I’ll shoot the motherfucker!

If someone is about to kill my child – even my now 45-year-old child – and I have a gun, I will shoot the motherfucker dead. Without hesitation: in a heartbeat, without doubt, without regret, without guilt. No trauma, no nightmares.

Now, having established for myself that I’m capable of this level of violence – that, if in my estimation the situation calls for it, I am willing to kill another human being – then what else am I willing to do if the situation calls for it? I think this is a pretty good bit of research for us to undertake. Where are my gaps? My blind spots?  What could I not bring myself to do?

I have actually been undertaking this research with a vengeance over the last few months. Now that I have become a new person who doesn’t have a lot of the hesitations – the self-consciousness, the reservations, the need for approval that I used to have – just what am I willing to do? So I have been experimenting: from being not-nice to someone in a Facebook exchange to threatening physical violence out on the street. So far I have not had to back up that particular stretch with an actual fistfight, but I have been oh, so ready. I have been like aching for it.

In one situation, I screamed a guy off a street corner when he was menacing my friend Diana. She was scared after the fact that this bigger guy would’ve come over and beat me up.  I told her that in that very special state I was in, there is absolutely no question in my mind that this 73-year-old guy would have taken him.

So you may be clear that – be you male or female – you are not really ready for a fistfight on the street.  But I heartily recommend that you notice yourself in various conflict situations and check out what you think you are capable of.

This story goes right up to the margin of how far I have recently taken aggression in these various experiments of mine.

In my early 20s, when I first started my personal growth journey, I realized pretty quickly that I had over-all been really too nice a guy – that if I was to have any personal freedom in this world I had to expand my range of personally acceptable behaviors. But, after 50 years of pushing the envelope towards being less nice, I was until four months ago still almost universally regarded as being a nice guy.

Not so much now. There is a widening network of people who now would not be so quick to describe me as a nice guy – even if they would also say that I am capable of many nice behaviors. Some of them really like the changes I’m going through. Some of them are fascinated – maybe even approving, but a little wary. My friend Harry said “I don’t mind you getting angry at people – I just don’t want you to do it with me.” And then two hours later I did. Get angry at him. Yelled loudly at him – threw my baseball cap in the bushes. And he didn’t like it – and he handled it.

When my friend Joe said to me “I don’t think you’re really very different now”, I told him the story I attached above. After hearing the story, he said that apparently I had become someone he no longer recognized – and that he wasn’t sure that he any longer wanted to be my friend.

The other day on the phone I was talking with my friend Louis, who I’ve known for about 35 years. We had not talked for about six months – pretty much our usual frequency.  (When I go back to my hometown Chicago, we always get together.) Louis seemed to be doing a very good job of listening to me as I was describing the changes I was going through and seemed very approving of it. Then, however, I challenged him directly about something he said. 

“Why, every time we talk, do you once again tell me that I really need to make it over to Cades Cove?  It’s pretty clear to both of us by now – maybe four years into this pattern – that I am not going to do it any time soon. Why do you keep doing this?  What’s up?”

“I just think you really would enjoy it.”

“No, that’s not all it is.  Every time you bring it up, you lay this trip on me that I really ‘should’ do it.  I’m tired of you ‘shoulding’ on me.”

He said “I think I like the old you better”. 

Earning the disapproval of a 35 year friend obviously is a price to be paid, but if the trade-off is to trade up to a bigger life, a fuller life, a more vibrant life – a life where you trust that you are being used by something bigger than you, that is teaching you how to be in the world – I’ll take that deal any day of the week.

Published by Majo

These days all of my identities are converging: whether I am offering a blessing in the grocery store checkout line, offering a prayer in a poem or experiencing the kinship with all life while walking my or a client's dog - it's all the same. It's all Life.

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