I thought that maybe my heart was trying to take me to a place that doesn't exist, some sort of misty-mountaintop-multicultural-Renaissance-Faire-magical-realism-fantasy-land where people wear lots of colorful flowing garments and struggle nobly for Truth and Love and Justice (a place something like this, or this, except maybe with fewer orgies). And that maybe, in order to ever have a chance at financial stability in the world we actually live in, I would have to opt into it and tell my hippie-dippy do-gooder little heart to shut the hell up.
|Here! I want to live here! (source)|
I've also been volunteer teaching ESL to a group of lovely Mexican immigrant women, and working on my little novel, and playing cars and trains and dinosaurs and penguins with Isaias, and drinking a little wine and a lot of coffee with some of my favorite ladies, and running three miles a day, and working on Ibis's visa paperwork, and reading books by Pema Chodron. I'M STILL ME.
I thought, if I can do this stupid job and earn fifteen hundred bucks a week, and still be me in my free time, and send a big fat money order to my mother-in-law every week, and put something in the bank every week, that is good.
I thought, I'll opt in a little, and just be present with the absurdity, and I'll learn something and it will be fine. It's what I need to do for my family, because what my family doesn't have is money. (Okay, and maybe I thought a little bit about how I could buy myself a couple pairs of really nice shoes, with fifteen hundred bucks a week.)
So I passed my state licensing exam (with an 80% thanks very much. I can tell you all about double indemnity and nonforfeiture options, if you want....What, you don't want?) and started training last Thursday. I spent a couple hours with Cecilia (not her real name), watching her make calls. I thought, I'll be good at this, this isn't too bad.
Then I spent Friday morning calling all Cecilia's "Spanish leads." She was thrilled to have someone who speaks Spanish and I was feeling pretty smug. Few people answered the phone. I set up one appointment, and Cecilia told me, "If we make that sale, I'll take you out to dinner!" A few more people answered, but weren't interested. Cecilia couldn't understand my end of the conversations, but she could see that I wasn't following the script.
"Just stick to the script," she told me. "Don't answer their questions. If you answer their questions, you give them the control. You have to be in control."
I thought that was interesting. I filed that away to think about later.
On Saturday morning, Cecilia had me making calls from home. First two, no answer.
Third call, a woman--who'd supposedly been referred by her mother--told me angrily in Spanish, "I don't know who you people think you are, but some woman named Cecilia sold my mother something that she thought was from her union but it's not, and my mother doesn't even speak English, and she thought it was a one-time payment but they're taking money out of her account every month, and that Cecilia belongs in jail."
I told her, "Thank you for telling me this, because if that's the way it is, I don't want this job. I just started, but if that's the way it is, I'm quitting." That's not in the script.
She seemed surprised and grateful that I was a human being. She told me some more stuff and I thanked her again and hung up the phone and sat there. I looked at the sheet of phone numbers and realized I'd been speaking to Guadalupe. I cried.
This is what I think now: maybe this is an isolated incident. But even if it is, if it had been my mother-in-law, or my grandmother-in-law....No. Not "if it had been." It might as well have been. Even if it means another month without a penny to send to Doña Charo, or put in the bank, or buy cute shoes, even if it was just that one lady who was tricked, I can't do it.
Sunday night was the Guadalupe moon, the thinnest possible crescent. Today is Doña Charo's birthday, and I can't send her money, but I can honor her faith and integrity and honesty. I called Mr. Insurance Man and read from MY script. Feliz cumpleaños, suegra querida.
I learned a lot from this experience.
I learned that I don't particularly care about being in control, but that I sometimes cede control when it would actually be useful for me to take it.
I learned that my desire to help people, while genuine, gets all tangled up with my desire to be nice and be liked, and that I have to put that aside sometimes.
I learned that I can master the absurd grown-up world if I just try to do it. (Seriously, don't you want to know about nonforfeiture options? Annuities? Reduced paid-up whole life? Anyone?)
I learned that if there's no connection, there's nothing. If time is money and people are leads, clients, or zeros, there's nothing. And I remembered all the people and places I'm connected to at the heart.
And now that I'm connected again, I keep stumbling into the Eternal. I'm in the Silicon Valley, but it doesn't feel so distinct from that misty-mountaintop place anymore.
Maybe I will never have cute shoes or a comfortable bank account. But I have a group of students who need me, a third of a novel that I'm pretty proud of, a son who wants to be a penguin when he grows up, a husband who is helping other people with their visa paperwork even as he waits for his own visa interview, friends who may even understand what I'm trying to say here, and a heart that I can go on listening to.
Right now it sounds about like this: