A letter to Zachary III: Magicians Musings

Zachary,

Someone asked me if you were my dissertation chair. I said no but I could not quite explain what exactly your role was either. The Virgil to my Dante perhaps? If we consider the dissertation process to be The Inferno. The irony in that metaphor was that near the end, there were places Dante had to go alone. I trust when I reach the center rings I will be ready. Or…I will at least be brave enough to enter anyway.

I’d come to a standstill in my work. Something wasn’t sitting right with me and it felt insufficient. One of my participants said to me, “I thought this would be a lot more emotional than it was.” I am not sure if I verbally affirmed her but I agreed. I predicted the same thing. I was battling with my research self versus my clinical interviewing self. Recognizing that I am trained (and quite naturally apt) to follow my intuition and I was feeling strangely bound to my interview guide. A guide that was feeling more like an itchy winter coat rather than a soft Sherpa blanket. I had not settled INto this research.

My gut told me to go back to the beginning, which was AD. I searched my email for my Pearson-Marr results. What was I again? The magician. Two lines from the print out resonated deeply. The first: “when problems arise, you respond first by changing your own attitudes, expanding your perspectives, and adjusting your behavior to create a ripple effect that may shift the whole system.” I laughed. This was exactly what I was doing in the moment. Searching myself for issues which were reverberating throughout my entire study. The next relevant line: “you like and live stories about the education of people who do miraculous things whether they are scientist, shamans from an indigenous culture, or legendary/literary figures. You relate to the ways in which the power to transform the outer world often grows in people who have had to overcome some wound disability or disadvantage.” This was exactly what I wanted. How did the world change as a result of an internal shift? This was my beginning but this was not my present.

I got clear on two things as the result of a conversation with Annie, the first was that I needed to study process. Specifically the process between the individual and the group. This is what interests me most and getting the individual story without context was never going to feel sufficient. Once I acknowledged that piece, I felt at ease about my current work. This is a stepping stone. Next, I own that I am not interested in how people recreate misery (old broken dynamics) I am interested in those who have crystallized and prototyped new ways of being in relationship with others AS A RESULT OF new ways of being with themselves. Presence.

Annie said I should study 550/600. I had a visceral reaction, but what she had latched onto through our dialogue was that I need and want a group. A group which has the space to develop and change over time. This was my original appeal of working with the SASC cohort. With my new population I’d lost the group piece.

So this is where I stand. In some ways much more clear about what is necessary and in other ways still very much waiting for the next piece to arrive. You warned me that my work would need to facilitate space for the emergent. One thing I can note is that in this very moment I am not holding timeline anxiety. I do not feel pressured to capital “K” know. though maybe I should as seminar is approaching. No, no shoulds. This is not the time to be derailed by other people’s expectations of me. And before you say it, I know that the dissertation is simply a beginning. However, it doesn’t hurt to want to start off on the right foot.

Sincerely,

Jessica

P.S. I realize that unless I find a “fat women’s group” I may lose that population specifically. And that’s okay with me…that concurrent continuous development is much more important to me. Also, people don’t get to Oprah by chasing Oprah. They get to Oprah by doing their soul work. She’s coming, we know that. And when the conversation happens it needs to be about the thing that sets me on fire. Because that is what she’s drawn to: the flames.

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