The States of Thingses

Apologies for the radio silence, wanted to give myself a full week to process the news. For those who missed the last post, last Friday my day job informed me that my department would be banished to oblivion and all of us had the option to compete for new internal jobs or take the severance package. I’ll keep my thoughts on the process itself to a minimum as I have no desire to burn bridges and understand that business does what it needs to do. I don’t believe this had anything to do with my abilities or the abilities of the folks in my department, nor do I think this was done out of any malicious intent. We just got caught in the middle of a bidding war for the company. It happens. I’ve been through it before.

That doesn’t mean that my emotions stayed calm. On the contrary. I had no idea what to make of things and what it meant. I went through the fatalistic stages of believing that this meant an end to my career. I imagined my wife and I ending up penniless and homeless (despite such a scenario requiring a disastrous series of events that are unlikely to occur). It all boiled down to fear, though. I actually stumbled upon this long-forgotten quotation from Dune the other day and it set off some thoughts, ones that I’ll talk about below:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

This is never quoted in recovery circles (I’ve checked as part of my research) and yet it feels so important, as so many of the roots of addiction and mental illness lie in fear, the fear that drives us to avoidance. I realized that while I seemed to be obsessing over loss, this was actually a technique to avoid the deeper fear: fear of death.

As much as we ascribe endless complexities to the subconscious – and it is quite complex – sometimes its machinations are simplistic to the point of seeming dull-witted. Loss, for instance, often equals death in the subconscious, which is why we cycle through grief. And so the subconscious pushes this away through all manner of different techniques in order to survive. Chief of these techniques is anxiety, which is the anticipation of loss, a form of living in an uncertain future that avoids the challenges of the moments.

That’s an awful lot of navel-gazing to say that I’ve been afraid of death for most of my life, not just the adult part, and now that I’m entering some of the years where the reaper begins to walk behind, you my subconscious mind saw omens in a layoff that had nothing to do with death. Perhaps the impersonal nature of it triggered me so badly; I often see death as an impersonal foe, able to sweep thousands away with no thought or pattern.

So in some ways, a more personal layoff might have been better for me. Still would have sucked, but might not have been accompanied by such existential dread.

Today, things are a little better. My wife gave me a breakdown of our finances and our ability to survive on unemployment and savings for a good period of time. It calmed me. I have also realized that the the next chapter in my life may begin on the West Coast. Obviously I can’t predict the future, but I can choose whether I feel positive about it or feel negative and dwell in fear. One makes me feel okay and able to take on the challenges of the day and the other keeps me shriveled up in a ball and miserable. I know which one I prefer.

Oh, and on more practical matters, this obviously affects release schedules. Print version of Pathways is on hold until things become clearer. I just can’t afford the proofing process right now. I understand this will be a disappointment for a few folks, but I’ll keep you posted. I had briefly contemplated a “sell-out” moment of writing erotica in hopes of making money, but a few hours with a story convinced me that I’m not very good at it and even if I were, the passion is just not there. I’ve returned to work on Broken Wing, though it’s slowed somewhat with the other things going on. I’ll return to publishing soon enough, and I still write every day. That will not change short of death or terminal illness.

Anyway, just a check-in with old friends and new acquaintances. Hope all is well in your world at the moment.

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  1. Hi Jonathan,
    I don’t know whether to offer you condolences or congratulations on your enforced job change. I do know that we need to part with the old for new growth to occur, and so I am holding the space that you will look back on this change in a year or so and bless it for what it has brought into your life. If I can do anything to support you during this time of transition, please ask.
    I am fascinated by your comments on fear–an old dear friend of mine. Fear is the hurdle all of us must cross, in one way or another, to reach our dreams. But specifically, what did you mean that there is no conversation about fear in recovery? Recovery like in the 12 step programs? Isn’t working through fear central to the journey of recovery? Love to hear more on this point.

    • Hi Alix,
      Thanks! Sometimes I feel like a paradox in that I know change is good for us and embrace it and yet when I step right up to the edge of committing I get scared and begin to back away and cling to the old. Eventually I do follow through, but I have to work through the fear every.single.time. It’s a frustrating part of my personality and I have to warn folks going through it with me. Thanks for the offer of support. I appreciate it.

      Well i was talking about 12 step recovery and recovery through therapy, all of it, and certainly fear is one of the central hurdles, I was speaking of the Dune quotation in particular. It’s such an apt quotation that I’m surprised it’s never brought up. It helped me out a great deal.

      • Jonathan,
        Thanks for clarifying what you meant about the quote–that makes more sense.
        I do fear every single time too.
        Onwards! We both can do it.

  2. I just know that we’ll be fine and I am determined to be zen. *ommm* *ommm*

  3. Great quote because it is so true. I’ve faced fear many times. Most of the time I’ve had to process it as well. So you are not alone my friend and best of all you are loved.

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