On Being A Matador, Part II

By Sunday, June 3, 2012 2 0

Yesterday I wrote about how the courage of the once-incomparable matador Antonio Ordonez  failed him in his later matador with bullyears as a matador. Each of us is a matador in his or her own life, with our own bulls that frighten us, but that we must master. Today  I’m writing about my own bulls.

In my job in the transportation field, I often find myself poised between the safe choice and the riskier choice.  I can let a troublesome situation slide on by unchallenged, thus not risking a confrontation,  – or I can step up and civilly address the situation, even though doing that makes my heart race and my breath come short. That happened last Friday afternoon. The raise that had been long promised for my new position turned out to be much smaller than anticipated. While no size of raise would really change my household’s life (we’re not big spenders), salary size feels like a symbol of respect for added job responsibilities, and I felt upset about having been misled. Instead of playing it safe and saying nothing, I promptly talked with my manager. She listened, and we exchanged thoughts and cleared the air. The raise remains small (it was predetermined by union contract, I learned), but here is the thing: I felt alert, confident and very alive on Friday evening, and all weekend. If I hadn’t faced my bull on Friday afternoon, I’d have been irritable and distracted all weekend. That would have made my husband suffer, too, because moods are contagious.

Outside my paid work, in the self-crafted, diamond-cut world here of my own blog, you would think that I’d be fearless, since I have no boss except myself, and no money at stake whatsoever. Yet, my courage often fails me in my writing. It’s safest to write blog- posts from up in my head, from the safety of my intellect. (The how-to-save-money posts are like that, and it’s almost a shame people click on them so much, because high readership is a strong reinforcement).  Or, I can write posts from my heart that are vulnerable, that don’t make me look so good, and leave me open to criticism (this is that kind of post). This weekend, at least, I am being a matador.

Reading The Dangerous Summer is what propelled me to look at courage; it is Ernest Hemingway’s last book about bullfighting. Many have said Hemingway was obsessed with death, but I see him as obsessed with vitality, and courage, and the life well lived. Or, maybe vitality, courage and the life well lived are my own obsession, and Diamond-Cut Life is how I act my obsession out. More on that in a minute.

I have more fears, more bulls that steadily shake their horns at me. I’m afraid of getting old and possibly losing my excellent health and mobility, of perhaps getting Parkinson’s disease, which slowly paralyzed my mother so that she spent her last five years physically helpless (grief for her still floods my body as I write that). I’m afraid of the big earthquake that I know will eventually hit Oregon, and of what life will be like in the aftermath. Most of all, I fear global warming (also called climate change), and the societal collapse that scientific research indicates it will eventually trigger. I see the body of thought I’m developing here at Diamond-Cut Life to be especially relevant to post-collapse life, i.e., how can we live sensibly and happily on modest resources, rather than the current bloated baseline we’ve come to take for granted? That’s a topic for a future post.

Here is the reward I get whenever I face the bulls I fear: my spine straightens, and my body hums with vitality, and my mind goes calm and bright and clear. In the days that follow my doing a small brave thing I find myself doing emails and phone calls I’d long been avoiding, and finding new solutions to old problems, and having uncommon patience with tasks I had found intolerable.

Later this month I’ll draw on my background in counseling to write about techniques we can use to cultivate our courage, and be bold as matadors in our own lives.

photo courtesy of George M. Groutas

In my job in the transportation field, I often find myself poised between the safe choice and the riskier choice.  I can let a troublesome situation slide on by unchallenged, thus not risking a confrontation, — or I can step up and civilly address the situation, even though doing that makes my heart race and my breath come short. That happened last Friday afternoon. The raise that had been long promised for my new position turned out to be much smaller than anticipated. While no size of raise would really change my household’s life (we’re not big spenders), salary size feels like a symbol of respect for added job responsibilities, and I felt upset about having been misled. Instead of playing it safe and saying nothing, I promptly talked with my manager. She listened, and we exchanged thoughts and cleared the air. The raise remains small (it was predetermined by union contract, I learned), but here is the thing: I felt alert, confident and very alive on Friday evening, and all weekend. If I hadn’t faced my bull on Friday afternoon, I’d have been irritable and distracted all weekend.That would have made my husband suffer, too, because moods are contagious.Outside my paid work, in the self-crafted, diamond-cut world here of my own blog, you would think that I’d be fearless, since I have no boss except myself, and no money at stake whatsoever. Yet, my courage often fails me in my writing. It’s safest to write blog- posts from up in my head, from the safety of my intellect. (The how-to-save-money posts are like that, and it’s almost a shame people click on them so much, because high readership is a strong reinforcement).  Or, I can write posts from my heart that are vulnerable, that don’t make me look so good, and leave me open to criticism (this is that kind of post). This weekend, at least, I am being a matador.

Reading The Dangerous Summer is what propelled me to look at courage; it is Ernest Hemingway’s last book about bullfighting. Many have said Hemingway was obsessed with death, but I see him as obsessed with vitality, and courage, and the life well lived. Or, maybe vitality, courage and the life well lived are my own obsession, and Diamond-Cut Life is how I act my obsession out. I have a conviction that

I have more fears, more bulls that steadily shake their horns at me. I’m afraid of getting old and possibly losing my excellent health and mobility, of perhaps getting Parkinson’s disease, which slowly paralyzed my mother so that she spent her last five years physically helpless (grief for her still floods my body as I write that). I’m afraid of the big earthquake that I know will eventually hit Oregon, and of what life will be like in the aftermath. Most of all, I fear global warming (also called climate change), and what I think of as some degree of societal collapse.

And here is the reward I get whenever I face my bulls: my spine straightens, and my body hums with vitality, and my mind goes calm and bright and clear. I almost always then do some task that I’d been avoiding, like ______________

Later this month I’ll draw on my background in counseling to write about techniques we can use to cultivate our courage, and be as bold as matadors in our own lives.

2 Comments
  • Tess
    June 4, 2012

    Loved these two posts about ‘grace under fire’. One of my ‘bulls’ is around money. I fear not having enough, and currently I don’t. Admitting that feels like personal failure. But I put my head in the sand and ‘forget’ to cancel standing orders for things I don’t need, ‘forget’ to log in to my bank account to check my debit, even ‘forget’ good things like paying in cheques. I am, quite frankly, terrified of personal finances!

    • Alison
      June 4, 2012

      Tess, Money is such a prevalent bull! I’ll bet the majority of people struggle with it — though very few people are willing to let others know about that. But, the more honest and open people are about money challenges, the less alone they feel, and the more that people in general can then encourage each other. Earlier in my life, money was really tight and difficult for me — yet I was often full of joy regardless, because I was doing creative work I found meaningful. Thanks for bringing your personal bull out of the closet.

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