For those of you reading the Series, here we are in Part 5, the final post. You’ve had practice Observing yourself in quite a new way. And you know the value of sorting reactions, and how to begin to sort.
Onward, with sorting!
My reaction wasn’t helping me in any way I could think of. And I did think about it. Reacting didn’t feel good. It didn’t solve my problem. It didn’t help me figure out my phone issue.
I practiced a simple thing. I felt my reactions, considered it, welcomed it as part of me. I sat with it.
Did I want to explore a new way of being? Yes, I did.
Hmmm… what could I do instead? What else have I got?
I love the Verizon store near me, so I paid them a visit. Why not ask the experts? I love experts. Experts are the shortcut on the desktop of life.
They are so helpful at this Verizon store. When I walk in, someone with a tablet asks what I need, and they put me in cue for the next available phone whiz.
How great is that! It’s totally brilliant customer service. I felt taken care of immediately.
When I get to the person helping me, they are smart and fast, as well as enormously patient (a stunning combo, I must say). I’ve admired every Verizon Zen Techie who has helped me.
This time, my phone whiz was a young woman with wild purple, green and pink hair, dark lipstick and tattoos. (I love that Verizon apparently doesn’t have a dress code, hair code or tattoo code.)
She whizzed around my phone with lightning speed, and informed me that I have automatic tech help because of my phone insurance. Apparently, I can ask for tech help with a guaranteed 15 minute response time.
She set up the App for me. And she used the app to solve my problem.
Well, that was dreamy easy!
This simple example translates well to relationships — things that we think are hard and frustrating or unsolvable involving our partner are often really simple, if we’re willing to set aside our current knee jerk reaction long enough to consider that our “now” view is not the only view.
But that’s the key. We must be willing to consider the existence of another, happier possibility.
That’s all it takes.
A SHORT STORY
Once upon a time a very upset woman blurted to me about her “horrible husband.”
Quite a while.
She had a long and well-justified story. At one point, out of curiosity, to learn about her gear-shifting ability, I interrupted her story and casually asked her to reel off a quick list of things he did right.
This caused a sort of panic in her eyes and posture.
Apparently, this was not a question she had considered recently.
Many seconds went by while she struggled in silence. I did not help her. I wondered how she would rally around this question.
Several times, she started to speak, but stopped and thought some more. Finally, she named two things:
- He gave her head and neck massages.
- And “he lets me do what I want.”
Her evaluation of him, her blurt, her thinking process, her answer to my question — all of these pointed to something hanging in her relationship closet.
Do you know what it is?
(Don’t scan down to check the answer yet, see if you can come up with it. I’ll put in beautiful space while you think.)
WHAT’S HANGING IN HER CLOSET?
She’s hard on other people.
And therefore, and more fundamentally, she’s hard on herself.
That’s her simple problem — she’s hard on herself.
Her problem has nothing to do with her husband. He’s just in the neighborhood.
I described the process of noticing and setting aside her reactions to her husband, one by one as they come up, and how she could assume that all roads lead to Rome (her). That all the ways she disapproves of him are actually all the ways she disapproves of herself (or would disapprove if she did what he does).
I mentioned that the process for her would be about becoming more aware and kind — to herself.
She nearly fell off her chair.
She gave me that “are you frigging kidding me” look — you know the look I’m talking about. She probably wanted to quit right then. Walk out and never look back.
At the very least, roll over and go to sleep.
She wanted to do anything but shine a light on how much she disapproved of herself. She would rather that stay in the dark back corner of her closet.
She was a trooper though. She went through strong emotions sitting there in the chair. First, there was the rain, then the hot sun, and finally storm clouds. I listened, waited, watched.
She decided to make a list of what she did right over the coming week.
She had the best of intentions.
She came back to her next appointment with a list of things she “may have” done right, and kept apologizing for not really knowing how to come up with the list because “who could really say whether she did it well or not…”
She was reluctant to give herself any credit — at all — for anything.
Hanging in her closet was the idea that if she was unhappy, it was surely because of someone else. Her main block to true happiness was apparently living in her very own house, wearing pants and a shirt, and sleeping with her.
Since he was the problem, she was doing her best to tidy him. She was sure that cleaning up his act was her business. Then she’d be happy.
What I say and think about them is who I am.
When I have a reaction to someone, that’s what’s hanging in my relationship closet. If I take it out and take a good look at it, I can own it instead of pretend it’s not mine.
I can sit with it. Meditate about it. I can note how I am (doing, saying, being) what I’m accusing another of being. I can be with my dark side, my underbelly, my negative emotion. See it. Welcome it. Feel it. Notice the results of my thinking or my actions. Be amazed. Get curious. Investigate.
Only then will I have breathing space to consider another way of being. Is this way of being truly me? Do I prefer this way of being? What else could I do that I would enjoy more?
I explore alternatives.
When I’m done sorting, organizing what’s left is a breeze, because what’s left makes sense. It’s me.
Do you need help sorting? Illuminating?
Flag me down.