But before I go, from my morning reading in Martha Beck's The Joy Diet. You know how I feel about Martha.
...in every professional discipline, there seem to be two types of extraordinarily successful people. On one hand, there are those who absolutely believe that the game they're playing is Real Life, who would kill or die to win. These people may dominate their games for a time by sheer force of will, but they often seem stressed and joyless, unable to feel satisfied by their amazing achievements. On the other hand, there are the people who see very clearly that their profession is a game, but who simply love playing it. These people enjoy their successes with wholehearted delight and joke about their failures with sheepish good humor. They care about their work, but it is not the foundation of their happiness. They seem to dwell in what Roshi Shunryu Suzuki called 'big mind.'
To exist in big mind is an act of faith, which is different from the usual faith of believing in a particular idea or being. It is to believe that something is supporting us and supporting all our activities including thinking mind and emotional feelings.... That is the feeling of pure being.
Call it whatever you want--God, truth, the consciousness of mortality, your real self--this ground of pure being is where you can stand to find peace when you are in danger of mistaking this or that game for your real life. Remind yourself of your true priorities at least once a day...and you'll gradually learn to return to this stable foothold more quickly and more often. Once you feel grounded, you can move on to the next stage: testing to see whether the games you're playing are serving your real life.
The games are important, right? It's no fun to play a game that nobody takes seriously, or doesn't make an effort at. "Games" is not meant as derogatory here. It's meant as a point of perspective. As you know, I've always been very caught up in my games. It's what people mean when they say I'm "ambitious." But that ambition, I discovered really quickly, was not making me happy. Seeing the game, and trying to play it well while also knowing it wasn't my life, was the key to happiness.
This is what my therapist was getting at those many years ago when he asked me, "What will you be when you are no longer 'mother'? 'Professor'? 'Wife'? What is your value then?" What he was asking was: what are you, really, outside of the games you've chosen to play? What are you outside of your labels? Who will you be if one, or God forbid all, of them fade?
I had no answer then. I couldn't fathom what he meant.
I have an inkling now. It's easy to forget. Easy to lose sight. But I have an inkling now.