Now, Sally is unbelievably capable. At one point, she was raising a son as a single mom, running an apartment complex -- and finishing her undergraduate degree at Harvard. She has always managed to provide for herself and her (now grown) son -- often quite well. But she bought too much investment real estate too late in the bubble, and is now underwater on all of it -- not to mention its negative cash flow. Luckily she's still employed, still likes her job. And she's writing a book to help others cope with the chronic illness her son has.
She said she's been hiding out. That she really doesn't want to see me, or anyone for that matter. That sometimes, during the week, she'll make plans with someone for Saturday or Sunday, and then not be up to following through when it gets around to the weekend. She said something that struck me, though -- that she's had to let go of her identity as a successful business woman.
I'm not sure I agree with her. She still had all the successes she had -- she just made a bad judgment or three.
In any case, as people lose jobs, or homes, or investments, they are letting go of their identities as successful workers, or homeowners or prosperous investors. Perhaps letting go of the identity is more painful than the actual loss -- after all, as Sally says, you wouldn't know anything was different by how I live -- nothing's really changed.
I ruminated on her comments all day yesterday, and woke up in the middle of the night with this exercise:
1) Get a lined 8.5x11" pad.
2) In a column down the left side, write a series of "I am" statements, filling the page. Here are a few examples:
- I am a human being.
- I am a woman.
- I am a homeowner.
- I am a teacher.
- I am afraid.
3) Next to each one, write a '/' an then the corresponding "I am not" statements, like this:
- I am a human being./ I am not a human being
- I am a woman./ I am not a woman.
- I am a homeowner./ I am not a homeowner.
- I am a teacher./ I am not a teacher./
- I am afraid./ I am not afraid.
- I am a human being -- but I am a spirit in a human body.
- I am a woman, but as a spirit, I may or may not be female.
- I am a homeowner -- but does my home more own me?
- I am a teacher, but I do other things, as well.
- I am afraid -- some of the time, but much of the time I am not afraid.
The effect should be a real neutrality, or non-attachment.