Okay, here we are in August of 2017.
The Dow, S&P, NASDAQ, and my company’s stock are all at or near record highs. From the looks of things, I have plenty of money (or quick, liquid equivalents) in the bank.
At the same time, my job isn’t going great – I’m the dumbest guy in the room, and the other folks are all about half of my age and seem to do nothing but work and sit in traffic (they are Californians). So any day they are going to fire me, and I’ll be sitting on the sidewalk selling pencils in a jar.
At the same time, I’m 58 years old. Males in my family don’t live long – they fall over dead.
So I would think to myself (and I do, several times a day) “Self, this would be a great time to cash out and head to Mexico; with what I have now, I could get a nice little condo on Cozumel – just a few blocks from the beach, from the meeting house, and from the square – and I could put up a hammock on the back porch and nap. I’d be able to run and bike, I could swim at the Alberca Municipal, go to meetings and dive.” (I’ve got a pretty good connection for reasonably-priced scuba). “Ethel’s enjoying her job and is at the top of her game, so I could just be a househusband and dog daddy”.
That’s what I think to myself, several times a day – and Self, unsurprisingly, always agrees with me.
However – and equally unsurprisingly – Ethel does not agree with me. She just flat won’t do it.
She’s so mean and selfish!
The Big Book says “Selfishness – self-centeredness. That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” And it’s correct – obviously, Ethel’s selfishness is the root of my troubles 🙂
Okay, okay – no, that’s not what it means. But it’s amazing how quickly I can see selfishness in somebody else without seeing my own.
But the important thing is this – I have no idea whether or not Ethel’s refusal to sell everything and go to Mexico is actually selfish or not. But I do know this – I can never see selfishness in anyone else unless their actions or attitudes are somehow interfering with my own selfishness. My ego can only bump into other egos.
So I have three simple rules –
1) If I spot it, I got it.
2) If it makes me mad, I’ve got it bad.
3) Just because I think I see it, doesn’t mean you have to be it.
- I can spot a lot of things, often fairly accurately – say, active alcoholism, or binge eating, or grandiosity or laziness. I can spot them, because I’ve got them.
- Active alcoholism and binge eating, though, don’t bother me when I spot them. I’ve got those issues, but the have been dealt with and solutions found years ago. But grandiosity and laziness? Those I still suffer from – and I can be very short-tempered and unforgiving when dealing with folks who I believe to have the same defects. It’s only the things that still trouble me in me, that trouble me in you.
- However, I can spot these things in others even when they don’t suffer from them– but since I do have these problems, and feel guilty about them, I want to see them in other people so as to make other folks guiltier than I am, and thus see myself as ‘better than’ they are.
So Ethel may, indeed, be working at a much higher level than I am – she may be working with God Himself to save me from myself; she may be holding out for a better life that we might have together, later, instead of bailing on all responsibility now and heading to Mexico.
But one thing is for sure – since I see her as causing me a problem, that means that I have a problem, and if I have a problem, that means that I’m not seeing things correctly. So as long as I’m irritated that Ethel won’t run off to Mexico with me, I shouldn’t be trying to run off to Mexico, because the irritation itself shows me that it’s my selfishness at work – and my selfishness never does me any good at all, but only causes me (and all those around me) troubles!
So now my path is clear – I need to reach a place where I want to go to Mexico, but I’m not upset that Ethel won’t go. Then we’ll be free to go.
However, I’m not sure that I can get there while I still want to go to Mexico, because my ‘wanter’ is the problem, after all. So now I’ve got to stop wanting to go to Mexico, so that Ethel can then decide that we should go.
Whew. I’ve worn myself out 😉