Stu (you know, my voice to text software) is driving me up the wall so this post may end up with no punctuation. I’m just saying.
And since I can’t write, and since not being able to write is messing with my head in the biggest way, I’m going to tell you a little story and maybe it will have a point and maybe it won’t.
The preface that is not a preface
Actually, I’m feeling the need to preface this story with a bunch of disclaimers and hedging and what Stu would call “Bolsheviks”.*
But I’m not going to. Even though that’s kind of driving me crazy too.
*“Bolsheviks” = “bullshit”. Stu is obsessed with Commies. Also he hates foreigners. Which is total Bolsheviks. Damn you, Stu. You know what I mean.
The beginning of a story
So I’m probably fifteen or sixteen. It’s winter. It’s early in the morning.
I’m bundled up in my gigantic winter coat with its enormous pockets and I’m rummaging in a kitchen cupboard to grab a granola bar or something right before I run out the door.
And if there was any thought at all in my mind it was probably something like “oh crap, I’m going to miss the bus.”
Then a day or two later I stick my hand in my pocket and discover a bottle of vanilla. Like, vanilla extract that you would use in baking something. Cookies. I don’t know.
It was the world’s biggest mystery. I came up with about a thousand theories, each equally ridiculous, before it dawned on me that I’d probably knocked it into my pocket with my elbow or something while poking about in the Cabinet.
Don’t capitalize Cabinet, Stu. This isn’t a damn political treatise.
The middle of the story.
I thought it was pretty hilarious that I ended up with a bottle of vanilla in my coat pocket, so instead of just putting it away, I shared the story with my mother. Having forgotten momentarily that you absolutely never know how she’s going to react to basically anything.
She was not amused. In fact, she accused me of having stolen the vanilla for the purposes of getting drunk on the alcohol content or the fumes or something. And of lying about it.
Since a) that would’ve been crazy, b) it never would’ve occurred to me and c) if I’d wanted to get drunk (which I didn’t, ever) I could have raided their huge, untouched “liquor cabinet”*, I didn’t know what to say and just kind of gaped at her.
*By liquor cabinet I mean random bottles gathering dust after being given to my teetotaling parents as unappreciated gifts, and no, I never did that. I may have been young and stupid, but that wasn’t my particular flavor of young and stupid.
The conclusion of the story.
You want a conclusion? I’ll give you a conclusion.
Actually, I don’t have a conclusion. But speaking of conclusions…
Jumping to them, man. It’ll get you every time.
I could give you an absurdly high number of examples of ways we screw up stuff in our relationships, in our business, or in our interactions with ourselves. But how about just one to start with?
Someone recently left my Kitchen Table program because she felt like she didn’t fit in with all the “nice people” there. She thought she wasn’t nice enough.
If she’d told me that before she left, I could have introduced her to some of the meanest, bitchiest, funniest people I know — people who also happen to be members of the Table.
They’re right there to be jumped to.
The important part.
It’s practically a universal spiritual truth that we know nothing about nothing.
I mean, so many traditions talk about these moments.
The ones where you realize with terrifying clarity that everything you once knew to be true is …. well, you’re not sure, but it’s definitely not than the way you thought it was.
You realize that wisdom is what happens when you acknowledge a lack of knowledge. Like Socrates, you catch a glimpse of just how much you don’t know. And how what you do know is in flux. Because things take many forms.
“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.”
Socrates knew about assumptions. And questioning them. And how much they suck. That one’s not a direct quote.
Point is, the things we know feel so true and steady and certain at times. When actually many stories can exist simultaneously, yet all be equally false. Or true.
And there is a certain degree of stability in this too.
Things that are hard.
Oh, lots of things.
It’s hard to stop and ask “What did I just observe? How do I feel about what I think just happened? Could I be wrong?”
It’s hard to distinguish between WEAR and TEAR. You remember, right?
WEAR = What Everyone Agrees is Reality
TEAR = The Ego’s Arbitrary Reality
But enough about reality and the different shapes it can take.
Even without knowing what is real and what is not, even without knowing enough to know that not knowing is its own form of truth… it’s the assumptions that get us all tangled up.
If I could give only one piece of advice to someone feeling stuckified (whatever particular shape your own situation takes) it would be this:
Get a second opinion. And then a third one. You know, poke at your assumptions and conclusions and see if they jump. Or if it was just you.
It’s the hardest practice I know of. The one I like the least. But what the hell. Maybe that’s not true either. Poke.