I had taken the leap and moved across the country from western New York to western New Mexico. I had lined up a position as a companion to a woman in her 90s. Her family wanted her to have some company during the day and someone nearby in case she needed help at night, and they were just down the gravel road in case of emergency.
I wold also be able to continue my work as a writing consultant and as a spiritual coach. It couldn’t be more perfect, could it? Getting paid to hang out with an interesting older woman in the back country with nothing but the beauty of the landscape was a win win for everyone.
And it was for the first little while … except … when the internet access wasn’t hooked up until three days after it was promised to me … except … when the rainwater catchment system froze and we had no running water more often than the days we had running water … and did I mention it was cold water because the water heater wasn’t hooked up yet? Then, the internet started to glitch, working and not working and working again while the technicians were scratching their heads wondering why. Finally, the solar panels, which already were limiting the time that I could spend working due to occasional cloudy days stopped charging the batteries all together.
So there I was, in the middle of the beautiful nowhere, with no access to running water, electricity, or internet. It wasn’t what I had signed up for.
I knew that eventually, and in not too long a time, winter would end, the solar panels would give me plenty of juice, and the internet glitches would be fixed. But did I want to continue to live out this experiment? I had mixed feelings.
The family who hired me had elided over the details like, the house not being completed yet, like having no stove for the first week, no pots, pans, plates or glasses, like the walls and floor dripping moisture on everything I owned due to the propane heaters, like the condition of the 11 miles of gravel roads to the nearest paved road.
They had presented me with a pretty picture of a happy family where we would share regular dinners and have conversations about topics of mutual interest. None of this was true. Other than paying me regularly and on time, they were the opposite of generous from the moment I arrived. And yet, I appreciated the extra money, the landscape, the peace and quiet. Should I ‘tough it out’ and learn to be more resilient or should I find a different situation? Sometimes it’s difficult for me to know when to let go.
I turned to the I Ching for an answer. (I use Alfred Huang’s The Complete I Ching.) I tossed the pennies and received hexagram 8 Bi/Union. The answer came quickly:
With sincerity and truthfulness, seeking union, no fault … end is coming, there is something, good fortune … seeking union from within, being steadfast and upright, good fortune … seeking union with wrong people.
Yes, that’s how I felt. I was sincere in seeking to become part of this family community and was truthful in presenting what my requirements were to make it a long term situation that was a win win for us all. And yet, as the weeks went on, I could sense an ending although nothing was ever said directly to me.
I chose to remain focused on my experience and my responses so that I didn’t point fingers in a blame game – to be steadfast and upright. So, if there was no running water, I could easily boil some water and take a sponge bath. If it was a cloudy day, I used it as an opportunity for reading or meditation or drawing on stormy days. When I asked for clarification from the family about when repairs would be completed, I did not react with anger or frustration when it was clear that those repairs were not a priority for them. I could not have known ahead of time, and I gave a good faith effort, but came to understand that I was seeking union with the wrong people.
Within hours of this understanding, an unexpected opportunity presented itself for a move to a nearby location that suited me much better. The next day I discovered that while I had been sincere and truthful, the family had not. They were waiting for someone else to become available and I was a stop gap measure while they waited. The day I gave notice, they did also.
I felt grateful that they had been the bridge for my move across the country and had given me a place to live while I became familiar with the area. And, I felt hurt and a sense of betrayal that they had not been forthright with me from the very beginning. I had to sit and consider if I felt like I could trust myself to make the right judgment calls on big decisions and realized that yes, I had sense some warning signals but on the whole it had been a beneficial experience for me and for them.