Monday, November 22, 2010

Don't take this personally

I love my job but it’s tough to work when my mind is elsewhere.

I’m worried about D. Good news is, she finally made a therapy appointment for next week; she’s realizing she needs help, and although she’s dealt with many deaths before, she still needs to deal…

There is this book we’ve had around the house for years that we both try to follow the teachings of: The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. Although much of it is based in spirituality, he does not force his on you, and the teachings are wide-spread and relatable. 

Number 1: Be impeccable with your word
Number 2: Don’t take things personally
Number 3: Don’t make assumptions
Number 4: Always do your best

Some of these might seem easy to do, and sometimes it is easy to follow through on a promise. But some times, after a long week of work, even though you’ve told a friend you haven’t seen in three years who is coming into the city for one night that you will meet them, it’s easier to suddenly not feel well, or have car trouble, or get the dates mixed up… just because.

One of don Miguel’s thoughts is that when we take things personally, this is where deep insecurities in the form of invisible scars are affected. He suggests that when we get on someone’s nerves or hit a sore spot, we are ripping scabs off. This is what I think is happening to D. Not that anyone is ripping at her, but that old scars are being reopened with every new death.

I have a director at work that makes me work very hard at number 2: don’t take things personally. I know I do a good job, and I know I’m very good at what I do. I am often complimented and acknowledged for my skill, though if my director is stressed out, everything seems to be my fault – any little *bad* thing (no matter how significant the GOOD thing is) that happens, whether it is a misplaced comma or a 6-month project being half an hour late, that’s more important. And then my director focuses on me, because I suppose it is easier to put blame on me when perfectionism is their only goal.

I’m often reminded of the “it’s not you, it’s me” cliché, which I pretend my supervisor says every time I’m blamed for something out of my control. Perhaps it is because I myself am a bit of a perfectionist, and blame myself anyway… so the added blame is a bit of an overload. Anyway, number 2 has always been tough, but I’m working at it. 

As for me and D, I am not taking anything personally… how can I? I am being impeccable with my word and following through with everything I can do to support her. I have made no assumptions about her actions, and I am doing my best: as a partner and a friend. All the while trying to be a lover.

This summer when we had a big blow-up, I read don Miguel’s The Voice of Knowledge, where the author reminds readers of a profound yet simple truth: The only way to end emotional suffering and restore joy in living is to stop believing in lies - mainly about ourselves.

This book accompanied me to my little cabin in the woods that I went to for 5 days as I reflected on myself, trying to make some sense out of all that was going on. If you ever need to forgive yourself, this is the book to read.

D read The Mastery of Love, and it changed her life. I know that’s a powerful statement (she agrees), but it came to her at the right moment. It’s on my list of things to read.

I guess this post comes down to this: we need direction. We need outside help when we can’t help ourselves, our situations, our loved ones. I know too well the people I lost when I was seriously ill because they felt too helpless, and that they blamed themselves for not being able to “fix” my mental illness and to suddenly make me sane and happy again. I lost a lot of people because I couldn’t make that happen myself.

When things are deep… and things right now feel deep… sometimes it’s necessary to reach out to things you know can help.

Today, I will do my best. For me, that somehow always seems like the easiest of the four agreements to follow.


  1. every day, every single day, all you can do is your best...b/c almost every thing else is out of your control. So, GO YOU for choosing to do your best :) Great post! :) I'll have to check out that book.

  2. Wow - this is a very timely post for me. I can't wait to get my hands on that book. Thank you!

  3. A+K - absolutely. Thank you for your encouragement.

    Kara - I'm glad the timing was right for you.

    For both: The book (and his other books) are quite cathartic. I totally encourage you to read this one.