I like to think of myself as being in an ongoing conversation with Scott Williams. Since I don’t actually know him, this is probably a little irrational, but I’m okay with that.
He recently posted about quick changes failing miserably, which made me immediately paranoid that I’ve somehow given off the impression that anything I’ve written in the past month would somehow be construed as quick or easy. Talking myself off the cliff of anxiety, impatience, frustration, insecurity, judgement, and nervous breakdown happens every single day. All the time. I’m hanging onto these little nuggets of wisdom picked up from various and assorted sources – from Nietzsche to Neal – for dear life. Every. Single. Day.
It took me a good three years to be able to put into practice the very obvious reality that panicking only hinders one’s ability to respond productively.
The previous three years were spent absorbing that I can choose in any given situation to 1) make it worse (usually by increasing the emotional content) 2) have no impact at all by refusing to engage or 3) make it better.
When I said this is my driftwood life-raft, I meant that I have to patch it together constantly to manage the difference between my emotional reaction to my circumstances and the reaction that is going to inch me a little closer to what I want out of life. I’ve read just about everything but Eat Pray Love.
Take The Four Agreements – I agree wholeheartedly that what other people do is about them, not a reflection on me. I do much better when I remember that, not as a theory but as an understanding. It’s just reining in my emotions to fit with the understanding is the herculean effort.
I just finished Working On Yourself Doesn’t Work, and I think they are right. The harder you fight something, the stronger it gets. There isn’t a how to stop fighting. You just stop. Well, I stop incrementally. I stop for about five minutes and then I’m back to kicking and screaming until I wear myself out. You can’t stop to manipulate your way into the answer you want, which is my first instinct. You really do have to become okay with the answer you’ve got.
Incidentally, you’d have to know me really damn well to know that all of this is going on under the surface. What’s visible is straight up deadpan, ironic, and unflappable. The mess is generally confined to the space between my ears.
So just in case I might have been misunderstood… the person I’d like to become has an unlimited well of neutrality. This person sees things clearly. Her kindness and compassion is muscular and clean, not mushy and sloppy. I am not this person by nature.
Naturally, I am mercurial. Moody, selfish, demanding, impatient, easily blown off course by the slightest breeze.
I’m not changing who I am, I’m not even judging that person. She is exactly what she is. I just don’t have to “do” what she “is.” She’s allowed to be whatever she is with no limits and no shoulds. I’m just working on taking away the reward of attention when she throws a temper tantrum. To quote RuPaul, I am not my emotions, I am the observer of my emotions. And if I can observe instead of letting myself drown in the kiddie pool with her, then perhaps I can choose to differentiate what I do from what I feel. The goal is to sit at neutral if I can’t be positive.
Please, Scott. Don’t throw me in with the warm fuzzy purveyors of easy answers. There isn’t anything easy or pretty about any of this.