Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip #44:

“Three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water, and one-fourth is land.  It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn.” 

                                                Chuck Clark

A friend once told me of a fond memory from his childhood. Each springtime his father would bring him and his four brothers outside to fix up their yard. His father had them patch up the lawn he and his brothers would regularly wreck from playing kick ball and doing other boy-type rough neck activities. By spring their yard looked pretty bleak. This one particular spring day their next door neighbor, a married man with no children, and someone who boasted the most perfectly manicured lawn in their neighborhood, was outside observing this family springtime rite of passage. This neighbor spent countless hours laboring over his gorgeous gardens and pristine lawn, and was now eyeing with wonderment and distain the frugal efforts being made by my friend and his brothers. This particular day, as the five boys, guided by their father, went about their repair efforts, their next door neighbor came closer, leaned over the fence, and said to his father,

“Al, why do you let your boys ruin your lawn like this year after year?”

My friend said he and his brothers all stopped working and stood silently as they watched and waited to see what their father could possibly say to this less than subtle ridicule.

My friend said his father smiled at their neighbor, and then slowly and politely replied:

“Well, Frank, you see, right now I’m raising children. Later on, I’ll raise a lawn.”    

The quote at the beginning of this blog piece regarding the earth’s vast amount of water is the author’s way to justify his own passion for fishing. That’s all it is; nothing more. My friend’s father also had his passion. He clearly expressed it that Saturday morning when he proudly spoke of it to his neighbor. When he proclaimed his passion in front of his boys he also did something very wonderful. My friend told me that immediately following this incident all five boys immediately picked up their pace and got back to the task at hand. And they did so without any further resistance or complaining.

What is your passion? Do you ever speak about it? When was the last time you spent time pursuing your passion? Here’s a hint: Those things you readily do or would love to do, even if you don’t/didn’t get paid to do them, are a pretty good indicator of where your passion lies. Pay attention to how you become animated and energized whenever you talk of things you love doing, or of those things you have great interest in. When you speak about your knowledge regarding cooking, or your grasp of certain aspects of history, or your model railroad up in your attic, you are proclaiming your passion.

I love working with couples. This work is often complicated and complex. It’s been a lifelong training of mine and I believe I have developed useful skills and insight for this endeavor. Most pay me for this work. Some pay me quite well. A few I see for only a nominal fee, and occasionally I offer myself gratis. I take only those couples that have a strong desire to make their relationship better. It is one of my real passions.

I also love facilitating family constellations workshops. These workshops often provide transformational breakthroughs and huge healing in peoples’ personal lives. I make these workshops very affordable and will I invite people to attend as my guest because I see it potentially helpful in their over-coming some systemic wound they seem to be carrying. Often the couples that I am working with and who attend one or more of these workshops find their marital counseling become propelled into greater and speedier resolution. Whenever I tell others about this work, they, and I, hear me becoming extremely enthusiastic. As I become more enthusiastic about this work I am exposing this passion of mine.

If you aren’t already doing what you are passionate about, and unless you are independently wealthy, firs, go figure out what it is you love to do. Then find a way to get paid to do it. Love what you do; do what you love. Ideally these two are best when they come together. For the most part I loved when I was working full time in marriage and family ministry. Once someone asked me if “I would remain at my job if I won the lottery?” I replied, “Oh yes. Absolutely. They’d just wish I quit.”

What I meant was I would keep doing this work that I loved, only I’d now be less encumbered and less restricted in carrying out the vision I had for this work. Since I did need the salary I received I kept myself a bit in check. There’s an old saying: “There are no prophets on the payroll.” One needs to find a balance for speaking up and out while also not losing one’s job. If the two are completely out of sorts then finding a better fit somewhere else may be the only option.

Let’s say you have a job that you do not hate but is not particularly fulfilling. The pay check is good and needed. Another option is to find an outlet for you to express your passion in some other way. Maybe you’re someone who does love to manicure your lawn spending hours joyfully working at it. That’s great. Then do it. Go for it! Maybe you do love your particular job. Keep doing it. But you can still add more space for furthering your particular passion(s).

Maybe you love to sing, or dance, or even act. Maybe you enjoy writing stories or poems. You might be someone who loves being in the outdoors, hiking, or biking. It’s likely these activities are not part of your present occupation. Why not find others way to make them a bigger priority in your life? Yes, it will require you to carve out some time for these things not readily built into your present job and your otherwise too-full-life. Make room for them. Push them in. Maybe a plus in your job is you are afforded the latitude and space for extra-curricular activities. If not, force them in and schedule them.

How? Maybe you need to get up an hour earlier each in order to write, or run, or whatever. Maybe you can hire someone for some task you normally do. A neighbor’s teenager to cut your grass or shop? A house clearer one or twice a month? Maybe you join a club or a group that fosters your commitment to a given passion. A running club can facilitate you running even on those gloomy Saturdays when you’d be tempted to stay in bed. Go do the things you enjoy doing and let some others stuff slide. Create structures that facilitate this to happen.

When I first started to run in the morning I would put my shoes, socks, and running clothes out next to my bed the night before. When I woke up I put these things on before I could talk myself out of going. I was dressed and out the door before my inner critic woke up. I eliminated the searching for whatever I needed to go. ‘Socks? Oh well, maybe tomorrow.’ Instead I just went. Period.

Maybe it’s something else entirely that holds you back. Perhaps you haven’t let anyone know what you love and are passionate about. It’s something you’ve kept to yourself as some deep secret. Why? What would happen if you let your secret out – at least to someone?  By claiming it you make it more real. This is the powerful secret of success of Weight Watchers. Showing up each week and stepping on that scale makes people much more likely to stay the course throughout the week. It is a structure that holds you to what it is you said you want – in this case to drop some weight – and you’ve tapped into this structure that facilitates a greater assurance of you generating your stated goal.

I have a friend that dreamed of pursuing her great love of music in a singing career since childhood. She married and had six children. She managed to join her church choir and thus keep her finger in this love of hers. Her children have all gone on to live their own full lives. This passion she had mostly kept on the back burner was never completely lost and has now reemerged onto center stage quite literally. Today she is an active member in a regional Gilbert and Sullivan production company. She thoroughly loved that she and her husband raised their large family. Today she is having the time of her life being a loving grandmother, as well as, singing her heart out in whatever show she and her fellow actors are doing. 

Our passions are God given. They are gifts meant to be offered to the world. Stillness is the key to unmasking and fostering our gifts, and also to finding avenues to manifest them. We are required to develop a wise presence. Such a presence can only come about by slowing down our hectic lives and finding much needed stillness. Stillness fosters our awareness of three areas: our heart, mind and body. When we become poised in all three of these, and balanced and alertly present, we discover a shift in our consciousness. This is grace working within us. We’re able to get out of the well-formed rut tracks of whatever issues, agendas and ways of thinking that we otherwise glob onto. Instead we’re able to come from a deeper, steadier, and quieter place.  Again, this is sacred work on our part.

Saint Joan of Arc was questioned by the inquisitors as to how she knew that God spoke to her. She told them God spoke to her through her dreams. Then she replied, “How else would God speak to us?” Our task is to slow down, become still and quiet, in order to hear what the Ultimate Source is calling us to.

I think Joan was telling us that our dreams also have a lot to do with our passions – those things we know consciously or are expressed to us in our sleep. They are God-given and we are called to seek them out, and discern what we are to do with them. Once we do become clear what we as to what passion is, we are to develop this passion for both our own delight, and for the sake of the world.