Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day 30 of 30: Practice is enlightenment.

I know it is cliche', but

It's only been 30 days?
It's already been 30 days?

Wow.  As I said in the Day 1 post, a substantial part of my interest in doing this was the practice of doing something new for 30 days itself.  Now I know why this deserves a TED talk.  I will not forget a number of the events that have transpired in the last 30 days for the rest of my life.  I can't say that about the 30 previous to that, or the 60 previous, or the 90.  Honestly.  That's shocking.

Of course, part of that was my object of the practice itself, putting myself first.  The way that actually manifested was I resolved daily to stop putting off something I had been putting off in favor of doing things that were more important to other people.  I didn't realize how much of my life is/was given over to doing things for others.

I wish I could give you Rube Goldberg-ish sketch of how pushing over that seemingly innocent domino everyday cascaded into an out-of-left-field introduction to a new social circle, a fantastic professional opportunity (my company is paying to train me for a dramatic break-out of my current salary range), long-overdue resolution issues concerning my financial life, to getting my health screenings and teeth-cleanings back on schedule, etc., but I can't.  I'd be making up a story, and I have other things in my life that need my attention more.  But please, I encourage you to accept on Faith that taking care of yourself is how you take care of the entire world.  It really is.

It doesn't reliably make people happy, not you or others.  You don't get applause.  I have pissed off a number of people, some of whom I don't expect to hear from for a while.  Many people around me think I'm going through a bad phase, some transition time of being an uncooperative jerk.  I made some mistakes.  I did some things I wish I had not.

My most important realization was the extent to which my friendships are imbued with patterns, habits, scripts and roles which rapidly devolve into some version of care-taking.   Care-taking is when one does something which superficially is seen as service to another but the deeper motivation is self-serving.  This is an ongoing edge of personal work in my life, but this practice caused things I had been in denial about to appear in sharp focus once again.

For example, I contacted a friend recently when I was feeling low.  I said I was scared and discouraged and wanted some friendly support.  My friend responded with a well-intentioned lecture concerning why I was in this particular situation.  This was followed-up with examples of successes in dealing with the issue under discussion from my friend's life.

I know my friend means well, but I asked for support, directly, in plain English.  I said something like "I'm scared and I need support."  I never said "I don't understand how I got in this situation."  I'm not sure what my friend's agenda was in all this, but the conversation painted my friend as a stable practitioner of emotional maturity and courage while it left me feeling isolated and angry.

This 30 day practice period got me in the habit of asking. consistently and often, "what am I getting out of this normally?" when something happens that doesn't meet my needs.  It was then, when I was on the receiving end of this well-meaning lecture I didn't want or ask for that I realized that my normal response would have been to return the care-taking!  That is, my friends do this to me because I train them to do this.  I reward this behavior.

That is, I would have dropped my agenda for getting comfort from the encounter and picked up the my friend's agenda.  Why?  To make my friend feel okay for having gone there!  This way, I get to prove (to myself, I guess) that I am the best friend ever!  I can switch gears so that people don't have to be disappointed when they fail to show up for me!  It's okay to ignore the fact that I just asked for a hug when you went to the chalkboard.   It's sort of like when I find the pizza I was looking forward to gone from the fridge and I say to myself...

"It's okay, I shouldn't be eating cold pizza before bed anyway...."  And I congratulate myself on some illusory self-restraint.


Has it only been 30 days?  Wow, a lot has happened.  I have packed a year's worth of living into the last 30 days.  A lot has happened.  In some ways I can't believe it hasn't been much, much longer.

Has to really been 30 days?  Wow, that flew by.  I will start a new 30-day practice period tomorrow.  I have not yet decided what the object of my practice will be, but I have an impulse to do something completely different, in a different area of my life.

Stay tuned.