Wayne C. Allen's "Works in Progress"
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The Siren's Song


A Short Story

Darlene MacNaughton

I offered to take a friend to an "after school" gathering last week. She'd driven to school - they live a couple of blocks away. She decided to call her husband and ask (or tell) her husband to walk over and pick up the car. 

Her husband agreed to do this. As we left the school, she noted that the car was still there. Just before dropping her off at home after the function was over, we wondered if her car had made it home.

My friend reported that her husband did things on his own timetable and that if she waited long enough things would get done. She continued explaining that "this is the trouble with her husband and her son."

My friend tackles tasks almost immediately and stays at them until done, so waiting is a difficult thing for her to do. She exited the car, commenting out loud, "If only he would do what I want, when I want and how I want - life would be so much easier for me."

I think she will have a long wait for that to happen! I laughed as I drove away, thinking how often I notice people looking outside themselves for the magic fix in their life when this fix is only found inside ourselves.

First of all, a quote from Richard Bach's Illusions (pg 46:)

Learning is finding out what you already know.
Doing is demonstrating that you know it.
Teaching is reminding others that they know as well as you.

People who come to Elmira on Saturdays to hang out with Dar and me are often quite surprised when noon comes around. All of a sudden, the "air raid" siren goes off. Now, coming from the United States, I certainly remember, in the 50's and 60's, hearing the sirens being tested. Until we moved to Elmira, I didn't even know Canadians had sirens.

Last weekend, a bright yellow sheet appeared in the mailbox, along with the local newspaper. The sheet indicated that the township was going to test its emergency preparedness system on Wednesday. As I'm in Port Elgin on Tuesday and Wednesday, I chucked the sheet.

So, here it is, Wednesday. I booted my computer and wondered what I'd write about for Into the Centre. Nothing occurred to me, so I thought, "I'd better check my Elmira office voice mail," a slight stalling technique. I had one message. I heard, "If you'd like the message repeated, press 7. If you'd not like the message repeated, press 8. If there is no key press, the message will be repeated." Now, of course, I'm listening to a tape, so pressing keys would be dumb. I am not dumb. I pressed no key.

The message continued, "This is the fire chief. We are testing Elmira's emergency preparedness system . . ." I hung up, and smiled. I had Into the Centre all figured out.

I also was smiling because I wasn't able to escape the test. I thought going to Port Elgin would mean I wouldn't be involved, but even 130 km away, I just "participated." I suspect the same call is also lodged on my home voice mail, so I just might get to participate again. What I impress myself with is the thoroughness of the testing.

They had a message to get across, and the option they gave me was to do something so they wouldn't repeat it. They considered the message so important (without checking with me to see if I considered it important, by the bye) that they were determined to get it across. To stop it, I had to hang up.

Clearly, the fire chief really believes in the necessity of this test. I suspect it comes out of "Walkerton" - Canadians likely will "get" this reference. Walkerton is a town near here, which allowed e. coli bacteria into the town water supply. Several people died, and the town was on a "boil water" protocol for 6 months. People found out about the problem when the news media picked up on it - there was no system in place to warn the people of the town. Thus, I suspect, the reason for the system now in place in Elmira.

But I digress, really. I'm impressed enough to write about this because of the seeing uniqueness of anyone these days expressing their desire to do something, and doing so without apology, then including me (opting me in) without begging. And wonder of wonders, someone got an idea that they firmly held, and they actually followed through and did something about it!!!

Many people seem to "dabble" at life. Those of us doing workshops often see what we call "workshop groupies." People show up and get all turned on by whatever they think they heard. Then, the next weekend, they're off getting all turned on by something new. By comparing mailing lists, you can track their movement through the "circuit."

On the other hand, I look at my friend Dave, a young guy with a burning passion to be a pilot. Man, is that guy dedicated. Course after course, flight after flight, he's making himself into a pilot. Now, he wants eventually to fly big passenger jets, so I'm glad he's taking his passion seriously enough to actually devote years of his life becoming proficient, then expert, at flying.

I remember, as a young buck, that I really loved power. I got out of university in 1973, got a job as a teller in a bank in a town outside of Chicago, and within 6 months was Assistant to the Vice President, in charge of "Special Projects." My "meteoric" rise had to do with my single-minded focus on change. I was good at finding what was broken (which I have later concluded that anyone with half a brain can do . . . ) and even better at proposing AND implementing change. (which is what you actually get paid to do!)

Then, I got bored.

Two Masters' degrees and a new country later, I was becoming a "power-based" psychotherapist. Then, I had an epiphany, thanks to some probing by my supervisor. I let go of wanting power and became "simply interested." I discovered I wasn't so much interested in change for change's sake as I was interested in learning how I, and others, framed their existence. How, I wondered, do people stay stuck in bad relationships? Why do others (and I) continue to choose to repeat behaviours that don't work? Why are so many people willing to explore self-understanding and their own belief systems, yet so few are willing to do the actual work of living out of their core beliefs?

I began to realize how little I knew. I decided to implement choice in my life, and evaluate the validity of the choice by the results I got. I began to see this as a spiritual path, one involving probing deeper into myself, and moving more directly "out there" with what I was learning. My path became one of sharing myself with others. Not to get others to walk my path. Rather, I chose to help others to evaluate their path, to discard what doesn't work, to choose to actually implement other ways of being. Without excuse.

I wish I had a buck for every person I've ever heard say, "I know this stuff and how I want to live my life, but I can't seem to make myself do it." I draw them back to one thing. If I am living my life in a balanced and healthy and honest way, shouldn't I mostly feel content? On the other hand, if my life is unrelentingly boring or painful or unclear, if I am never satisfied, doesn't it make sense that somehow, the way I am choosing to live needs to be altered? On the third hand, I act occasionally out of my six-year-old, and make messes for myself. Can I learn that this, too, is a part of my nature? Can I accept this clumsy little boy within, comfort him, but also clean up his messes? In other words, can I accept the 6-year-old that is a part of me, but not, at the same time, turn into him?

I've been on a variant of the path I chose in 1982 for, well, 19 years now. I am amazed at its twists and turns - how many opportunities for learning AND application I have been given. I understand my path to be mine, and mine alone. I'm not looking for converts. I make choices about my life on the basis of my path, and don't choose to walk another path. So far, after 19 years, this path just keeps unfolding and deepening.

I've learned that its impossible to do this work on my own. I've needed to find and listen to mentors - fellow "walkers on the Way." In the end, I recognize how blind I can be to the games I play and the sticking points I create for myself.

If you are confused or feeling stuck, find a mentor, a spiritual director, a coach. Surrender your present understandings and explore new ways.  If you are content and walking on your path, just look in my direction and wave. We may not know where we are going, but my, my, my, the companionship is spectacular!

The Phoenix Business Focus

Creativity and Freedom

One of the things I learned, working for others, is that I was always able to create freedom of action for myself, once I learned the ropes. My mind is such that I'm a pretty quick study. Give me a job, teach it to me, and quickly I'll come up with ways to do the job faster and better. I was fortunate, back in my days of employee-ing, to have bosses who actually thought that better and faster was a good thing.

I'm not one for endless reading. Which is not to say I don't read. I probably get through 40 or 50 books a year and as many tapes. I love listening to the words of others. But what I have discovered is how clever all of us writers are at saying the same thing in different language. Me too.

No, my reading is for the pleasure of juggling ideas. My life is about implementation. Many people, for example, get curious about Bodywork. I got curious and got my hands on some volunteers, and over a year learned how to actually do Bodywork.

Back when I was in training, they'd present a theory. Virtually all the other "baby therapists" would write notes and read and think about what they were learning. My supervisors would laugh and say, "Oh. This semester Wayne's a Gestalt Therapist." And they'd be right. I'd apply what I was taught, and evaluate the approach against what I was already doing.

If you are an employee,  I would suggest that if you see a more intelligent way to do something, that you figure out how to test your theory. As a "boss," do the same thing, and encourage your employees the take a few risks, to think, to read, to innovate. Everything that has ever been invented or used in management was once a new idea. Someone had to have the courage to try it out, the courage to risk falling flat, the courage to see the thing through.

In the end, you can be safe and secure in the predictable known, or you can live in your head and have fantasies of "different." Or you can implement change in the world by actually changing something.

You choose.

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