Since waking up on June 26, I move so fast and talk so fast that sometimes people – even a very close friend like Tom Kilby – assume that I have lost all my filters. But that’s not true – I’m just very fast. My psychotherapist Jenna said it the other day: she didn’t say “You’re really speedy” or “You’re manic” – she said “You’re very fast” as in “for a 73 year old”.
There’s a difference between “fast” and “manic”. There are actually a lot of differences, but one of the main ones is that when you are “manic”, your filters truly are down. You mostly have lost the capacity to “leave it out” – or even the will to do so. Leaving it out is mostly not on the screen. It’s not a value to you.
But “leave it out” is a very big value to me. My friend Bobby Baranowski really captured it two days ago in the Earth Fare cafe, after I had told him a couple of wild-and-wooly stories of me flaunting the risk of a physical altercation with another man – and, on the other hand, one particular instance where I chose to not “get into it” with a difficult (and genuinely disrespectful) physician.
Bobby said, “So on the one hand, you have the value to let it rip.“
He coined the “let it rip” for what I had been using words like “freedom”, “spontaneity”, and “self-expression”. I like “let it rip”better than all of those.
He went on, “And on the other hand you have the value to leave it out.” “Leave it out” is an expression that Bobby had just heard from me – I have been using it a lot, for several weeks now.
When I “leave it out”, I make a conscious choice to not do something I was about to do – maybe am very close to doing – but which I assess might not be helpful. I may have had a real head of steam going – I was being spontaneous and expressive in ways that were fun and satisfying – and still choose to stop, to interrupt my own spontaneity.
Thich Nhat Hanh, for a wonderful four years my meditation teacher (mostly at long-distance), encouraged people to practice “stopping” – as a chance to drop out of the ongoing flow of behavior and activity, and get back in touch with who you really are. All manner of things can serve as a cue, a reminder, to stop:
- the ringing of a bell, including a doorbell or the telephone
- before you answer the phone, take a breath, get back in your body, clear your mind of whatever else you were just doing – so you can be really fresh and show up completely for whoever presents themselves on the other end of the phone call.
- a red light when you are driving
- rather than be frustrated or angry about being stopped, be grateful to have your momentum interrupted. Yes, it’s a stop light – and it’s good to stop.
When I “leave it out” – when I stop myself – it gives me a chance to “ground myself“. I breathe deeper. My mind slows down – or may genuinely get quiet. I feel my feet on the floor. I crave this – I know that I need it. I have always tended to be in my head, in my thoughts: that has always been my tendency and that tendency hasn’t gone away just because I “woke up”. I may have popped free of so much of the baggage that goes along with being an Enneagram 7, but I still have some of the tendencies of this “head type”.
I am so determined to practice “leaving it out” and “grounding”, that I have come up with a playful little acronym for it: GLMF. I will tell somebody – a close friend or almost anybody – that I am practicing a traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation technique, which in Tibet they call “Grounding like a mother-fucker”. I get a big kick out of including the word “grounding” and the words “mother-fucker” in the same sentence. It brings together the grounded, meditative value of “leave it out” and the wildness of “let ‘er rip!”
is an awesome friend and a believer in and cheerleader for my “waking up”process – but also a prime proponent of me practicing as much grounding as I possibly can, lest the wild energy of my new freedom sweep me away. He says, “I know what you are like when you are manic from when I lived with you for three years. I didn’t like that much – it was disturbing to me. This is not that. I think this is the real deal – but I’m afraid it might somehow go awry.”
Tom will come by my cash register from his work in the Grocery Department, further back in the store – make the amazing instant connection that is his trademark – and say “How you doin’?” And when Tom asks you “How you doin‘?”, he’s not shitting around – he wants to hear some kind of real answer. And oftentimes the answer that for me is most genuine also gets to be so satisfyingly wise-ass: “Grounding like a mother-fucker!”
Just a couple of days ago, I was working at a cash register directly across from Puppy – a “bookkeeper”/supervisor who was filling in as a cashier because we were short of them that afternoon. Puppy and I have a great relationship with each other – we tease each other all day long. Yet he still is a supervisor and is tasked with coaching us cashiers – even one who is forty years his senior.
The store was very busy – there was a significant line at each cash register. My trademark is that I strongly engage my customers. I play with them and encourage them to play with me. And I also know the value of keeping the line movin. More, I think, than any other cashier, I am able to chat with the customer and efficiently swipe groceries at the same time.Sometimes, if the line is long or I am getting cues that the next person in line is impatient or in a hurry, I keep my eyes focused down on the groceries – even though I am pretty sure that doing this does not really improve my speed – but just to fully get it across that I am focusing at least as much on the work as the conversation. But keeping these poles of connecting and getting the work done is an ongoing issue for me with myself and with management. So the following interaction with Puppy inevitably carried a charge, even as I leaned into the humor of it.
I knew, from the playful way Puppy gave me the following bit of coaching, that he was not fully serious – but actually still a little serious. “Majo.” I look up at him. “I want to see more of this action” – miming the swiping of groceries. I did, honestly, get just a little bit defensive: I thought “Geez – can’t you see that I still am swiping groceries? Just because nobody else seems able to really make strong interpersonal contact and stay efficient doesn’t mean that I can’t do it!” So I managed to find a response that included that little bit of this defensiveness – and also the playful quality that pervades my interactions with Puppy:
“I’m swiping…I’m totally swiping…I’m swiping like a son of a gun!” Now “son of a gun” is really not the way I usually talk. Puppy knows that – and the wry smile that appeared on his face told me that not only was he enjoying the playful way I was pushing back, but that he knew the words I had specifically chosen to “leave out”. He knows how I like to talk with him and the other staff when no customers are not listening. He knew that I really meant “I’m swiping like a mother-fucker!”