Tag Archives: ego-based living

Missives from the Mat 15 — Seeing Things for How they Really Are #teaching #yoga

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It has been a very long time since I last wrote a blog post. Personally, lots of things have been going on; primarily, bronchitis and a sinus infection for me, a mild concussion for my middle son, college visits for the older son, Hallowe’en (which is truly a Holy Day around here), lots of glorious rowing, and helping to run the registration desk for a large regatta. Oh! And I had a basal cell carcinoma removed, but I’m good. (I’ll write about that later, it’s pretty funny. Well now it is…)

The most notable executive news for me is that I have decided to stop teaching my evening adult yoga class. This wasn’t an easy decision to make. When I took over the class from a well-known instructor and teacher trainer, I remember her sigh-saying as she handed over the metaphorical keys, “I always thought that this class would blossom with someone in the community running it…”

Looking back through my jaded lenses, that should’ve been a sign to me… I have been reluctant to admit the truth about the reality of the yoga potential here.

You can’t get much more “in the community” than me as I live less than a mile from the facility. The logistics remained the same. Even payments carried over. For students, it was easy-peasy.

That said, changes were a’coming and people don’t always adjust to change.

The first change was that people were about to get a new yoga teacher. GULP.

The second change is that I was about to shake up the payment scheme. People do like their money. They also like to do whatever the hell they want with it.

The third change was actually a constant: I can’t change who I am… But people said they liked my style, they loved my classes, they wish they could keep taking them…

In retrospect, at first, I tried to be all things to all people: I tried to be that departing instructor. Then I also tried to be the original instructor who started the class. So that’s two separate people besides me — the funny thing is: I never attended either one of those teachers’ classes, so who knows what I was trying to replicate.

The first two instructors ran the classes on what I like to call a “peace love happiness” hippy punch-card scenario. That’s not at all my style. I treat yoga more as a studio business would: you buy a set of classes in a “session” (a finite period, say 10 weeks, so you attend the commensurate amount of classes remaining during that session and classes could carry over only per request).

Upon taking the helm, I decided that I would honor for two more months whatever “balance” remained on the punch-cards, as several of these cards had been in circulation for TWO YEARS and were unused.

In fact, several of the people on the original email list never contacted the second instructor, they never attended her classes for the one-year period when she took it over. It was only when they heard from me, that “use it or lose it” was in effect, that they attended classes.

In a punch-card world, someone has to keep track, someone has to “X out” a class on that card. At a studio, a receptionist can do that. I don’t have a receptionist. I don’t babysit adults, nor do I “X out” anything. We are in our 40s and beyond, people. If you’re going to make your yoga teacher hold you accountable, you’ve got problems.

Before starting the classes, I consulted with my brother. He’s an MBA with a big job and he and wears fancy shoes. He gave me his advice and told me why he likes to pay for his fitness instructors and how he “gets it” that this isn’t about “nice feelings” but rather, it’s a transaction of values. “Don’t let people confuse you either, this is a business transaction. Yes, yoga is all about energy and feeling good, and being good, and all that shit; but it’s also a transaction. It’s about money.” He told me (along with my own yoga teacher) to change the payment program to “buying a group of classes in a ‘session'” instead of a “punch-card” because a punch-card doesn’t impart a commitment to the self and to the practice, and that self-improvement, as we all know, only works when you work it.

“If you don’t show up, or you don’t do the work, how can you expect any changes?” he reminded me. “I could go get McDonald’s or a Slurpee instead of coming to your class. I don’t value you if I don’t show up. I also don’t value myself, but that’s totally different, and not your problem. Your problem is waiting on people to follow through: to take you up on the service you are trained to provide them. Your service won’t be like anyone else’s, that’s what they’re buying. They’re buying YOU for 90 minutes. Not with a punch-card, but for that time only.”

He could sense that I had a problem asking people to pay me for a service that I felt they could just as readily perform on their own.

“But they can’t, can they? They can’t see their own misaligned knee or that their shoulders aren’t stacked, can they, unless they’re looking for them… but even then, if they’re looking, they’re not ‘doing yoga‘; they’re concerned with their appearance… They can’t see how the pose is performed, or hear you talk about what to feel or engage what muscles where or to loosen their jaws, can they?”

“No.”

“That is reason enough to pay you. Shit, no one but a trained and observant teacher who is doing the work with them, and who can talk about where things are working, as they do the work with them, can tell them that stuff.”

So he was right. Over the last 21 months, the count of participants ebbed and flowed. My most successful quarter was about a year ago: I had about seven registered session students, and several drop-ins. I bought myself a pair of boots last year. I didn’t ever make a killing. I could use the money to pay for gas for a long road trip and maybe a nice dinner out for my family, but that was it.

Then the numbers started to really drop last spring.

Lives change: elderly parents get sick, job requirements shift, people move, bodies ache, people lose their jobs or their motivation… My purpose on this planet is not to judge anyone’s decision to do anything, but to rather look at where I was feeling satisfied and if I was being “of service” to people; if I was actually helping people instead of sitting there picking my navel and feeling sorry for myself because no one showed up anymore.

The numbers continued to drop. I had three registered students, and only one regularly showed up. More logistical challenges for the other members, wrenches thrown in the engine.

It became a real drag.

I have a giant IKEA bag holding 12 yoga blocks; 6″x 2′ strips of my old yoga mat for extra knee / spine / elbow support; and 12 static double-D ring straps to hold poses or to stretch more effectively. I played amazing music (Todd Norian, “BIJA,” get it) too. I spoke softly and humorously about what was working in the poses. I offered modifications to challenge or support the body. I sprayed lavender oil mist in the room. I recited a guided breathing exercise during savasana for anyone who was interested. I infused a brief yoga nidra during every meditation. I had created, in my estimation, the very class I always wanted to attend. It wasn’t perfect: I was nervous teaching inversions, but I tried every so often and most people didn’t really care for them. I was not teaching to change people, or to get them to do something they’re not comfortable with. My goal always, has been simple: to help people feel good and let go.

But the numbers continued to drop. One day, I was quite certain no one would show, so I texted the people that hadn’t let me know and one did come to class! I was thrilled to see her! In fact, I even had a drop-in that night! Two people in the room with me! It was really nice! But I knew it would be short lived, so I decided that night I was throwing in the mat.

If it weren’t for one seriously dedicated person, and she knows who she is, I would’ve given up a long time ago. She asked me one night, “Is it discouraging when no one else comes?” I was so touched and surprised and defensive of the question. I answered sort of automatically, “No, it’s nice you’re here; I enjoy being here with you…” But I do wonder about it all… I said to myself.

The concept of “walking out on this class” never occurred to me. Nor had the idea that I had a choice. Growing up in the world I did, with the mother I had and the father I had, I couldn’t leave my post, or my mother would falter. She could die. I couldn’t stop my sentry work, or things would fall apart. My father was relying upon me to keep watch, to let him know how things were going, to let him know if Mom was sick or where she was, or what she was doing or who she was with. I had to stay. I had to keep my post. The same thing happened with the yoga, I guess. Even as I type this right now, I realize that I’d taken the position of yoga instructor to heart. There’s nothing I don’t do that isn’t done 100% and I think people have come to expect that from me. I have come to expect that from me. That’s fine, because I’ll always try to deliver. But my duty was to the yoga mat, and to hold the door open, so to speak, to the space where we practiced. To always be ready for people to come in. And to wait, even alone, in the dark, in that big room for people to come because that meant they would be safe. That meant they would be well. That meant they were taking care of themselves. I could relax when people were doing yoga, because they were secure. I knew where they were.

I’d never been given permission to retire. Failure was not an option, nor was deciding that the seas were too strong and that the prevailing winds were simply trying to teach me something: to lie down, to batten down, to steer my craft to calmer seas… to stop waiting for adults to show up at night. (Woah, that use of “adults” just now, just typed itself.)

It’s hard to admit. If it weren’t for the health club where I was recently hired, and if it weren’t for the growth in those attendances and the news from the health club management that I “have quite a following” for my yoga classes, I would be crushed.

They say ego is not supposed to be part of a yoga teacher’s energy, but if it weren’t for a healthy ego, I would keep trying to make this work despite the obvious signs it wasn’t working. It’s November, chilly, and once daylight savings time ends, people go into hibernation mode. They do NOT want to leave their homes, no matter how glorious the yoga. I get that. But still… it’s hard on the ego. However, empathy must prevail: it’s cold and dark out, who wants to leave home?

What also must prevail is the absolute truth that anyone’s decision to not come to yoga classes that they’ve already paid for has NOTHING to do with me. I really have to get my head out of my ass.

I have had some really interesting students, too, in this evening class. These are amazing people with some pretty spectacular disorders and physical challenges; I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach these people because they taught me as well: that no matter how strong a teacher I want to be, there are SOME THINGS I will never match. (That sounds a little too familiar to my story growing up, doesn’t it?)

In the very beginning, I had a student who became very attached to me. She was sweet and sparkly-eyed. But I have limitations and I’ve done a shit ton of couch time to not only allow for the existence of the flags, but to see them and turn heel and run.

I can’t handle that, when people become attached to me. There are only four people and two dogs I will be OK with attaching to me: my kids, my husband and Charlie and Murphy. This is not to say I’m not a reliable person. I absolutely am reliable. Just don’t expect me to be your everything; I’m barely my own anything.

This one student somehow identified with me. Maybe it was my kindness, or my optimistic attitude toward her situation, and my utter newness toward her and her idiosyncrasies. I was sincerely proud of her accomplishments despite a major disability. But, like they all do, these empty souls whose mommies didn’t love them enough (raises hand sheepishly), she attached to me. She idolized me, for something, and inevitably, I disappointed her. I treated her like I treated everyone else, despite her identification of me. She thought she was someone special to me, because I was someone special to her.

My job as a yoga teacher is to teach yoga, not cleanse your soul. I teach yoga, not emulate Jesus. I teach yoga, not act as your therapist. I teach yoga, not solve your problems. I teach yoga, not be your mother. I teach yoga, not set you apart. I teach yoga, I teach yoga, I teach yoga. I ask for payment. I expect you to show up. I teach yoga. That is all. If I am lucky, we will become friends, but we are equals. I am not superhuman, but I am very sensitive to energies, so the moment I feel people set me apart and think of me as special, I start to feel sick, as though I am picking up their self-loathing; it’s a very tenuous sensation: it feels like you don’t know if you’re coming or going: “are these my shoes?” After many years, I know when I start to do that to other people, make them my saviors. So I take a deep breath and I re-center myself. Don’t make anyone else your idol; it’s a lot to live up to. 

I liked to get to the space early, to loosen up myself and to prepare to teach, go over notes, play with a transition or a flow, or select a reading for the class. It was as though she could see the parking lot from her house because as soon as I pulled up, she would be walking up or waiting on the steps for me. She would text me in the morning, “Hey Doll! Have a great day!” on days we didn’t have class. I said inside to myself, for her benefit, please don’t do this to me, don’t do this to yourself.

On the one day she wasn’t waiting for me or preternaturally aware of my arrival, she stormed into the room. She started barking out her day. This was fairly common, but I could usually get her to simmer down, to let it go… but she was having none of that. I spoke to her gently and privately before others arrived about her disposition; suggesting that maybe she should take her dog for a strenuous walk instead of yoga, that I’d credit her for the class. She said the others knew her better and longer than I did. She wanted to pass out her business cards to the people in the class. She wanted to cross all sorts of boundaries. I said no. Absolutely not. “People come to yoga class to practice yoga, to get away from their day and their lives off the mat,” I explained to her. Do the business card thing later. Not before.

People started coming in. She was erratic. Like a loose puppy. I sat and waited, made small talk with students. I took up my chimes and started to sit up straight. People started to center on their mats. She fidgeted.

As I did during every pranayama (the seated opening breath and meditation sequence), I invited the group to give themselves “the gift of keeping the day outside and preserve this space, for the yoga, inside,” and I rang the chimes three times with our conscious inhales.

As usual during pranayama, my eyes were closed, so I don’t know if she glared at me, but I did open them after hearing her huff and snarl, to witness her get up, gather her things as noisily as she could, and let the door slam behind her.

Awwwwwkwwwwaaaarrrrd.

I spent a little longer in pranayama, for entirely selfish reasons, and we did some sort of conscious breathing exercise, likely alternate nostril breathing. I can’t recall the exact one, but we did it for another five minutes.

She never came back to my classes.

I fell from grace.

I became the “anti-her” person. Another bad guy. Another reason, as she told me in a text, during that class, for her to not leave her house.

Don’t give me that power. I certainly don’t deserve it, nor do I know what to do with it, I texted back to her the next day, followed by telling her I was glad she got home ok.

After several very quiet months, despite telling me to never contact her again (and I hadn’t to begin with), she sent me an email. A blog post from MindBodyGreen about how to be a good yoga teacher, “I thought you would find this helpful,” she wrote as an intro. It was about the importance of teachers keeping their egos in check; to not show off or show up the students with displays of magnanimous self-control or pious self-awareness. To not demonstrate crane, or bird of paradise, or dancer poses because it was too upsetting to those students who felt unable to perform them.

Ask any of my students if I’ve ever demonstrated crane or dancer without a request to do so; you will hear crickets. I purposely keep my classes mellow, meditative, mostly on the ground, and introspective because I know that no one is coming to me to look like the cover of Yoga Journal. I never expected this woman to exceed the massive limitations of her disability, but I never made her limitations the focus of the lessons. As an “all levels” teacher, you must teach to the highest ability, so that’s what I taught. No one was in those classes to levitate or balance on one toe, the classes were well-designed and challenging.

After Little Miss Backhanded-Awareness sent me that blog post about keeping the ego in check, I ceased all communication with her, and told her to give me distance as she demanded of me: “I’m not your Virgin Mary, your Jesus, your Buddha, your Saint. I’m a flawed, suburban mother of three who is working her ass off to conquer her own demons, so save your blame and finger pointing for your mirror.” >booya.<

But here we are again. Admitting the truth: the number of people coming to my evening classes has fallen. I can’t beat out the four health clubs in the 3-mile radius with their fee-inclusive classes; nor can I beat out the churches with their “Christian yoga” (ha! it is ABSOLUTELY to LAUGH!) versus my “satanic yoga,” I guess. So I am not going to try. I am finished being Sisyphus. I am letting the rock roll.

  
I’ve decided to go back to my teaching roots and teach children’s yoga. The classes are shorter, the students are shorter too. The kids are game, sometimes too game, but that’s what being a kid is all about. For me, teaching yoga to them is a game, and we play games. Kids are super honest and they are also really into noticing how things affect their bodies. At least in the way I teach it, they get that yoga is about everyone, not just one of us.

In my next post, I’m going to write about what it’s like to teach yoga to kids, and how we as parents can know if our kids are truly ready for the mat instead of us just wishing they were…

Thank you and namaste.

Transference — Tend Your Own Garden

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I don’t know what it is about the winter, but it seems to bring out the bear in me. At a time, when I should be going inward, slowing down and reflecting in order to prepare for a better or new / improved renewal in the spring, I have found myself lately drawn in to the drama of other people and getting really tired of it.

Usually I can float on the surface of such things; usually I can smile and nod, like a game show host at the unraveling contestant on my set. I could gesture to the camera tech or producer to cut to another shot.

But lately, the allure has been too much. I have found myself zooming in, in super-HD to examine the pores and nose hairs of the people in my life, looking for flaws and looking for ways to fix them. For me, this is wrong, and it’s classic transference:

Transference is a phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. One definition of transference is “the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person’s childhood.”

Basically, I am recreating the dynamics of the same crap / relationships I had as a child. (Transference is hard to depict, and it’s very subtle. If someone wants to help me out here, correct me: please do!)

This is my own layperson’s understanding of transference: that when a person named Percival does something that reminds you of a person named Mortimer and you end up unconsciously treating Percival like you would have treated Mortimer, even though conditions, situations, context, relationship, everything is different.

And so Percival is all like, “Gladys! I had no idea you felt this way!!” And you’re all like, “Gladys?! My name is Hilda!”

WAKE UP! This isn’t about your grandparents.

Hahahaaaa… Anyway…

That is transference as far as I can understand. And it’s unconscious; it is something we are not aware of, but when we become aware of it, and our tendency to exhibit transference in our relationships with other people, our lives can change.

I miss you, Charles Schulz.

I miss you, Charles Schulz.

It didn’t used to be like this. I have had significant “training” (therapy) to help me understand when this is happening. In fact, I quit my first therapist because I believe he started exhibiting transference to me and I felt the neutrality was jeopardized. But lately? It’s not like it’s been happening without my knowledge. I know better.

It was like sipping from the bottle of chaos for me. Look at another person’s so-called problems, and treat them as I would the person that I’m reminded of so I don’t have to focus on myself.

I chalk it up to boredom. I also chalk it up to a basic fatigue of navel gazing, of looking back at the misfires in order to create a more content and pleasant future or present.

It’s addictive, the navel gazing, and it’s really narcissistic too, because after a while, if we don’t make any healthy changes based on our navel gazing, if we don’t become aware of our tendencies redirect, or deflect, or point the finger at someone else, we end up deciding that our way of living is A-OK, Billy Bob. (I don’t know where Billy Bob came from…) And nothing changes. We drink/gamble/eat/smoke/shop/dream/navel gaze too much, we shout too much, we hold on too tightly. We don’t improve.

What bugs me most about result-less navel gazing is that lots of people are into it. As a yoga instructor, I try very hard to live the code of mindfulness, of “live unto others” and be cool with whatever happens because that’s meant to happen.

I had a student who reached out to me. She has since quit my classes (yes, they do leave me). It was not under the best of circumstances that she left (she transferred her past / mother on to me and wanted more of me than I felt was professionally appropriate). But I don’t “cut” people off unless I get a directive from them or the situation goes from awkward to untenable. So as is customary, when I was sending out the announcement for the upcoming session, she asked me to remove her from my email list. I did. I get it: clean slate, start over. I dig that. It showed me growth from her. I was actually happy for her.

Namaste and all that stuff.

Moving on.

Oddly, a few months later, she sent me a link to a blog about yoga instructors and how we need to check our egos at the door and not make the classes all about ourselves and trying to attain the perfect pose and just letting our students meet THEMSELVES where they are, so-called “limitations” and all.

Well, if you’re a friend of mine, or you’ve read anything I’ve written or taken a class of mine, you would know right off the bat, that I strive each day to be a growth-oriented and “it’s ok where you are” type person. That paradigm shift for me was massive, 10 years ago. I can hear me now: I didn’t just accept things the way they were! I fought them! That solid, cold, black iron rod must be bent and turned into a platter to suit my needs! Without fire! Without heat! Without cajoling or kindness or flattery, sincere or otherwise… Man, I was a fighter, but without cause.

Back to reality: the irony, of course, is that this former student (and I can say this with a ton of confidence) was still projecting her stuff on to me. My days of “perfectionism” are toast. Twenty years of combined marriage, parenting, yoga, crazy mother, and classic psychotherapy, CBT and EMDR have exorcised that demon. She spoke endlessly to me about her need to make the Yoga Journal -cover perfect pose when reality simply didn’t allow for it.

I recall clearly that I would speak with her after many classes. Calmly, nodding, listening and hearing her, feeling her desperation for acceptable levels of perfection….

I drew her attention to a tree outside and said, “Would you ever consider that tree imperfect? Would you say that it’s not a ‘tree’ as defined by what our understanding of what a tree is? It’s got a missing limb or two, some knots and a hole in its trunk…” She shook her head ‘no.’

“Those things give it character. A place for animals to live.” I added, like freakin’ Snow White Freud.

She nodded and agreed, her eyes welling up a little in the sun. Her nose grew pink and she started to chew on her inner cheek, leaning on one leg more than the other.

“Then why do you beat yourself up? Do you think that tree would consider you somehow imperfect? Why must you insist that you are? And why must you fight your story, your reality, to prove –for whom I don’t know– your perfection?”

I was all “This is our reality… It is what it is, man… y’dig?” In my Nehru shirt and dandelion chain tiara crown.

She said she understood, that she appreciated my help and time. That I was a true teacher and friend to her for doing so and she thanked me.

Then the phone calls increased, the emails increased and the text messages increased. She wanted more of my time; I began to feel uneasy. This is my issue: I didn’t like being someone’s salvation. I couldn’t save my own mother, there was no way I could to do it for a yoga student.

She wanted more of the class’s time and attention. It became a cyclone of need. I had to draw a line; I had my own personality limitations as well as a real interest in protecting the integrity of the class, the time of other students, as well as my reputation as an instructor to manage disruption. I had to ask her after class to stop the chatter, the distractions in class, the bringing of the “outer world” into the room. “…We take our shoes off as a gesture of the solemnity and respect for the practice of yoga, likewise, we need to do with our day, our woes, our ego and our mirth. I ring the bell at the beginning to announce the tenor of practice, to introduce a new moment. Not everyone had a bad day like you did… not everyone just aced a final like you did… everyone is working on something personal and unique in here, so please respect that.”

She didn’t say so. She didn’t say anything in fact. She packed up her stuff and thanked me for a nice class. Only later, I surmise, did she decide to tell me (indirectly through that email) that my interests in protecting my yoga classes felt unkind and ego-identfied to her. That I was asserting my “authority” in a non-produtive and territorial way. I was the enemy. She resorted to her native coping skills and never communicated with me again.

Until that link to the blog.

So I sit and I sigh. Distracted by this not-very-subtle jab at my person and teaching style I start to wonder, actively, about that person. About what makes her so high and mighty, what makes her the high priestess of ego and yoga teaching? She’s not such hot stuff, why if she were then … And what’s with the contacting ME when she told me to take her off my list?? Talk about BOUNDARY ISSUES!!! Why she …. …. …. ….

And down the rabbit hole we go. Watch out for that root on the right as you go down, it’s like a whip.

The good news is that that rabbit hole is brighter now; it has landing strips by it and it’s not as bumpy, deep or as curvy as it used to be. My descents into it are less intense and more fleeting. It’s more of a gopher hole. But the gopher holes are everywhere and they’re in my garden.

Instead of tending to my gopher holes, instead of sealing them up or planting a flower in them, I look over the fence, into someone else’s garden and I start to think about where an azalea would look good to cover up that ugly corner; or that a shade tree would do well to keep from burning up the astilbe… My, she doesn’t know how to tend to her garden; she’s got shade plants in full sun… her kids are likely on drugs too… that son is a mess… I thought my mom was weird … her mother is a trip…

… and there we go again. Me thinking about someone else’s crap instead of my own. Me transferring my energy and my thoughts and my precious little time left on this planet to someone else, someone who’s into the drama, who’s into the distraction and who’s not able to understand my “brand” of help; or my timing.

People need to work at their own pace and just because I can see all the traps and falls awaiting that person, it doesn’t mean 1) she can or 2) he cares. Sometimes the elixir of someone else’s problems or issues are SO important strong that they keep us from working on ourselves. As I said to a friend this morning, fully aware of all the trappings of the drama I’m hovering over, “I love decorating someone else’s house…”

What else this means is that I stop the narrative I’ve been telling about my life. I’m 47. It’s time I put things in their boxes and ship them off for the garbage dump (or the book). My story of who I am and how I got here is precious to me, yes, but it doesn’t define me and it needn’t hold me hostage anymore. I’m not just the result of my parents’ union; I have transcended that — years ago — and I am a fully functional adult female human who has co-created three more humans. I am more than 1967 – 1990; so much more. I am 1991 – 2003; and 2003 to now, and counting. I look back at the time I feel I have squandered worrying about my mother and father, about “reputation” and about fear.

The only way I can, and you can, and your neighbor and your former friend or ex-spouse, or ex-lover, or former yoga student can fully achieve our own fantastic full-blown personhood is to learn from the past, not let it hold us back or down anymore, see it for what it has provided (a backdrop, that is all — and that backdrop changes with the set of our stories!), and move on, with gratitude for all it has provided. We can leave that garden where it is without regret — and that is hard!

Leave that garden in the sun or in the shadows, in a state of flourish or disrepair, but walk away from it nevertheless. It’s not our garden anymore, and the garden that IS ours, needs us. We can walk into our own garden, as modest as it is, and tend to it. Talk to it, let the sun in and the rain fall. We can see it in the greater landscape with all the other gardens, in their own individual growths, and we can admire it all, while keeping the errant vines and the weeds out of ours. And we can step back. And we can see it grow.

Thank you.

 

Are You Responsible? Or Are You a Jerk?

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Years ago, I caught up with a friend who was evolving after a personal crisis and decided to join a 12-step program. He had been in the program for about six months and was sharing with me, as we walked off a soccer field, his journey toward self-discovery, self-confidence and self-pride.

We talked about “responsibility” and how when he was abusing his vice, he’d also abused the notion, and how he’d cast off and cut loose his accountability for most of what a conscientious person does not slough off.

I said, “You mean, like picking up your kids from camp on time? You mean, like not littering? You mean, like … ”

He said, “Ha. That’s stuff that I always do because people are watching: external gratification, ego-based living — doing the right thing not because it was right, but because I wanted to be seen doing it: I was all about appearances, having all the answers, being considered one of the reliable people; people considered me a common ‘go to’ person. Top seller in my company! Scratch golfer. The stuff I’m talking about now, is about internal gratification, conscience-based living: being responsible when no one else is looking. When no one cares. I didn’t have a conscience before. That’s why I thought I was above it all … that’s why I had to get help.”

We walked some more. He talked some more. I was curious to know, however, how fine is the line between “conscience-based” living and flat-out martyrdom. “It is a fine line,” he said. “I see martyrdom as making sure everyone knows you suffered while doing the right thing… doing the right thing should never make you feel bad; you feel good when you do the right thing… martyrdom can be a close ego trap.”

That made sense to me.

He continued, “Shopping carts. I never used to put them back. Sure, one was available whenever I needed it and it was in the corral when I went to get one, but I never put one back. I deluded myself into believing that what I was doing: leaving a cart in the middle of the parking lot or on a grassy median, was creating a job for some poor schmuck who needed a work-incentive program. That’s how arrogant and disconnected I was.”

The sun was high above us after the game, his kids and mine were sighing, moaning and hissing from their seats in the cars because they wanted to get their rightful post-game Slurpees. I was engrossed though.

“I’ll get you a donut too!” I promised them, “Just a few more minutes!” I begged.

My friend elaborated, sweat running down his temple. I used to think, “Where would the prison work programs be without me and my cigarette butts on the curbside? That was how I rationalized it. Other people in the program would say, ‘I left the dog poop there, the grass will grow better…’ we knew deep down we were full of crap. But I can’t tell you … I feel so much better now, just for taking back my shopping cart, it’s hard to explain. It’s like I have credibility now, real credibility. I don’t need to rationalize anymore,” he said.

Just blame someone else.

Anyone can rationalize anything. “Look what you made me do!” Have you ever heard that one?

Anyone can choose to look the other way. “Anyone can choose to do nothing, because even doing nothing, even not choosing is a choice,” said my sagacious 10-year-old the other day.

 

fhotd64476.yuku.com

do you do this? are you one of those assholes? source: fhotd64476.yuku.com

What about when you do the wrong thing? And you KNOW it’s wrong! And you KNOW it’s indecent and unethical and completely unacceptable — for example taking or sanctioning a photograph of a unique-looking person, or of a minor, without their knowledge just because the technology exists. Do you rationalize it? Do you say you have a good reason? What could possibly BE that reason?!

At a local elementary school, there’s a upper-grader who goes into the restroom at school and snaps photos of classmates and then extorts the kids into doing whatever this person asks under threat of sharing the image on social media.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! Where are these kids learning this stuff? Where are the parents?! Since when is it OK to EVER record an full-on image of another person without their awareness or permission?

What about when you practice “Do as I say, not as I do?” Do you think that’s ok too? Do you run red lights or roll through stop signs but expect your spouse or kid to do the right thing?

When you point at other people, three fingers are pointing back at you.

What about when you know something is amiss, but you lie to yourself and you project your inability to sit with the discomfort of the truth, on to innocent people? That’s how many addictions and aberrant anti-social and sociopathic behaviors can begin: people rationalize and believe, with all their might (even though at first they say they don’t) that they are above the law or the code of moral correctness. That they are separate. They they are special.

“She looked at me wrong.”

And it morphs tragically into a drive-by or school shooting. No communication is necessary for these folks; they just go ahead and do what they want because they have just cause: “work incentive program”; “she’s mean to me”; “no one saw me…”; “I saw my mom do it once … “; or my personal favorite: “it’s always been that way, it’s tradition…”

Are you one of those people? Are children around when you do this crap?

Can you even admit it? And if you do, can you sit with the uncomfortable truth, the yucky, sticky and gross feelings that I would hope would come up (because that means you do have a conscience) with the choices you make and the swath of destruction, confusion, embarrassment and woe in your wake?

I’ve met people like this. I’ve bobbed in their seas of denial, half-disgusted with myself for continuing to hang on to them, despite my Spirit telling me to get away, to seek the light, to do the right thing — for myself — and to evolve.

I’ve held on because I put them first. I’ve held on because I feared that my life would somehow be less-than without them. I’ve held on because they made me feel like I needed them and that they needed me … I will never know. I’ve moved on. Their antics of delusion and harsh, foul projection of blame and accountability onto other people have finally snapped me to my senses; as though I’ve been t-boned or rear-ended.

My friend and that conversation flew into my head last week as I was walking back to my car from returning my shopping cart. Actually, I think of that conversation every time I put away my cart. “Even if you’re in a rush — ya gotta put the cart away,” I remember him saying.

How’s he doing? I don’t know if he’s still in the 12-step program; I sure hope he’s OK. He never contacted me to atone for any of his failings while I was involved in his life and was hurt by his abuse and witnessed his faults. I wish him the best. I hope he does this from now on:

clean up your conscience. put your cart away.  www.ripoffreport.com

clean up your conscience. put your cart away.
source: http://www.ripoffreport.com

Do you put your “cart” (read: do the right thing) away or are you one of those people who thinks you don’t need to?

Right your ship.

Thank you.