THE BLOG
07/07/2012 09:15 am ET Updated Sep 06, 2012

Lessons From the Side of the Sea

They say if you're lucky enough to live on the beach, you're lucky enough. And I have to agree, living so close to the side of the sea that if I fell out of bed I'd drown. It hasn't been easy; in the last few years I've lost my job, my home, my savings and my retirement. A target of workplace mobbing, my once successful, unblemished career was shredded by gossip and lies; a hefty six-figure legal settlement did little to "make me whole" (but managed to make my lawyers a whole lot wholer). Yet somehow, amidst the desperate scramble to save my soul, I found myself blessed to be living by the side of the sea, watching the ships sail, the wobbly moon rise and set, and the eagles fly into the heavens. And here is what they've taught me.

Lesson Number One: Ships sail slow because they carry heavy loads. And they always reach their destination. When I first moved to the side of the sea, I'd watch the enormous, heavy ships sail by and think, "How maddening it must be to be on one of those things; they move at glacial speed." And then I'd look away, distracted. A few moments later I'd glance out the window again and see that the ship was gone. No, it didn't fly across the waters, but just by continuing to move, it would eventually cross the globe.

Lesson Number Two: The moon always returns, no matter how dark. And it looks different every time. There's something about looking out across the glittering sea each night that clarifies the darkest skies. When I fall to sleep, I may or may not see the moon. But should I wake in the blackest corners of the night and look out my window, the moon will finally be there. It will look different every time, whether a wobbly round or a rocking crescent, whether brilliantly bright or glowing warmly behind the clouds. And it might be anywhere up there: high in the sky, low as it begins to set behind the distant mountains, far to the left, or far to the right. I won't know its changing nature until I take a look. But I do I know that it always returns to hold back the tides, as well as send them lapping at my doorstep. Constancy and uncertainty go hand in hand; while this truth may confuse me at times, by trusting in the moon to illuminate and control the waters before me, I know those waters won't engulf me.

Lesson Number Three: The eagles are always under attack by lesser birds. But pay them little mind. I learned a great deal from being persecuted by a workplace mob, how easily the good and the frightened will join the bullying mob once others do the same. How bloodthirsty and relentless they become once they've started. So when I first noticed the eagles fly, I began to watch the crows. You can always spot an eagle, or a hawk, once you hear the screaming of the crows and the angry cackle of the gulls. The shrill sound of one or two screaming birds means little -- a fight over food or territory, to be settled in an instant. But once you hear them scream in angry unison, you know a greater bird is near. For over a year I watched those birds, noticing how they joined in, one by one, like Hitchcock's Bodega Bay, gathering and circling, becoming more aggressive with every attack. And I'd think, how ugly those beautiful birds of a feather can be when they flock together against their own kind.

And then one day, I watched as a big, bald eagle sat in a tree, just watching the world, doing nothing to threaten or torment. Yet the ravens circled and swooped and dove at the eagle with an escalating passion, intent on tossing that eagle right out of the sky for no better reason than he was there. But the eagle just ignored them, a sentinel to the sea. Finally, when the torment was impossible to ignore a moment longer, the eagle just opened up his wings as wide as the world, and slowly flew away. But he didn't disappear. He landed in a new and different spot, not very far away. And I realized, it's never been the nasty little birds I should have been watching in the first place. It's always been the great birds who were teaching me a lesson. Sometimes it's better to just let the torment be, and fly on.

Since writing about workplace mobbing and bullying, I hear from people all over the globe who have been persecuted in the workplace, community or school. And the emotional flood is so familiar, for I knew it so well myself. The babbling desperation for help, the righteous anger and expectation for justice, which rarely comes. How painful it is to be under attack -- and how wrong, how very, very wrong in almost every case. For there is always another way, a more compassionate and humane way to behave.

And I know, too, that there are so many ways to suffer in this world, whether from social attacks, from job loss, divorce, health calamities or disaster. So many times, there is little to be done to reverse the course of those forces outside oneself; workplace mobs can rarely be stopped or brought to their senses until the target leaves or is destroyed. New and better jobs may not be found for older workers, who are forced to hustle month to month through temp work, rummage sales and contracts that pay no benefits and offer little esteem. Divorce happens and often devastates psychologically, financially and socially. And sometimes cancer can't be cured, and a heart can't be repaired.

But by watching the world at the side of the sea, I have learned to navigate in unfamiliar waters, knowing that by moving, however slowly, and with whatever heavy load, if I just keep moving, I'll go far. By trusting in a celestial world I know little about, I find comfort, and know that wherever and whatever is up there, it will always be there, somewhere, even if I don't quite recognize it. And by keeping my eagle eye on the flight or sight before me, there's no need to concern myself with worries, distractions or even the clamoring cries of the flocks. Because sometimes we may have to fly to other landings, but we can never be knocked out of the sky. Even when our world has shattered, the universe hangs on. And that is where each of us ultimately resides. And that's lucky enough for us all.

For more by Janice Harper, click here.

For more on wisdom, click here.