Follow Up Friday: What is your favorite worst feeling?

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , , , , ,

Follow Up Friday is a new series where I check in on the questions and issues that I introduced on Tuesday's blog.
As I continued to examine this question throughout the week, I found myself sort of hating my personality type.  I actually got mad at it, like it was this other outside organism (which it sort of is).  Saying things in my head like: why can’t you be happier with where you are?  What’s wrong with you?   You’re missing out on life, you know.  These kinds of thoughts, I realize, are not helpful.
One of the reasons I love the Enneagram so much is that it is not about changing who you are.  It’s not about being some perfect specimen.  It is about shedding light on your automatic patterns, your default perspective.  When you shed light on these patterns, then you have a choice.  This is the awareness piece in any spiritual practice.  You can either remain a victim of your old methods of existence, or you can choose a new way of seeing things.
What comes before gratitude and after awareness is acceptance.  As my teacher, David Daniels says, when awareness gets too far ahead of acceptance that’s when you have discord.  So casting back on that night where I had a conversation between my Inner Guidance and my Habitual Mind, I was missing the piece of acceptance.  I was trying to force myself to the gratitude step. 
So, what I’m planning on practicing is acceptance with compassion and curiosity.  My therapist has an analogy that I think is very fitting.  It’s like having a new bud planted on your windowsill and urging it to instantaneously blossom into a flower: Grow!  Grow!  Grow!  It’s an absurd idea, so why do we do it to ourselves? 
The next time my mind casts back to yearning for the rose-colored past, or gunning for the idealized future, I hope I can get curious and with compassion discover why it is I am leaving the present moment.
Let’s continue this conversation!  If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave them in the comments below or email me.
Have a lovely weekend!    

Divine Forgiveness

by Elizabeth Newcomer in , , , , ,

"To err is human; to forgive, divine."

 - Alexander Pope

           Wednesday night I was working at my restaurant job, waiting tables.  I had been off for several days, and in those days my boyfriend and I had visited my family in Charlottesville, and I had a belated birthday celebration with eight of my girlfriends.  I was ready to get back to work and I was also ready to be a little more disciplined.  After having spent the majority of the summer, indulging in wine and rich foods, my jeans no longer fitting comfortably, I was also ready to go on a healthy eating regimen.  My boyfriend, Michael, and I decided we would do without alcohol, the beloved sugar in our morning coffee, and eat more whole grains, greens and lean protein. 
            So, Wednesday, we began our new diet, I went to therapy in the morning, I took my first run around Central Park after a long time, and on my subway trips I was reading Helen Palmer’s The Enneagram.  Now, back to my serving shift.  I had focused on so many things that day, trying to change big habits in one fell swoop (I’ve never been good at baby steps), that by the time I got to the restaurant I could barely see what was in front of me. 
            It started as awkwardness, so stuck in my thoughts I was, that when I would try to speak to the guests, it came out fumbling and flustered.  It was a very busy night, with 300 guests on the books, so I told myself, “Liz, you better get your sh*t together!”  I did and I went into turbo speed.  Obsessed with pushing forward out of this unfocused, awkward state, I did my job and others jobs (helping open dozens of wine bottles, running people’s drinks, clearing, and remarking, and taking orders).  This is not to say other people weren’t doing their jobs, they were, but it was a busy night, so we all needed to pitch in.
            In the hurricane of my forced attempts, when I went to put in the order for a table of four as three lobsters and one halibut, I put instead three halibuts and one lobster.  This may not sound like such a big deal, and in the grand scheme of things it isn’t.  But, when the kitchen is trying to churn out over 300 meals, that mistake can set them majorly back.  It’s a domino effect.
            There was a surge of heat that filled up my body.  Burning tears brimmed at my eyes.  I was furious with myself!  How could I have done that?  Where was my head?  (In the clouds, for sure.)  I went to the table and took the blame and apologized profusely.  They were lovely, assured me that it was not a problem, the two couples had not seen each other for eight years and they were enjoying catching up.  I told them, “I don’t know what happened.  I am known as the waitress who doesn’t make mistakes!”  Promptly, the older gentleman said, “I make mistakes all the time, everybody does.” 
Wow.  That stopped me dead in my tracks.  He was right: everybody makes mistakes.  I realized that I had been so hard on myself, pushing myself and pressing myself further, that I had worked myself into a tizzy.  I slowed down, apologized to my manager and chef, and tried to get through the rest of my shift as gracefully as possible.
The next morning, on Thursday, I sat down to meditate.  When I asked my heart for a word, it said “forgiveness.”  It was the perfect word I needed to hear.  In the Enneagram, we all have different foci of attention.  As a four, my Focus is on what is missing or what I lack.  It is incredibly easy for me to see all the ways that I am deficient or not whole.  I can also go to my resource point of One, whose attention is on improvement, and seeing things as right versus wrong.  Under stress, I go to Two, whose attention is on meeting others needs (and as a byproduct neglecting one’s own).  Once you understand your Enneagram type, and where your focus of attention naturally goes, you have a choice whether or not to play out that fixation, or have some distance from it.
It is easy to not forgive yourself if you are in the grips of your personality.  All you see is what is not measuring up.  It’s as if you have the potential to see the world from 360 degrees, but instead all you see is 40 percent of it.  When you are able to take a step back, you can see more clearly the whole picture, and like the glass is both half-full and half-empty, there are more ways than one to see that picture. 
Forgiveness is an incredibly hard concept to grasp and put into practice.  Forgiveness implies grace, self-awareness and self-acceptance.  If we can forgive ourselves first, we can certainly forgive others more easily.  Seems like a worthy pursuit, doesn’t it?
What ways are you hard on yourself?  How do you forgive yourself?  What type are you and where does your focus of attention go?  Please leave a comment so we can get this conversation going!  And feel free to share or like this blog with friends!