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East to West: Taking Responsibility

September 30, 2013

By Angela Jeffs

September 2013

I was thinking last week (as I so often think these days) of the apparent need to make major changes in my life. It is an ongoing need, re-occurring with some regularity every 20-25 years or so.

There was my move to London in 1962.

My move to Japan in 1986.

My move to Scotland late last year.

Mapping these moves, I realize that each event  - in every instance turning my world upside down - was driven by a fierce determination to push myself forward into unknown territory rather than settle into the mindless comfort of purposeless drift.

But wait. Am I being truly honest here?

The move from Coventry was predominantly – or so it seemed at the time - to once and for all escape the stifling atmosphere of my parental home and stand on my own two strongly determined feet.

The move to Japan was to dramatically change my life: fly the nest before my children did and so avoid the pain of that transition. How conveniently I seem to have forgotten that I was also escaping the trauma and ramifications of a destructive relationship, which went hand-in-hand with the politically ruthless destruction of the society in which I had grown up.

And the move to Scotland, which until now I have chosen to explain as driven by family needs and financial  pressures?  How much was that decision based on the desire to escape… escape ongoing earthquakes, and the constant fear of what might happen and indeed was happening in Fukushima?

Three times, the same word: escape.

Suddenly, even more painfully, I have to address the question: do I run when the chips are down, when life stops providing easy answers?  Am I nothing more than a weak escape artist when all is said and done? Am I a coward?

All this was brought sharply into focus on September 20 when I opened my book of daily readings of poems by Rumi* and was confronted by the following poem:

 

WHO MAKES THESE CHANGES?*

Who makes these changes?

I shoot an arrow right.

It lands left.

I ride after a deer

and find myself chased by a hog.

I plot to get what I want

and end up in prison.

I dig pits to trap others

and fall in.

 

I should be suspicious

of what I want.

 

I remember feeling shot by an arrow of my own projection. An arrow that pierced me, heart, body and soul.

Who has made all these major changes in my life (and all the small ones too!)?

I have.

No-one else. Just me. And it’s true… I ought to be very suspicious of what I want, what I am running from and seeking. Because the truth is I leave a lot of painful detritus scattered in my wake every time I up sticks and move on.

My sad sick father, who died weeks after I left home.

Bewildered family and friends and broken homes, both in London and Japan.

Careers that I chop off rather than take to the next step in some kind of natural progression.

Much of this is old stuff that I have dealt with. We have all moved on. Yet skyping with friends in Japan last night – the monthly Circle of Enquiry meet that moved so seamlessly to Heather’s home from our own – I was left with a very uncomfortable feeling. A feeling that took a while to acknowledge and accept for what it was: guilt.

The guilt about my father, leaving my children to their own devices and abandoning work colleagues, are all assuaged, put to rest.

But not, apparently the guilt I realise now that I am feeling about leaving Japan in its time of crisis.

I feel ashamed.

I can rationalize of course. Many things came together at a point in my life – our lives because Akii (my husband) plays an active part in all this - that made leaving perfect sense.  Most of the people I know are still working, carving out careers; with families and a complex range of commitments it’s not so easy for them to start again somewhere new. For the large majority of Japanese, of course, near impossible: they have nowhere else to go.

Yet still I feel torn.

More torn than I have felt at any time over the last year. Because next week will bring me face-to-face with the fact that I have been here 12 months. And right now Akii is in Japan (a death in the family) which has no doubt given me too much time and solitude to brood.

But I chose not to go with him. Again there was a rationalization: it was too soon; I was not ready.  But the truth is that having achieved some equilibrium, I didn’t want to get stirred up all over again.  I was scared. Trapped in conflicting emotions.

Yet this was how I find myself feeling anyway. (I plot to get what I want and end up in prison.)

Yes, I should be suspicious of what I want.

So what is it I think I want at the end of my third Year Zero?

To stop feeling guilty and ashamed.

To acknowledge that everyone does have choices, and accept that for better for worse (like everyone else) I have  made my own.

To move on with positivity and clarity.

To take responsibility… for my actions, my thoughts, my emotions, this ongoing messy but always ultimately rewarding creation known as MY LIFE.

Next week – just 24 hours after Akii returns from his most recent East to West passage – I head to Provence for a repeat of the retreat that October last acted as the bridge between my old life and the one I was on my way to create in Scotland.

It will be interesting…. Because of course it will be far from a repeat. It will be what it is, and right now I have absolutely no idea what that will be and where it will take me. Thanks to Rumi I go wanting nothing, with no expectations… no plots, no weapons or implements of any kind, defensive or otherwise

Reading this back has made me cry. It's not what I wanted - intended -  to write at all. But then here comes Rumi wagging his finger and smiling… being the most open of religious men, he even has a non-Sufi joke for me.

Q: What did Buddha say to the hotdog vendor?

A: Make me one with everything.

*September 20. Page 298. A Year With Rumi: Daily Readings. (Colman Barks, HarperCollins, 2006)

Late summer 2012 writer and journalist Angela Jeffs moved from Japan, where she lived for 25 years, to Scotland from where she reports monthly on how her life is changing. This is the eleventh installment. See here for part one, here for part two, here for part three, here for part four, here for part five, here for part six, here for part seven, here for part eight, here for part nine, here for part 10. and here for part eleven. Visit her facebook page to learn more about her latest book Chasing Shooting Stars: A South American Paper Trail.

Late summer 2012 writer and journalist Angela Jeffs moved from Japan, where she lived for 25 years, to Scotland from where she reports monthly on how her life is changing. This is the eleventh installment. See here for part one, here for part two, here for part three, here for part four, here for part five, here for part six, here for part seven, here for part eight, here for part nine, and here for part 10. Visit her facebook page to learn more about her latest book Chasing Shooting Stars: A South American Paper Trail. – See more at: http://embrace-transition.com/2013/09/04/east-to-west-angela-thewhat-2/#sthash.eq9VWGc9.dpuf

 

About the author: After training in theatre and Laban dance, Angela Jeffs (http://www.angelajeffs.com/) stepped sideways into London publishing. She worked freelance as an editor from 1973, then reinvented herself in Japan as a journalist and writer from 1986. She was a weekly columnist for The Japan Times for 22 years, and Japan Correspondent for Asia Magazine in Hong Kong from 1989-1996. Her book Insider's Tokyo, commissioned from Singapore, was published in 2001. Since 2005 she has been developing and facilitating a programme of therapeutic creative writing under the title Drawing on The Writer Within (www.thewriterwithin.net/). Her latest book, Chasing Shooting Stars: A South American Paper Trail into the Past, can be ordered via Amazon.com.
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