Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Upaya

Recently, my apathy and dispair around work has transformed into anger. At the root of my anger is hurt, fear and disappointment. I've been working with my department since 1997, and associated with that university since 1988, and no one has yet told me, either in person, phonecall, e-mail, smoke signals or passenger pigeon that I will not be offered a contract next year. I figure, after all those years of service and dedication, the Chair of my department would have the courtesy of forwarning me of this situation. Human resources posts a list of the available courses for Part-time faculty, and it does not take a nuclear physicist to do the math. Nor does it take any amount of creativity or ingenuity to use the internet and look up the courses being offered by my department next fall. And still, no one had the foresight or the courtesy to give me a heads up. Of course, many of you know that is does not come as a huge surprise or shock to me. I've been predicting this for months. What is beginning to enrage me is the fact that it seems okay by this institution to let me disappear quietly.

And who should I bump into yesterday? The chair of my department. And there we went again, about to play this elaborate game of make-believe as if everything is fine and dandy. Except yesterday I did not feel like playing. I was blunt and straightforward. I expressed how angry I was that no one had the decency to tell me what was going on, or give me some warning. I was able to see how my anger generated anger in response. I took a step back said I was not trying to engage in a fight, but rather expressing my frustration and hurt. I strayed no further than expressing my feelings and wished that I could have been shown more respect.
In return she was apologetic, yet did not inform me of my inevitable unemployment.

I am not the confrontational sort, so the whole event was an adrenaline rush and I felt rather awkward about it in the end. I had a conversation with a friend afterwards to try and sort out my conflicting feelings about what had transpired. On one level, all my study on bodhicitta and tonglen sort of fly in the face of this unleashed aggression. Yet I don't think there is anywhere in the Buddhist rulebook about being a doormat.

"I can't let myself hate her", I told him, " it only perpetuates everyone's suffering. In order not to hate her, I try and connect with her suffering, and try to understand that some of her actions toward me are in fact ways she is trying to avoid her own suffering."
Then I pause.
"but I can't make sense of my aggression today. In one way, standing up for myself was a good thing - although it seems to run counter to my practice. On the other hand, I am quite sure that no one is expecting me to be a wet noodle. I tried to be very conscious of talking about my own response, not talking about her in a negative way. I did not accuse or point fingers. That seemed to work. Explaining how I did not want to fight, that I was uncomfortable even with my own aggression seemed to work too..."
"It sounds like you exercised upaya." He replied.
"Upaya?"
"Skillful means. You tried to direct her to the causes of suffering. You tried to help her see the way to her own enlightenment"
"I did?"
"There was some skill involved in rerouting her anger. That's pretty powerful".

Sometimes, these intense situations are such potent lessons. Part of me feels gratitude for having the opportunity work with this. Can you say glutton for punishment? (har har)

Things with Aidan's pediatrician appointment were without much drama, thankfully. He has fluid in his ears, and will have his hearing tested next week. If this shows some deficits, then its back to the ENT for tubes in his ears again. And in the meantime, he was referred for speech therapy. Other than the fluid in the ears, there were no surprises....which was very much appreciated.

3 comments:

Kim said...

I always enjoy reading your blog! Glad to hear Aiden's appointment held no unexpected surprises.

Sorry to hear about the stress on the job front. It's so sad when employers don't treat people right.

hotboy said...

I don't try so hard to be nice. But why aren't they telling you? If you're getting made redundant why don't they say so? I don't get that. Haven't you got a union? I suppose you've got some kind of short term contract. Dearie me. Anyway, have you heard of sticking the nut on folk? If you nut the swine, maybe they'll learn to treat the next josephine a bit better. Maybe lance the boil and ask them outright. If you're being treated unjustly, make the basturns suffer. It's good for them. If you're in the right, lay the wrath of god on them even if you are a buddhist. Hotboy.p.s. I don't think I'm a very nice buddhist! Why agonise? Cut to the chase. What do you want?

Tor said...

Just remember, you are not your job. I've been through the job-disappearing thing a couple times, and am in perilous times right now, too, in which the future is unclear. Most folks who believe they have a stable situation forever turn out to be sadly disappointed, anyway. That can be just as terrible a cause of suffering.