listen them as “small” or “incompetent” or “immature” or “don’t know what adults know” and so on, I was blown away. And yet we patronise them, disregard them, think they’re “less than” because they’re not fully grown.

      In comparison, the adults are like ossified dinosaurs lumbering through the wilderness of their stories and delusions with their eyes blindfolded and their ears stopped :)

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    • Kimmy, you’re sweet thinking the picture was done by me, esp by 10 year old me. I couldn’t find who actually did it. I chose it because of the vases, there are six and they were six members of my family, and because the jagged lines reminded me of my fear and distress. Love flowing from MLB to MN xxx

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  2. I wish it was true: “Now that you’ve got it, it’s no longer you.” I’ve “gotten it” (whatever “it” happens to be) so many times and still I get caught by “it.” I guess that’s why life is called a journey, not a destination…

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    • Hi Diahann. Well said. Best intentions are not proof against the inevitability of a child making meaning that doesn’t serve her and him. Thank you; that was one of our commitments to the children. To be the space in which the children get what they came to get. x

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  3. so powerful! i assisted for the first time at a forum in december. it was amazing to see the transformations from beginning to end! the teen forum happens in my city a few weeks from now, and my best friend’s daughter will be part of it. it’s going to be so great for her. thank you for sharing! :) aleya

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    • Hi Aleya. It is amazing to see how people transform from Friday morning to Sunday evening. People look 15, 20 years younger, almost unrecognisable from how they look when they walk in on Friday. It’s magic :) Your friend’s daughter is in for an experience that will benefit her for the rest of her life. Best wishes xx

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