Archives for posts with tag: the four agreements

What a waste of emotional bandwidth! Getting mired in taking something personally, and becoming frustrated, sorrowful, disappointed, or angry… to what end? It’s rarely “personal”, and even when it is a willfully inflicted slight or insult of some kind… it’s not really personal. Those things say more about the person who delivers the insult than the person it is directed towards. 🙂 I remind myself to let these things go.

I am rereading the Four Agreements; a worthy starting point on any journey of self.

Have you taken time to brush up on The Four Agreements? A compact and worthy read. I come back to it something like once a year or so. 🙂 I reset. I brush up. I begin again. It’s a good starting point.

I sip my coffee, and feel the house fill with lovely pre-dawn breezes. Soon enough it will be time to go to work, begin a new week, and move on to other moments. For now, this moment right here is enough. Lovely, peaceful, quiet. It is a pleasant morning for new beginnings. I smile, and tuck the books I am reading this week into my backpack: The Four Agreements, After The Ecstasy The Laundry, and a selection for the office book club (the title slips my mind because I have no emotional investment in that, just a commitment). I am enjoying how much more time for reading I have, after giving up social media. 😀 I very definitely missed reading, for years, and the sensation of having “no time” was crushing – I love to read. Funny… I don’t miss social media, at all. 🙂

I look at the time… the weekend is definitely over, and it’s time to begin a new work week, and a new moment. 🙂

My view of the meadow, covered by morning mist rising from the marsh, is obscured by condensation on the window, left open during the night. My view is obscured by my perspective. Something to think about, generally.

Low mist on the meadow before sunrise.

Sometimes I have to change my perspective to enjoy the view…

Today my traveling partner [figuratively, metaphorically] becomes my literal traveling partner, headed to a favorite festival. I smile every time I think about him enjoying himself there. I come back to the thought frequently; I enjoy his joy. 🙂

I caught myself getting caught up in the news… the usual horror and tedium, frankly, and fairly dismal. Getting mired in it does no one any good, and doesn’t change things. I can change only those things that are precisely and specifically changeable by me. It’s entirely a worthwhile endeavor to be the best human being I can, without bothering with the day-to-day stress and drama of comparison, or competition. Yeah, life?  It’s so not a competition. What a lie I’d been sold there! When I allow myself to be distracted by how well you are doing, or how well that famous person over there is doing, or how well a motivational speaker suggests I could be doing, or any number of other frankly revenue-generating (for someone) bits of bamboozlement, I lose precious time on my own authentic journey. Sometimes the journey is difficult. It’s mine. Sometimes the journey is a disastrous maze of detours. It’s mine. Sometimes the journey is fraught with confusion, sorrow, or anger. It’s mine. Sometimes the journey is delightful, joyful, and fun. It’s mine. My journey to make on my own terms; I am my own cartographer, having my own experience. Sure – we’re all in this together, and that matters, too. Still my journey, on my terms, in my own time – and similarly, yours belongs to you. We don’t gain much when we try to use someone else’s map… and we lose a lot when we’re sold on someone else’s destination. Just saying. Do you.

The mist begins to lift, the sky to lighten. I hear crows discussing their plan for the morning. I see the earliest hints of autumn in the trees on the far side of the park; shades of yellow and orange beginning to show in the summer green foliage.

Today is a good day to wish the world well, and my traveling partner too; each of us having our own experience. Each of us on our own journey. Today is a good day to be authentic, genuine, and also the very best of who I am able to be. (Each of us doing so would change the world.) 🙂

What do you suppose is the ratio of positive to negative feedback you receive? How about the ratio of encouraging observations, versus critical observations? What about the number of compliments you receive, versus the number of insults or mean remarks? Or the ratio of kind and compassionate interactions versus the number of judgmental ones? Do you feel life’s stings and papercuts more often than love’s kisses? Is the result worthy of the enduring effort? Isn’t “love” an emotion produced by verbs (a whole lot of verbs!) (and chemistry) which results in more of all the good stuff, less of all the rotten bullshit human primates are capable of flinging at one another? So… what are you personally doing to improve the ratio in each and every relationship – or interaction?

Sometimes it’s hard not to just sort of stomp around feeling exceedingly criticized. There is an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well, and I quickly find myself overloaded with a “self-improvement list” so long I end up wondering if my existence is holding back world progress. I’m also pretty good at some stuff; generally that seems much less relevant or noteworthy. (That observation gets a sentence now and then, the rest gets a fucking blog all its own.) I remind myself of two very important pieces of understanding that don’t change much, however ‘picked on by life’ I may be feeling:

  1. Criticism is basically just a very poorly worded request.
  2. Agreement #2 of the Four Agreements – Don’t Take Anything Personally

Generally, if I can hold those two understandings in mind when I am feeling particularly criticized and beginning to feel devalued or angry, I can more easily ask a very important question, “what is this person/situation really asking for (what is the unstated need), and how can I reply gently, while best meeting my needs over time?” Remember that bit about ‘an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well’? Yep. Here we are; I need more practice. I’m struggling not to take things personally, today. I keep practicing.

To be fair, I woke from a troubled restless sleep this morning to immediate decision-making that went mildly awry. In the moments of disappointment that followed, the nightmare I’d had returned to my thoughts provoking painful emotions, a feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness, that seemed supported by the morning thus far. Not only that, I was in pain. I was in a lot of pain – still am – more so than usual. At this point, I’ve taken all the steps to manage it that I know, and I’m mildly sedated, which doesn’t really improve my experience in a wholesome way; it definitely slows my thinking and dulls my reactivity. I earnestly need to spend some time alone, and spend some time creatively. I’m struggling to figure that out – partly it’s the pain, but partly it is this peculiarly plaguing sense of feeling criticized, and the way that feeling sort of ‘weighs me down’ emotionally, and stifles me creatively. It was even hard to write this morning.

Today I am finding communication difficult. Simple answers to clear questions evade me. I struggle to make sense of the context of questions or observations, resulting in mystifying misunderstandings. Everything sounds too loud… I am tempted to wonder if that’s the pain, or the TBI, or… truth is, it doesn’t actually matter; what matters is learning to comfortably state the simple need in simple terms, gently, safely, as an honest request for support – and sometimes for change. Yeah, I’ll just go right ahead and add that to the very long list of ‘an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well’ and I’ll get right on that, too, also, as soon as I can – that’s even sincerely meant. I literally do try my best to actually improve on each and every fucking minute detail of some weirdness or other that doesn’t fit my idea of comfortable emotionally safe socially productive interactions…every moment at risk of being so vigilant of my ‘failings’ that I end up feeling chronically self-conscious and anxious. It’s a delicate balance, and honestly – I mean to treat myself much better than I often do. I am only easily able to treat people dear to me as well as I treat myself… so… it matters greatly to ‘get all this right’. Yeah – that’s a ludicrously high standard to hold oneself, and it is a set up for failure, internal criticism backed up by acceptance of external criticism – real or imagined – with the painful outcome of anxiety, conflict, emotional self-harm, relationship sabotage… blech. Drama and bullshit.

I can do better. I do some days. Today is not a great day for me on a couple of levels. The pain and my sound sensitivity are physically difficult, and drive the emotional volatility and loss of balance. I can’t imagine ‘my happy place’ – and I’m standing in it.

Here’s the thing about improving my emotional ‘golden ratio’ though; it’s not actually about what I hear from other people, or how they see me, or the feedback they give me. It’s very much about whether or not I ‘drink the poison’. It’s about my own choices, and about how I feel about the woman in the mirror. If I am being that hard on me, it’s even more difficult to take care of me when someone else is hard on me, too, or I have to deal with a shitty day, or a lot of pain. There really are some great practices to fall back on. Meditation. Yep. Still works. It does work best to actually do it. Most practices work that way. Getting enough rest is a great practice – and I didn’t. So. Yeah. Mindfulness… ooh, I like that one so much (it’s so hard though…); it helps me stay aware of myself in this moment, and helps me be more compassionate with myself. I really am in that much pain – it makes sense to show myself some kindness. On and on I go. One practice, and then another. One moment to consider some observation that serves me well, or another: perspective, mindfulness, sufficiency, adequacy, worthiness, compassion… I keep at it.

I do hurt… and I’m okay right now.

It is a very quiet morning. The keyboard ‘sounds loud’. I park my mechanical keyboard and opt to use the soft quiet keys of my laptop, typing with the most delicate touch I can manage. I am alert and a bit sound and light-sensitive today, and recognize it is something to be aware of as the day wears on. I don’t often get such a good opportunity to get ahead of my issues this way. I even have a good idea what the drivers are, this morning. Hello, PTSD-as-residual-of-domestic-violence. It can be a complicated experience.

I am not surprised that I am faced with managing my symptoms; my traveling partner is spending a great deal of time here, struggling with his own challenges, needing more than usual emotional support, frustrated, hurting, and understandably angry with the use of emotional weaponry in another relationship. It’s too easy to let his anger, the emotional experience itself, resonate with me; he does not ‘deserve’ this, I often find myself thinking. While that’s true (I mean, who does?), it’s counter-productive to providing emotional support. I practice listening deeply. I practice compassion. I work on finding a comfortable balance between soothing the hurts, and providing requested input without making it about me – this is sometimes complicated by my reliance on metaphor and comparison to similar experiences I’ve had to gain understanding or clarity. I keep practicing. I definitely need the practice. This isn’t mine to ‘fix’.

I began re-reading The Four Agreements. “Be Impeccable With Your Word” is most specifically the agreement I am reading, although… it’s the first one, and I’ll read the entire book. I am re-reading it for a refresher and deeper understanding of the first agreement, “Be Impeccable With Your Word”. I think of other experiences in life, other relationships, and of finding myself on the receiving end of some angry accusatory tirade in which some practice or way of thinking, recommended in the self-help aisle has been launched against me as a weapon. I remember also a tense, peculiarly cathartic sight of  young, angry, 20 -something, literally throwing a self-help book at the face of a partner in a public argument – a public moment of a human being lashing out directly at another human being physically – screaming “it’s a self help book, you asshole!” I had almost burst out laughing with understanding. We can only ever work on ourselves, really.

Being impeccable with my word, The Four Agreements makes clear, is not about ‘telling the truth’ precisely, or about ‘keeping promises’ either, well… not only those things. It’s vastly more complicated, subtle, and nuanced. It is a favorite practice of mine, and my own understanding of it is as a fundamental statement of mental and emotional purity, as in ‘don’t fuck with people’s reality, and especially don’t do that on purpose’. Lying counts, so does misleading someone with great care through choice of language or use of misdirection. Explicit expectation setting on which there is not intent to follow through is also a failure to be impeccable with one’s word. Then there is name calling, beratement, judgement – yes, even that; the things we say to people can cause them great pain. We all know it. Sowing discontent is another way to undermine the impeccability of our word. Mean jokes, too. Even just being irritable and cruel. Yeah…basically, the idea is that language is a powerful shared tool for human primates akin to actual magic. Being impeccable with my word is a practice intended to keep me on the path of treating myself and others well. (I may not say out loud the words I use to/about myself, but those count too.)

I breathe through my increasing irritation about how my traveling partner is treated in another relationship; I can’t fix it, and it’s not mine to fix. It’s hard to be on the sidelines watching someone use their words as weapons against someone so dear to me such that he is further hurt, further tested. I contemplate my own similar experiences, the choices required to take care of myself. I know there are verbs involved, and that it is a journey with many choices. It’s hard to watch, though. I find myself puzzled why more people don’t recognize that they are crafting their own hell-on-earth with the way they mistreat people they say they love – hell, the way they treat people generally. Sounds a little judgmental when I see the words hit the page. I return my thoughts to my own experience, my own actions – things I can affect directly through my choices. I am human. I can do better, myself. I observe in moment of cynicism, that this is one of the great challenges in a human life; I acknowledge I can grow, change and do better – a lot of people do – and then there are others, seeing that acknowledgement and replying through their own choices and actions ‘you go right ahead working on you, thanks, you owe me that and I’m not changing shit myself, so… yeah’.  It’s a thing. It’s frustrating – and more. Still… this is my own journey, my own path, and although there is immense power in the words used aggressively or wickedly by others, I don’t have to drink the poison. I can choose differently.

I hear the wail of the morning train not so far away. My cup is empty of even the last cold swallow of coffee. I feel the chill of the room sitting in a soft cotton camisole and wondering where I left the sweater I chose to wear to work. I feel a moment of gratitude that my traveling partner has such a good heart. It is a lovely quiet moment, this one, filled with opportunities to embrace the best qualities of my experience, and build my day on that foundation.

Today is a good day to walk my own path, and use my words with care, kindness, compassion, and awareness. Today is a good day to listen more than I talk.

Today is a good day to walk my own path, and use my words with care, and compassion. Today is a good day to listen more than I talk.