Monday, November 26, 2007

Six Handy Steps, Step 1, Part 3

Sometimes it's hard to identify just what is happening that we need to accept. By golly, we know something's out of whack. Just what the hell is it? We're not drowning in a lake. We didn't just marry a stranger. We didn't just win the Nobel Prize. How can we accept where we are if we don't know where that is? And, worse, are we really where we think we are?

I suspect that's a problem more common than any of us realize. Who isn't familiar with the example of the person who comes home from work and gets angry with the dog when, really, deep inside, it's his or her boss who deserves the anger? It happens. And it's good for the moment. It's ok to hang out in unawareness for a while. You're only human.

Sooner or later, you're going to want to figure it out. Your dog is gonna have a nervous breakdown and then you're going to feel even worse. So get some tools and start digging. Your location will soon reveal itself.

Grab a pencil, paper, and an emergency box of tissue. This could get scary.

Across the top of the paper write the following words:
should, would, have to, has to, must, ought, but, could, need to.

Mentally go through a few conversations or situations you've been in within the past 24 hours. Number one could be the new project your boss handed you. Maybe number two is the rumors of a complete rearrangement of the organizational chart. Number three? Your daughter's new boyfriend. The health of your cat is number four (but don't tell that to the cat.) That tire on your car that's looking a bit less than round? Number 5.

Return now to number one. Think about it. Look at the words across the top of your page. For the next 5 minutes, place a mark by number 1 each time one of the words was mentioned in the conversation or you thought at the time or you think now. Don't worry about how many of each. Just mark 'em down. Then draw a box around everything related to number 1.

Do the same for numbers 2-5.

Now look at your boxes. Compare. Contrast. Are there a lot of marks for a short conversation or situation? Are there a lot of marks for a long conversation or situation? You might want to pause to look closely at those items. These items are clues to where you are.

Take a look at those items that just might be problematic. Are they calming, nurturing, stimulating, or creative? Or would you describe them as unfair, not fair, not right, uncomfortable, or unpeaceful. So be it. That is where you are for this very moment and wherever you are is ok for now.

If you describe it as any of those words, does the word BUT immediately spring to your lips? It's unfair BUT I have to do it? It's calming BUT it won't last?

Stop that.

Remove the BUT and everything after it. If you can, erase the word BUT from your entire vocabulary. It's getting in your way. BUT and everything after it negates what you said. It's silencing your voice. It isn't allowing you to see where you are. It's preventing you from saying where you are. It is not allowing you to accept that you are in a situation that is unfair, not right. Worse, it's deceiving you into thinking that where you are at this moment is Not Good.

Everything before the "but" is where you are. It may be unfair, uncomfortable, not right, and downright despicable. And it's where you are and it's ok for this moment.

The most destructive words in the English language are not those awful epithets thrown at you, they are not " (insert unsavory saying) You!" They are not the false accusations. They are not even "I love you but I'm not In Love with you."

Whether you are saying them to yourself or someone is saying them to you, should, would, "have to," "has to," must, ought, but, could, and "need to" are the most destructive of all phrases. They are harsh judgement whether from someone else or from yourself. They harm you faster than cigarettes and more deeply than fire.

In college I had a pal from Malaysia, Hadji. I was even more neurotic then than I am now. Hadji was a gentle and wise soul. He would listen to me blather about how unfair this was and how that should be done another way and it just wasn't right. For hours. He was also very patient. Eventually he would gently caress my hair and say "Oh Booktender, this world is not small."

And he was right, of course. Not just the physical, but the spiritual and mental world are much, much greater than we will ever know. When we should and could and ought and must we put ourselves into a box. And that box gets filled with more "need tos" and "have tos" and "has to" until we barely even have room for our "buts." Our world becomes very small. Light will not penetrate. We are jailed in one place. We come to think that this is the only place. And we think it is not a good place, not even just for now.

There is a way out of the box. Thank "should" for it's usefulness in a logical equation and loose it to join that use. Thank "could" for its usefulness in speculation and bless it on its way to that. Free "ought" to join "should." Leave "must" to those who write rules and regulations and laws and procedures. Bless "need to" and use it as a tool to help fill basic human needs for food, clothing, shelter, and water. Invite "have to" and "has to" to return to their rightful place in the laws of science. Free up "but" for silly jokes and sayings.

Let them go. As they go, the walls of the box will fade away. You will see where you truly are instead of where you thought you were. The illusion is gone. You are free to accept where you are for that moment. And you are free to accept that where you are is ok for that moment.

"....all is well, and all is well, and all manner of things shall be well. " - Julian of Norwich


zirelda said...

That is beautiful and something I will try tonight. It reminds me of the seperation of the urgent from the important which is an exercise I sometimes forget.

I have not emailed you back yet. I apologize for that. We took a small vacation from life. Love Thanksgiving.

Unknown said...

What a lovely, thoughtful post. It's so true - we need to get off our 'buts' and take a better perspective of where we really are.

You should be writing a book. It's right there inside you, trying like hell to get out. Let it out, darlin'.