Saturday, December 19, 2009

Escaping the Island of Misfit Toys

If you've watched any network telly lately, you've probably glimpsed the Island of Misfit Toys—a no-man's land where imperfect toys from Santa's workshop are exiled, never to be loved by a child or placed in a home. This make-believe world from the creators of the animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is also airing as a commercial blasting the poor cellphone service of a major provider and we see the coveted iPhone dumped among unwanted toys from previous generations.

Misfit toys and unemployed people have much in common: We're useful (though perhaps not in the way our previous employers expected or understood), we want to be recognized as such (even an autoreply saying "Thanks for applying" would suffice), and we yearn for a sense of belonging.

I came across this sentence in a book this morning:
"Place is the true core of the universal."

I don't know the original context in which poet and physician William Carlos Williams wrote it, but it certainly speaks to me in my present predicament—as I think it does for great numbers of people on this planet for a host of reasons. How much despair has bewildered us—how many graceless acts have been committed because someone had no sense of place or belonging?

Finding your place isn't always easy. It requires time, honesty, introspection, perseverance, intuition, and careful deliberation. As poet Anne Sexton wrote, you have to…
"Put your ear down next to your soul and listen hard."

Sometimes we're forced into exploring our souls, as I was earlier this year. When the possibility arose that I might lose my sight, or a portion of it, I had to rethink my dream career of being a book editor.

What else can I do? What else do I want to do? What parts of me have I ignored all these years? What do I care about?

As author Susan Chernak McElroy wrote in "Other Angels: One Woman's Bible":
"I pressed on with my goal to make my outer life look more like my most genuine inner life, whatever that was. … Gathering, even defining, a genuine life for myself out of the old was the task of my lifetime."

No one is going to rescue me from the Island of Unenjoyment. I have to do it myself. I have to rediscover where my place is and then map out a way to get there.

On the other hand, if Rudolph happens by to show me the way, you can bet I'll follow.

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