22.OCT.2021: Alibis City and the Second Agreement.
I woke up this morning in a rush to get to work. This seemed to hurt my girlfriends feeling because I did not say good morning or take the time to give her a good morning kiss. I think that’s a small decency I can give her rather than being so absorbed in my own perceived problems that I feel like I can rob myself of a good, slow morning.
And that’s what I’d like to write about today, because immediately all kinds of excuses did rush into my mind, and it felt like hours before I had eased the hurt she seemed to feel. We talked about it and we eventually landed on a memory she had of having to have Christmas early every other year because of shared custody between her mom and dad. She also remembers how she would cry in the middle of the night because she was hungry. She was hungry because she wouldn’t eat dinner, and so her father would cook her up to five meals to try and get her to eat. Half-jokingly, I told her that I could never compete with that, and that if we ever had children, none of that would be happening. “Well,” she reminded me, “you have to remember that my dad only had me half the time, and so he really wanted to make his little girl remember him well. Plus, I can’t wait for the day when you have a daughter to see just how firm you’ll be with her when she won’t eat. I’m willing to bet you’d cook six meals or more for her.”
She was surprised when she said this because she said this because tears were rushing to her face and on instinct I told her not to worry, and that I wouldn’t abandon her. This made her smile and it made her cry, and all was right between us. Even so, I felt frustration at how late it had been, at my own inability to just get up and get going when my girlfriend sleeps over, and the old familiar feeling of feeling trapped began to sink in. “It’s already so late!” I heard my mind say, and it began to blame her, and to blame me, and it told me that I would never get the work done that I needed to get done.
Perhaps I should be proud of myself though that I could catch myself in that moment as drowning in the sweet liquor of the mind. I was letting worries about the past, cause worries about the future: “Look how much time has passed, now something bad (you not getting your work done or you working late) will eventually happened.” What I was not doing in that moment was staying in the present. The place where almost nothing was happening, neither bad nor good, and that everything was happening that I could plug into.
Later on in the morning Tati and I bought our tickets to Oaxaca and Mexico City, and arranged places to stay in both locations, so it was far from an “unproductive morning,” however a certain imposter syndrome I suffer with both work and school gives me an old familiar story: that I have to work very hard to earn where I am today.
I love my job. I’m able to use my skills (quite easily I might add) to make a living in a cutting edge field of technology. The hours are great and my coworkers are incredibly kind. The work interests me, too. But as someone who is used to deluding themselves into believing that they are the smartest person in the the room, this position scares me. In a way, nobody can do the specific tasks that I do and sometimes that reality doesn’t fully sink in for me. That in a way, I am indispensable and that I am paying my bills while in grad school. This was exactly what I had set out to do, and exactly what I manifested in my journal before all of this began. And still, I notice the need to be jumpy or insecure about my position and all that I can do here, which only makes the quality of my work and the attention that I can give to it suffer.
The second agreement in the four agreements is simple and impossible: don’t take anything personally. I notice that. both problems listed above (caring too much about what others think and worrying too much about if I am ‘fit’ for my job) come from breaking this agreement with myself. So much anxiety is caused from worrying that I have upset my girlfriend, or wondering what they must think of me at work. I know that my relationships suffer from this and I am less happy for it, and yet day after day I tend to do.
There is a world in my imagination where I do not take anything personally. Where I know that as a human I prone to make mistakes, and beyond that: even some of the very good things I do will upset some or many people, and do not let these thoughts factor into my decision making process. While I was in North Carolina, a huge majority of my decisions were made while trying to make my uncle happy, this led to a deep alienation between the two of us that I hope one day I’m able to step over and not have to cringe every time I think about him. I think I’m getting better at that, because I remind myself that no matter what anyone else does, nobody can force me to do anything. I feel a discomfort when I think about this because like most human beings I LOVE living in a little place called Alibi City.
In Alibi City, your girlfriend makes you give up time for your writing. In Alibi City, the porn website coerces you to open it up. In Alibi city, you had no choice but to not speak up when your uncle used the N word while you where in private, or when he threatened to crush your skull. Alibi city is a great place to live because it provides shelter from the horribly uncomfortable truth that you created most things in your life, that almost all of the obstacles you have not yet superseded in your life come as a result from you creating an adequate plan to conquer them.
There’s a lot to be done about the evils of the systems most of us comply to in everyday life. That may be a consumer economy that is poisoning our Lover Earth, or a society that shortchanges almost everybody but straight WASPS. But I often cringe when people over use these systematic evils as a way to justify their own mediocrity or failure to do the things they set out to do. I recognize that this cringe is inhumane, we are human after all. Nobody makes you take the drugs that are going to ruin your life but still, it would be wrong to think as some people do that the responsibility to not make mistakes exist solely on the individual level. So I’m bouncing between the macro and the micro, between compassion for myself and my fellow sisters and brothers, and trying to hold myself and others accountable.
This gets hard in practice when I plan my day out and it seems like an inescapable maze springs up every morning that I have to elegantly weave my way out of. I know that there are going to be some mornings that I’m not going to be as attentive as I would like to my girlfriend, but on the other hand I felt a voice deep within my chest asking her not to come, that I wanted an alone day to work on my story, and I squelched it. This is not her fault, I asked her to come over, and like a sane, self-loving person she believed that I meant it. And I DID mean it, and I did want her to come over, but I guess I’m still learning how to be honest about how much energy I have for tasks and for people.
I think in the past I might have gotten this far into the essay and given up hope. “How could I ever solve a problem like that?” But I think behaving that way, throwing my arms up and saying “oh what’s the use,” would be tantamount to climbing up a mountain that takes a month to traverse, and giving up after the first night, when it’s time to set up camp, reassess the trail, and analyze how far you have to go.
So I’m ending this essay incomplete, because it will never be complete, but I know that by writing it I am slowly guiding the electrical impulses that rule my reality to notice different and new things. I’m not writing this essay to punish myself or even to vent, I’m writing it to reinforce the second agreement. Taking time to remind myself how beautiful life is when you take nothing personally is part of the training required to no longer take anything personal. Your brain is like a river, and without intentional cannaling and irrigation, it will always flow down, to the point of least resistance. Taking things personally is easy, worry what will happen or ruining your day on a false fear that something bad will happen is very easy to do, anybody can do that.
What you are trying to do is train the water to flow on a different, more useful, more enlightened path. That’s not easy, or at least it doesn’t appear to be. Getting out of your own way isn’t easy, but of course it is. If what I’m saying makes no sense to you that’s because I am not reporting these facts from a place of authority. Rather, as I write these words I’m enlisting the help of spells to create al new reality for myself and, by extension, you. So, I re-make the agreement to take nothing personally, even the fact that this morning I did take a few things personally.