A month after that night in Zanzibar I would be sitting in a mountain side guest house above Rishikesh reading about Sufism. Osho says:
Only in dance do you start falling with the heartbeat of the whole. Only in dance does the moment of grace arrive when you are not and God is. Only in dance does the separation between the mind and body disappear – and you are one whole, all together, no more fragmentary. …If you dance deeply, so deeply that the dancer disappears in the dance, this is prayer.
Another evening lost walking home from Africana BBQ, but this time I got more lost than usual. The rains flooded the village. Navigating around the high water forced me off my usual route. I wove the dirt paths around stone buildings and tires, dirt soccer fields and schools, until I got so completely turned around I wasn’t even sure which direction home was in. The starless night sky offering no aid to my path. A local pointed me toward the “roadi.” I did not live on the main road, but I counted on being able to at least navigate more successfully from there, so I walked in the direction he pointed. I had little other choice. Once on the main road I realized just how far from home I was. Getting this lost after four days of living in the tiny village of Padje seemed unforgivable.
I looked around the unlit village laying quietly in beneath the dark night sky trying to get my bearings. Standing on the main road I heard the distant beat of African music. When I left California, I noted to myself the three things that had always given me the greatest joy, the exact things I had all but completely lost in my life as I barrelled toward burnout – swimming, eating well, and dancing. Standing on the main road, I found music to move my hips, and soothe my soul. The sounds were faint to be sure, but no less powerful because of that. I considered the large roll of newspaper wrapped take away chapati I was holding leftover from my evening meal, my dorky large frame eye glasses and my linen coveralls – I wasn’t exactly ready for the club. I briefly consider turning around and going home to change, put away my chapati and put in my contact lens, but the beat tugged at heart, and I decided to follow it. I turned toward the music, the opposite direction from home.
Sounds, like waves on the sea, can be farther away than they first appear. I walked along the shoulder of the main road for what felt like a long time, following the music growing louder, but not catching quite it. I found myself at the edge of the village, but still could not see the origin of the music. I paused for a minute to consider how far from home I had gone, to consider again the newspaper bundle of buttery chapatti that was now greasing my palm and my large dorky glasses and my Birkenstock sandals that would surely make it difficult to dance. But by this point I had lost all ability to do anything other than find the source of the sound; I kept walking.
I grew up with musical theatre. Maybe because I was born in NY it was always there. Musical theatre floated through the city on the wind. It was on Broadway and Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. It was in junior high and high school. Often when something significant, or even not so significant, happens in my life the soundtrack for the moment flips on in my head, as if some unseen director has cued the orchestra. Well, something significant sure has been happening. Click on the links and enjoy the show!
ACT I: I started working toward quitting in January. Yes, in January I cleaned out my office and disposed of or distributed years of campaign binders. In February I wrote a list of advice I wanted to impart on the team I would leave behind. In April I went on medical leave to focus on restoring my health. Finally, after literally years of emotional manipulation on the part of my managers cajoling me to stay, after all the deep breathing and internal fortification I had to do to make the call, after months of practicing what exactly I would say, writing it down, running it by close confidants, after all of that, quitting was so…easy.
I’m proud of myself for keeping it simple, for not begging to leave but simply letting them know I was leaving. I am proud of myself for how gracious and kind my final calls to the bosses were, thanking them for the opportunity to open a vein and give my life blood to the organization, and even meaning it. I’m proud of myself for the way I have handled these final moments, something that would not have been possible four months ago. Still, in my head I was singing “boy, bye.”
ACT II: I talked to the Chief of Staff, the Vice President and finally the President. As soon as I hung up the phone with the President I felt free. I felt a hundred pounds lighter. I felt that I could fly. In fact, had I been doing cocaine I would have jumped off the roof of something and tried to literally fly and ended up dead. (It’s a good thing I don’t do cocaine). But I didn’t jump off anything. I just floated home. Free.
ACT III: On Sunday I went to the office to pick up the few things I wanted to keep – an award I won from AAPC and a few personal effects. I chose Sunday because I didn’t want to see anyone and subject myself to a string of phony maudlin goodbyes. I wanted to sail off into the night like Coco in the 80s tv show Fame: “goodbyes aren’t for people like you and me” she says to Bruno as she closes her locker door for the last time.
I was surprised by how much stuff there was in my office: files, campaign binders, certificates of accomplishment, photos and gifts accumulated through the years. I took what I wanted, threw some things out, left notes for my assistant on what to do with other things. I hadn’t seen it all for four months, and looking at again felt like looking at a life. A very full life full of very meaningful work. I stood in the doorway of my office and just took it all in.
I wrote cards and left gifts for a few people on my team who have meant the most to me, who have given me as much as I have endeavored to give them, people who I will care for for the rest of my life. I wrote a letter to my entire staff. They are the people in the organization who I love, who I’ve poured myself into, people who are inspired to make social change, who are not yet jaded and cynical, burnt out or corrupt. They are the future and they give me hope. I took what I wanted and closed my office door for the last time. To everyone else I said nothing.
By Monday morning everyone knew. The assistant director read my letter to my entire team. The chief of staff told the senior staff. It was public and it was over. And I have sailed off into the sunset just like Coco. Goodbye. And then I was signing again.
ACT IV: DURING the call when the news of my resignation was being delivered to my staff I got a job offer. Someone texted someone who texted someone and before the announcement of my resignation was finished, someone called to offer me a job. I said I would consider it. Later that afternoon, after my email to friends and allies went out, I got three more invitations to discuss my future.
When I finished my panchakarma my doctor said my life would change. She said they had cleaned the toxins out of my body and they have cleaned my karma. She said doors would open for me, I would be more open to a partner and what I’ve lost will come back. I took the leap. And doors are already opening.Now I get to decide which door I walk through.