Choices for the Soul Haībun


The church is near but the road is all ice;

the tavern is far but I’ll walk very carefully.

Russian Proverb

Years ago, I was working for a minimal salary. My net pay barely covered the expenses of professional clothing, commuting, food and rent. I worked very hard the first year, trying to be the perfect employee, working quickly, seeking extra work, hoping I would earn a big raise. I slid sideways into debt when my car was totaled in an accident and my cat needed expensive medicine.

When I got my review, it was lukewarm, with no acknowledgement of my efforts and a minimal raise, not even keeping pace with inflation. I had a meeting with my boss, and I asked him if he was unhappy with my work. He said no.

“Did I forget any tasks you gave me or do them wrong? Was I too slow?”

Again, “No and no.”

“Then why are you giving me such a small raise?”

“Do you think you deserve the same raise as Monica who has been here nearly twenty years?”

“Are you saying I won’t get a good raise unless I work here twenty years?”

“You have to understand that we all have wives and children to support, and they come first. Why would I give you money that I could give to my wife and kids?”

I didn’t have any answer for that, and I got depressed. I had always believed that hard work was rewarded. I worked quickly, efficiently, but when I finished my work, I no longer sought extra. I started doing my own writing in the office, which angered him and eventually he fired me. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I realize now that I chose to stay despite my unhappiness. Instead of leaving, I acted less than professionally and ended up deeply unhappy with him, but more importantly, with myself.

When I was fired, at first my self-esteem sank even lower, but financial desperation pushed me into following up every lead for new job. I found a great job where I relearned to value myself. I felt freer than I had in years. I changed careers and cities, which were great decisions. Being fired was a pivot point for me, and I learned something invaluable.

If I make bad choices, I only hurt myself, and I must make better choices. It sounds so simple, and maybe it is to some people. For me, it’s a daily effort. Some days I fail. Other days, it feels like climbing Mount Everest. But I am worth that effort.

dark clouds blow in fast
ice wolves wail and circle
curl up warm inside

These days, I don’t have every answer, and I’m not perfect. That is no longer even my goal. Each day I try to make good decisions. I try to respect myself, to find ways of seeking joy, and, as a result, I occasionally even find it. 

green shoots reach skyward
gray ice mountains collapse
heart and soul quicken

Copyright 2014 Brenda Davis Harsham

Note: Inspired by the weekly Līgo Haībun challenge and the Russian Proverb above.


77 thoughts on “Choices for the Soul Haībun

  1. I love this Brenda! I read this weeks ago from my phone but left it in my inbox to comment on later. On re-reading it, I love your story and your inspiration and I love this style. Haibun is prose with haiku at various spots? Really powerful, I particularly like the last haiku. xo


    • Haiku form transitions between sections and then the end, there is one last haiku to leave an image with the reader. At least, that’s how I write them, LOL. I’m told I have developed my own style. I’m hoping that’s a good thing. 🙂


  2. Hi Brenda,
    Could I reblog this Sunday as a Story of the Week at Better Endings? You have an “overcoming” theme here that would be helpful for this week’s theme of surviving hard times!


  3. What an incredible introspection that I think touches many. You have written about the human condition in a very real way and it makes me want to exclaim yes we feel this and want to be with you. This is really good Brenda.


    • Thanks, Eric, wow! I’m so happy you like it, and feel able to relate to it. It’s not something I talk of often, but it did change my life. I changed my life. 🙂 Warmly, Brenda


  4. Been hearing that fairly often. About how people with seniority have the upper hand and
    the typical “I have a family to feed, too” argument. Nothing can be done about that, though.
    Not really.

    But after I read “he fired me”, I did not expect such a positive statement to come after it. Glad
    things picked up for you. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, and have a good one.


    • I’ve learned to be more straightforward and less tit for tat. Well, he did this and I’ll do that. Things improved. He even did me a good turn after that. I hold no hard feelings. I don’t agree, but I understand. Yet, I think people deserve dignity, a good review for good work, a raise that at least covers the cost of living increase for good work given. Otherwise, you are making less and less every year. Who can afford that with a family? And what is the message there? Anyway, I think things do look up eventually.


  5. Great post Brenda-sometimes failing or an unpleasant experience can be the best thing that ever happens to us. When I failed my comps for my Ph.d. the first time, it made me realize that I did not want to teach college and that I really did not want to go any further-I wanted to write. And so I began in earnest to write–that was over 10 years ago and I write for a living today. I retook the tests 6 months after that horrible afternoon just so I could say I had completed that portion of my studies-I passed, but I also realized that I had *passed* by making a decision that very few understood in my department. It was the best thing I could have ever done-thank you for the reminder.


    • Sometimes we just know. We know what the right thing is, and what makes us happy, given time to think it over and a shock to make us reevaluate. So glad you commented, and I always enjoy hearing from you. Take care, Brenda


  6. Wonderfully heartfelt and ‘open’ writing once more. It throws up a topic close to my heart at the moment which is to do with how we sit with the difficulties. I am moving to a place now where I see that we make choices and I am trying hard not to label them as good or bad. Just choices. Then consequences.Then work. This kind of work.

    “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.” Pema Chodron.

    I see in you a warrior. Someone who has been there and done the work and I honour that spirit in you. It is something to be proud of.

    Perhaps the time of the Guru is over and now we must walk amongst each other and offer our own lives as experiences that can light up the darkness.
    I see very clearly that you do this, as do others ( see above comments) and I sense how difficult you might find it to sit with all the praise. I may be wrong.
    Know this though Beautiful Brenda….your words are deep and profound and all the more real for YOU having written them.
    Thank You x


    • Oh, wow, more tears. I have fought some battles, much of them with myself, and I have learned that the words you use with yourself is who you truly are. Making those words joyful and beautiful makes you joyful and beautiful inside, and that light then shines out and everyone can see it. I have had people working to grind me down, and I bent like the grass so I did not break. My inner core of belief emerged intact, and I live each day as if it were my last to show my kids that I love them.

      We still need our Gurus. We still need a hand. We also need to give a hand, to be a part of the solution, to feel enriched by our ability to enrich the world.

      Choices should be made with our values and goals in mind, and not because they are themselves good or bad. Sometimes the choice is between two bad things. Sometimes either path could lead to something good. Life is full of hard choices, and when we think about why we have come to the crossroad, then we can see our way more clearly.

      Sometimes we make a choice out of fear or weakness, and then we feel guilt. We must have compassion for ourselves. We are not perfect. Tomorrow is a new day to work again, and you are perfectly right, the consequences will come.

      That is a wonderful quote. I always think of hard times as being in the crucible, all the unnecessary things are boiled off, and what is left is your bare essence, the steel in your soul, the purest you.

      I like the way you think things through, my friend. And I treasure your beautiful words. Peace and Joy, Brenda


      • I really like Pema Chodron…she has some very wonderful insights to share. I wrote more about that in my last blog Wired, which was not linked to a challenge, and so by default gets less traffic. C’est la vie.
        Keep on being the wonderfully warm human being that you are. Your kids are blessed.
        paul x


  7. You really have touched my heart,with this post. You are so honest and I really don’t have enough words to express what a Joy it is to know you. (on wordpress at least) That previous boss of yours sounded like a right jerk and didn’t know what a wonderful lady he had working for him. (his loss) When your books hit the best seller list,he is going to wish he hadn’t been so hasty.

    Much Love to you Brenda 🙂 And Big Hugs


    • Thanks, Adam, and I am pleased to be buddies with you, too! The previous boss certainly had issues, but now that I’m the age he was then with my own husband and kids I understand better. I still don’t agree, but I know I am a free-thinker. Thanks for your support. Big hugs, Brenda


  8. I feel the same as you about being fired. It feels like the universe has been nudging me elsewhere and I just wouldn’t take heed although I was for the most part super unhappy where I was. I can’t wait until it’s all soooo at in my rear view. .


  9. Brenda, I so agree with Anne-Marie that you are an angel here on earth. I have made many friends on this crazy planet, but I consider you a dear friend even though we have never met. I’m not sure why pain and hardship must be part of our lives, but thank goodness for the angels put in our path to bring us joy and help us get through it all. You are a blessing. Sending you hugs!


    • Oh, my dear friend, again tears. Odd that this post should have brought back so many tears to me. And yet they are of joy this time. Funny how the circle goes around and your deepest sorrows can become your most resolute strengths. I think of you as my friend, too, so strong and connected and loving. I will hold you close. Warmly, Brenda


  10. There isn’t much I can add to everyone’s comments — except now I find I have a story with ice wolves in it somewhere! — but I’m so happy I read this at a time when I have a very dear friend who was just dismissed from her job and is struggling to find the right perspective. A negative environment paired with some bad decisions of my own made me leave my last job, but I learned something invaluable from that experience and feel myself treading a better path… as long as I watch out for rocks! It is truly a daily battle to make good decisions, and easy to slip on the icy slope. But so much follows from respecting yourself to begin with, and that’s why I want to share this with my friend. Letting your self esteem and your joys be diminished in the interests of getting along and making a living is the slipperiest slope of all!


    • Yes, so much better when all the pieces are aligned, and you receive some reward other than just money, either in terms of learning, companionship, respect or, most rare of all, joy. So much to be desired, though. I wish your friend much luck, perseverance, and self-belief. I’m happy to have you share this. Hugs, Brenda


  11. First and foremost – thank you for your visit which had me come for a look-see at your place. I was a tad distracted and had forgotten about the haibun so was joyously reminded by your piece that the new prompt was out.

    I admire the honesty and simplicity here, within this piece. I can imagine that there were times I didn’t act professionally at some of the jobs I held, especially when I thought I was being undervalued. Change is a constant, and to be the best we can be no matter what – even just for ourselves is admirable.

    Thanks again, my Ligo haibun is here:

    I actually had a piece waiting to be reworked – switching up sentence placement and adding haiku – Thanks again.


    • I was writing and feeling a bit exposed, but then I thought back over all the friends I’ve had and all the blogs I read, and I decided people would relate rather than judge. So thanks for confirming that! Be by to check yours out after my daughter’s ballet. 🙂


  12. Pingback: Choices for the Soul Haībun | The Sarcastic Cynic™
  13. This post was very inspiring to me! Although I’m not in a horrible job right now, actually, it’s a pretty good job. It’s just not the job I want to wake up, jump outta bed and run off to do. I would rather help the animals & environment rather than catering to the rich and famous. I’m trying my darnedest to get into grant writing. I just need to realize that I’m the only one that can change the situation. I think I worry that I’ve already kinda got a good thing money-wise, and don’t want to screw that up. 😀


    • Maybe start with small changes. Start heading there slowly, one step at a time. Volunteer some time on a part-time basis, keeping your stability in place, and learn grant-writing through research and volunteering, and then you will be ready to splash out when your heart is ready. Catering to the rich and famous is intriguing, and everyone needs a hand, even people with their advantages. Any kind of work where you help others is work to be proud of. Warmly, Brenda


    • Thanks! I do feel like I dodged some bullets along the way, making good choices became a habit after a while. That crossroads could have taken me down worse paths, but I am happy to say, I didn’t head down those. I’ve never been one to head for the tavern. 😉


  14. Sweetheart, I feel so honoured and blessed that you share your wisdom, truth and joy with us all so freely on here – thankyou. Your beautiful words have touched my heart once again, tough times come in life but you are right, we must rise up and through like the phoenix and be reborn to better things, and it’s wonderful that you can reflect and see the positive that comes from these hard experiences – and then share that and inspire others to do the same. I’m sorry I haven’t been too vocal recently, I am in the middle of a whirlwind of exploding pipes, absconding roofs and deadlines, but I had to respond to this beautiful post and let you know that I am still here – lurking in the shadows 😉 – and I still can’t get through a day without the huge dose of sunshine your words bring to my life. Bless you enormously angel, once again, thankyou 🙂


  15. I’ve been down that road before, It’s unfair that you aren’t rewarded for that extra mile you put in and more than often, even more unfair when they take advantage of you with that. 😦


  16. Brenda, you are a joy to my heart. Why the feck don’t you live in the same country as me so we can exchange life’s moments in the here and now?
    But, do you know what? I’ve found you and I’m holding on to you. Your insights and magical wonder at life help make me believe and recognise within myself that life does go on and it is what we make it to be. Mine is full of angels and stars and galaxies of unknowing. Yours stirs so close to mine I feel you near. Ethereal and reality co-exist and fill us with all physical and spiritual possibilities. You are a treasure.
    Now, excuse my ‘French’. Fuck them. They had no idea of who existed among them. It was never meant to be. But you had to go through that experience to know that.
    Now. Now. Now the great unfolding begins within and through you. Up them! well, that’s not very kind or spiritual…;) but I know you know what I mean. Every hug and kiss that I can send you in your journey flies your way tonight. Brenda, you are a star int the firmament of hope. Chosen. Absolutely. Do not doubt it. Love and a galaxy of kisses your way. The world is a better place because of you. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Anne-Marie


    • Oh, now I’m crying. Lord, Anne-Marie, I would so drive right over and give you a big damn hug and crack open the red wine if you were any where nearby. As for that place I worked, they are their own punishment, with lives of unhappiness. The stories… well, this one was about me, so enough about them… LOL Any you are my very own angel. Do you know, I deleted this line: “People who believe in me are my angels.” I tried to shorten and shorten, and that got chopped, and here you are, talking about angels. You are fae, my Scots sister. And I am joyful, you are magical! I’m going to open a bottle of wine and raise a glass to you right now!! Blessings, Brenda


      • Brenda. have no doubt you are an angel on earth. My own sister said this to me last night. And I was blown away. How is it possible?
        Because God needs angels, messengers of love and hope. Of fantasy and reality combined, to remind us that life is a communion of physical and spiritual. Some are blessed to just know this, Brenda. You are one. I hope I am one.
        When angels cry the world should weep because their job has been subverted. But never ended. Speak always your truth. It shines. You are beacon. i know you have spoken of hurt. But when you can take that hurt and turn it into something magical you truly are an angel. A messenger.
        Brenda, I wish we could meet. I would hug you as the sister you feel to me to be. In the ether we are one. x


        • Anne-Marie, Big dang virtual hug! And a few more tears. That is lovely and special and beyond my pitiful words… You shine. I’m so pleased to shine for others, as you say. We all need angels. Our souls are larger than us, sometimes they are hard to contain. I do feel you to be a sister. Now I’ll have to look after you, because you are family. See a doctor and make sure of everything. Be well, Brenda


          • I’m good, Brenda, seriously. If I thought anything was amiss I’d be at the doc’s quicker than anyone could advise.
            Thing is I think I’m entering into that strange zone known as ‘the change’. Lucky for me it seems to be having the exact fecking opposite effect to others. Yeah! Go me! Losing weight. Sorted. Ok, the up at all sorts of times of night I could probably live without. So could hubby if we were asking him. But who’s asking him? Not I! Not like I can help it. Anyway i get lots of writing done then. The only thing that seems to be a drawback (?) is I feel warm. I can live with that. Like being in Spain in the warmish season. And no suntan cream required. Score!
            I’ll be 53 on Tuesday so I suppose it’s not surprising. Btw, if you want to get me anything for my birthday I’ll tell you what I’ve told the rest of my crew…..invert the numbers and get me a card that says 35! 🙂 x


            • I haven’t hit the change, but I assume it has me on a list somewhere. No doubt I’ll gain 10 pounds overnight and need to carry a fan every dang place. Or some other pure joy. LOL Ah, to be 35 again. Whoa, I’m not sure I remember that year, that was my first caesarian, and the whole passed in a baby haze. On second thought, I’m doing fine where I am. LOL Happy Birthday, I hope your crew treat you well. 🙂


            • 35? What was I doing? I’d had four by then. And was in the process right around this time of being …..emmmm…..impregnated with my gorgeous Rachel. Born September 1997.
              I don’t want to go back anywhere. Every time had its special moments.
              As far as the ‘symptoms’ go I know of one other person… a friend of my sister’s who went all the opposite of what was expected. If that’s where I’m heading I’m good with that. I’ve spent over five years carrying children! That’s a lot of weight! I figure I’m owed some return. 🙂 x


            • Hey, me, too. Good attitude. Actually I’ve been going down slowly ever since I got my thyroid sorted, but it’s excruciatingly slow. Still, at least I’m going in the right direction. 🙂


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