Friday, July 22, 2011

Laila: No really, it doesn't bother me at all!

As we shifted from strictly focusing on Agreement numero uno: Being Impeccable to Agreement number two: Don’t Take it Personally, I have to admit I was a little smug. Contrary to my fellow blogger, I have professed loudly that I really have no problem taking anything personally, so this one would be a piece of cake.  Indeed.  Then an e-mail landed in my inbox that made me stop and reflect, and I wasn’t too pleased at my initial reaction. So it seems said “piece of cake” has actually turned into humble pie – and so my tale begins….

I receive e-mails from a studio where I completed my Reiki Master training. These e-mails inform me of upcoming events, classes, new hires.  During my training, I had high hopes that were echoed by my instructor, of beginning my practice in the studio when I was all done. But by the time I completed my training, I realized that that particular studio was not the most ideal fit for my personality.  Fortunately for me I never had to deal with turning them down because my practicing there was never brought up again – which at the time was fine.  Maybe they also felt it wasn’t the right fit. 
Then, a few months later, for some strange reason I reconsidered – maybe it was a good venue after all and maybe I was just being weird about the whole thing – so I inquired about it and was told my message would be passed along to my instructor.  I can’t say as to whether or not she received the message, I can say no one ever called me back.  Apparently, there is no way to speak to my former instructor directly unless you have an appointment.  A paying appointment that is (oops, not impeccable).

They say your first instinct is usually the right one, so why is it that after I made that decision not to pursue working there, that I get annoyed when I see their e-mails, as if they rejected me?  One would think I would just unsubscribe, but that would be admitting that I was taking it personally (gasp!).  I believe all things happen for a reason, and if something is meant to be it will work out. But I guess in this case I wanted to be the one to ultimately have the final say, to control things no doubt, and certainly not something anyone practicing Reiki should fixate on – interesting lesson all around. 
I think I will continue to subscribe to their e-mail list, as my little reminder to not take things personally. And my barometer to gauge how evolved I have become will be the day when I can open one of these studio e-mails and exclaim without a hint of sarcasm “I wonder what interesting things they have going on this month?”  We shall see…….

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Liz: Part 2: Don't Take Anything Personally

It's hard to believe we're already more than 3 months into this project.  We started out with the intent to follow the four agreements for a year, focusing on one every three months.  We've been trying to use impeccable words since March.  I have been surprised that there are so many angles to that challenge, so many questions about the way we live arise when we try to speak and think impeccably.

Now, for me, comes an even greater challenge:  Don't take anything personally.  Ruiz writes about this second of the four agreements that no matter what another person does or says to you or about you, it is not  to be taken personally.  This is because, Ruiz argues, everyone is the protagonist in their own drama, the star of their own movie.  We are nothing but secondary characters.  Ruiz says that to take another's actions as personal attacks is to assume that we are more important to their life drama than we actually are.  And taking things personally also inhibits our own ability to live our own lives, and to make decisions based on our own understanding of truth and love.

If ever there was a challenge for me, it is this one.  I take the weather personally, for crying out loud!  If there is a bad mood in a meeting, or a party that isn't fun, I believe it is not only my fault but my responsibility to make it right.  My personality has become larger than life with my continual efforts to arrange circumstances so that everyone I meet will be happy, or at least will like and respect me.  Oh sure, I've learned to speak a hard truth or to make the unpopular decision in my vocation,  but don't think it doesn't tear me up inside.  I recently had to tell a man he was fired from his job and probably would not work in his chosen profession again. I did the job as well as anyone could, but inside I was thinking, "how can I get out of this and still be likeable to this person?  How can I make him smile?"  I realize this is absurd, the desperate thoughts of a person who does not want to dispense consequences (however well deserved) for fear of how she herself will be judged.

This type of thinking is debilitating.  And at its root is the fact that I do, indeed, take nearly everything personally.  It's going to be a long three months, but hopefully, I'll learn some things along the way that bring some relief to my desperation to please.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Honesty: Such a lonely word or impeccable word?

Recently a friend/neighbor of mine hosted her son and his family for 10 days. Now it is my opinion, and my opinion only, that having houseguests for 10 days, regardless if you get along or not, might be a tad taxing on the host. In this particular situation, the hostess and the daughter-in-law had a history of some issues in the “can’t we all just get along” category. Add 3 kids under the age of 4 to the mix and to quote Timon from the Lion King “Disasters in the aiiiiirrrrr…..”

Having young children myself, I arranged to do a few things with DIL and her kiddos to benefit my kids with instant playmates and to benefit my neighbor with some alone time.  During some of the time I spent with DIL and her kids I sensed she was testing the waters, so to speak, to gauge the depth of my friendship with her mother in law. She let a few comments sneak out from time to time, bordering on complaining, but always backed it up with “don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my in-laws..”  Suuuuuure you are. Oops, was that impeccable?  So anyway the more time I spent with her the more comfortable she felt in venting.  It can be hard to stay happy and upbeat when all that negative crap is flying around you in passive aggressive ways, and at one point I did venture into the realm of unsolicited advice, but I prefaced it with “What really reduces any stress for me surrounding the kids when we visit the in-laws is my philosophy that as long as they are not being put in immediate danger, pretty much anything goes. If Grandma and Grandpa want to spoil them – go for it!”   She actually seemed to consider it for a moment, but feedback later in the week told me otherwise.  Of course all of the frustration during the week between the two probably could have been alleviated by an honest conversation.

I am certainly not here to judge anyone else on their parenting techniques, as mother’s we put enough pressure on ourselves already!  But I do believe in open and honest communication, especially as a way to set an example for your kids. I know from my own experience that it can be painful to consider those honest chats, and the alternative of grinning (or grimacing) and bearing it might seem more attractive in the short term, but then I remember the little faces of my kids as they watch and learn.  They do not miss a gesture, a sigh, or a look.  And since one of my big goals in this experiment is to have all of these agreements become second nature enough that they are effortlessly passed down to the kiddos, I take a deep breath and take that uncomfortable step and attempt to address whatever the situation might be with as much grace (or wine) as I can muster. And in the end, more so then not, I am always happy that I did.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When Impeccable Hits the Fan

Every once in awhile one comes to a point in a the chronicling of a life journey when the crisis at hand is such that you are unable to make some poetic beauty out of it.  This is my situation, and the reason it's taken me so long to write this entry.  I am up against a wall with impeccability and just don't know what to do.  I realize now how very much I want to have all my problems neatly wrapped up so I can blog about them and appear wise.  But in this case, I honestly don't know how to behave, or what is impeccable, and worry I'm not up to the challenge.

The problem is jealousy.  Let's put it this way:  I applied for something I really, really wanted.  A friend also did (at my urging!)  I did not get this thing I wanted, but she did.  The actual situation is more complicated than this, but the spirit of how I feel about it is this simple.  

I really want wonderful things for my friend and her family. I love her and want happiness for her.  But at the same time I am devastated at my own loss, and the rejection I feel.  I feel angry, hurt, humiliated, upset, stupid, belittled.

I know that this gain for her is wonderful and it will be something she will be happy about.  But it is the last subject I want to discuss with her or anybody else.  How can I be impeccable in this moment?  If I say, "I don't want to talk about that subject."  then there is something between us that can't be spoken.  From experience I know that when there are subjects that can't be discussed between friends the friendship is eroded over time.  I don't want that in this case.  On the other hand, if she talks about it I will feel resentment.  I know it's not her fault that I was rejected.  But I also know that I am human and my resentment over the loss will spill over onto her.  I'm not proud of it, and I wish it wasn't so.

I have experienced similar situations in the past, and I'm ashamed to say they have often ended badly for the friendships involved.  I am determined that this not happen this time around.  How can impeccability help me here?  Honestly is good, to a point.  If she knows how I feel I know that she will honor and respect it, because she has a kind heart and a healthy outlook.  But beyond that, I will have to work through my own resentment without letting it ruin the friendship.  I will have to learn how to speak when necessary and shut up when my feelings become dark and unhelpful.  I will have to work on separating my hurt from my love for her.  Knowing myself the way I do, it will not be easy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Laila: The State of Impeccable

I have noticed that when ensconced in the comfort and familiarity of my own little world, impeccability is a little easier to work on.  I have the same people in my life on a day to day basis for the most part, so I kind of know what to expect in any given situation. That’s not to say that I’m not thrown a curve ball every now and again, but overall things seem to kind of flow.  So I had been feeling pretty darn impeccable, and then I left on a 10 day trip to the West coast and the challenges began.

It almost seems like I gave myself a pass on the impeccable thing because I was out of my element, when in fact that was when I should have been paying the most attention to my behavior. It wasn’t so much my actions, more my thoughts. I was quick to judge (the loud person sitting behind me on the plane, the dainty former reality star and her rocker boyfriend in the park, the full on make-up mama in her cute workout outfit in the early a.m.).  Now that I am home I can reflect on each situation much more impeccably, but it bothers me that I can’t automatically do it in the now.  No matter how hokey it sounds, it would be nice to have those rose colored glasses on all the time. (Hmmm, sci-fi product idea...)
I have two more trips this summer that will take me to faraway and exotic places like Washington D.C. and Iowa, meaning I have two more opportunities to practice on the road impeccability. So I will be watching myself like a hawk, and will either A. rise to the challenge beautifully and more automatically or B. develop a split personality from the internal scrutiny and have to check myself into a “special facility” for some quiet time.   

Friday, May 20, 2011

Liz: Impeccable Speech and Bumper Sticker Politics

"President Obama is a Marxist Dictator."  This was the statement I saw on the back of a man's car a few weeks back.  I was picking up my daughter from dance rehearsal when I saw it.   Whoa.  That's a pretty serious accusation to have plastered to the hind-quarters of one's vehicle.   I saw the man getting into his car with his sweet daughter, who couldn't have been more than 5 years old.  I wonder if she'd tried to read it.  "Daddy, what's a Marxist?"  I wondered if he'd actually know the answer to that question.

It got me thinking about the prevalence of politically and religiously charged stickers on our cars. What purpose do they really serve?  Surely not to promote dialogue, otherwise we'd SAY these things in person rather than sticking them to the back part of our cars where we are unable to see the reactions they elicit from the people behind us.  Some may say they are a way to express ourselves, but is this form of expression healthy, or is it more divisive?  I thought about the humorous, yet politically charged bumper sticker I have on the back of our minivan.  Perhaps it's not the best witness I can give in today's polarized climate.

I think we've become a bumper sticker society, and to a large extent have lost the ability to argue well.  It is indeed easier to throw out a sound byte and then drive away like mad before anyone can react to our faces than it is to engage in true discussion with people who believe differently than we do.  Why is this?  I think, deep down, we are all afraid of having our minds changed.  Our statements appear perfectly formed and flawless in a vacuum, but throw in a voice of dissent and the argument can unravel quickly.
Best not to risk it; slap on a sticker and drive away.

I have recently been in conversation with many members of my denomination over our recent change in ordination standards.  Talk of it is everywhere:  in pastor support groups, on blogs, over emails with colleagues from seminary, on facebook, in coffee shops, Session meetings and church parking lots.  Some I have spoken with are in support of the changes, and some are opposed.   It is indeed a risky business to talk these matters out, but in my opinion it is necessary business.   It is only through the practice of speaking our differences with love that we will be able to overcome our bumper-sticker mentality and truly talk with one another again.

In this case, impeccability is found not in what we say but rather in how we say it.  Face to face, and not stuck to the back of the car.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Laila: Can You Overthink Impeccable?

I have made my way through half of a bag of delicious Lays Classic chips thinking of how to respond to two different friends about two entirely different issues.   I owe my greasy, salty fingertips (did I mention delicious?) to analyzing and overanalyzing imagined conversations with the impeccable filter on. I have even considered avoiding said conversations and putting off talking to these people until a later date. Of course then there is the fester factor and we all know that that will eventually end in tears or a really upset stomache preventing future consumption of aforementioned chips. 

Here is where I get stuck – in my mind I think “impeccable” has to equal “nice”, when in fact, as a great friend so recently reminded me, impeccable means being honest with yourself about your feelings, and thus the person you are talking to. And honest isn’t always rainbows and roses, but at least the delivery can be thoughtful.

I also realize these imagined conversations require way too much mental energy on my part. It’s almost like I formulate a game plan so I will be able to handle myself in a more impeccable manner then if I were to wing it.  “If she zigs, I’ll zag over here and make sure I say this!  But if she zags, hmmmm, maybe I zig and do this instead….oh the possibilities are endless!”  And then crinkle, crinkle, CRUNCH, CRUNCH – more chips.  I could save myself a lot of headache and calories by just having the actual conversations and taking my time to respond AFTER listening.

I know I cannot control how someone is going to react to my words, but I know that I can control how those words come out. I never go into a conversation intending to hurt feelings, but that is a risk when you are honest with yourself and with your words. If there needs to be more pauses in the conversation for me to focus on impeccability then so be it, I can do the two minute end of the soap opera scene stare with the best of them! So I am off to have those much needed conversations, as soon as I find the phone, which appears to be behind a delicious bag of salt and vinegar chips......riiiiiiip, CRUNCH CRUNCH, mmmmm.