A few weeks ago, I upgraded the operating system on my Mac to Snow Leopard. Having a techy son and a techy husband, the newest and the greatest is always available to me, and in order to be up on technological changes that will enhance my creativity and productivity, I readily popped in the disk and waited for the magic to happen. It didn’t.
In fact, my programs began crashing, I couldn’t attach files to email, and I lost the print driver to an antiquated printer at work that rendered me dead in the water as far as printing was concerned, unless I trekked down the hall to the conference room with my trusty jump drive in hand. I was not being very productive, and neither was my creativity enhanced. So I took things into my own hands and decided to take a step backwards and reinstall Leopard. Feeling very proud of myself, I went through the steps and allowed the already checked boxes to maneuver me through the process, only to discover upon restarting that I had wiped my entire hard drive clean.
No shout could be heard around the world; I merely stared at the screen, numb. My life–– new book project notes, student grades, and pictures of my grandbaby––had been wiped from the face of my computer. I calmly picked up the phone and called my son, only to have him chastise me: “Mom, why didn’t you call me?” I was amused that in that moment our roles had been switched. “Turn off your computer. Don’t touch it. Bring it to me.”
In the next few minutes a plan was hatched to recover all of my data and to get me back into action with a replacement hard-drive while my current one was placed in the skillful hands of someone who knew far more than me when it came to computers. The switch took several days given our geographical distance, and in the interim I thankfully had my iPhone to check emails. However, the emptiness created by the absence of my computer allowed me to ponder the symbolic meaning of this event. I have discovered on numerous occasions that there are no accidents.
It took me about a week to realize that this was a great big metaphor for what might happen if I began back-peddling on the changes I had been making and the position I was taking to honor myself and my needs before others needs and expectations, perhaps for the first time in my life. My husband and I had been going through some readjustments now that we had been living apart during the week. And I was beginning to like my freedom and the quiet it allowed me more and more. I was beginning to discover my self in a way that I hadn’t during much of my life when I was busy tending to husbands, children, fly fishing clients, or students (or a combination of all four depending on the time of year or day). My life had been just too full. But now I had some space in my day to be with me. Most of the time, I relished the openness. Yet, my guilt surfaced for leaving the dogs, the house, and hubby to fend for himself during the week resurfaced, particularly on Monday mornings when I began my commute back to campus in the dark of the morn. That emotion was appearing more and more, particularly since hubby had begun to do some interpersonal work on some issues that were causing distress in our marriage for quite some time––issues that I never would have never seen had I not given myself the space and time for rest, relaxation and more meditation. However, a long ago memory resurfaced to render the guilt mute.
Many years ago, I separated from my first husband for several weeks. During that time, he became more attentive to the children and me. Despite the warning from our therapist, I allowed him to come back home. The situation went from bad to ugly, and I was embarrassed to go crawling back to my friends and family to complain about how bad things had become once again. I spent the next five years building up the courage to escape. Had I stuck to my guns during the first separation, however, I would have saved myself and my children a whole lot of grief.
This memory and others flooded into my mind to remind me that change can not take place overnight. The first hint of hopefulness is not an indication that a new foundation was being laid for a renewed relationship with my current husband. These memories combined with the current state of my computer were a warning––a big old burning bush. Someone was trying to get my attention. The realization was sobering, and I knew that if I took a step back and let down my guard, lasting change would be sabotaged––and I might even lose my life––once again.
I shared this story with my mentor recently as we were discussing the state of affairs at home and at work. She very quickly said, “You are fighting for yourself.” And I am. If I don’t fight for myself, who will?