Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Boomerang

Yesterday I made a good effort to work on something that has been hanging over my head for a long time. I wanted to finish it in order to clear space to attend to projects I was more enthusiastic about.

While I worked well, I was aware of a persistent drag on my soul. And so finally, about mid-afternoon, I paused to ask myself: "is this really what I should be doing?" I took stock of reasons to keep doing it, and reasons to let it go. It suddenly became very clear to me that I needed to just let it go.

It's scary for me to let go of things I had promised to do. In this case, a well-meaning colleague had encouraged me to review a book, written by one friend of his, and submit it to a journal whose book review editor was another friend of his. When I agreed, it was because the book looked interesting, and I didn't want to let down my well-intentioned colleague.

The book is very interesting and important, but is written in a style that makes it hard to get through. But I'm not one to let mere difficulty daunt me. The book is also out of my subfield of expertise, but I told myself that this was a good way to expand my horizons. Meanwhile, my complex life made it difficult for me to apply the sustained attention that this project required.

So yesterday I saw that other excellent reviews of this book are in fact available in other journals, and that helped empower me to finally write to the book review editor and say that I wouldn't be able to do this after all.

It was hard, but I felt so relieved. And I was proud of myself for taking this small (but to me, big) step in letting go of what others want me to do in favor of trusting my own judgment of what projects I really feel called to do.

This morning, I check my e-mail and find a kind note from the editor, just quietly and simply saying that he still does hope that I will do it.

That's all. No acknowledgement that the point of my note had been to let go of this.

So, where is the voice of God in this? His quiet and clear persistence, or my reluctance?

I am reassured that he is not upset with me for my long delay -- a big part of my growing resistance was my anxiety about this. It confirms what I always tell my students (but have trouble with myself): just keep in touch with people, especially if you are having difficulty with something! People are usually understanding. Released from that anxiety now, will I find myself suddenly able to finish this? I have put a lot of time and effort into it so far, and maybe it will be better for me to finish and prove to myself that I can do something like this.

But I felt so clear and happy yesterday about letting it go.

So, once again in my life, nothing is simple and straightforward.

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