I wanted to post these Lessons from 10 Days of Self-Help. When I was in Chicago with my sister, we gave each other a yoga retreat, right in the apartment, while the girls were napping. We’d talk about life, where we were, and we came to the conclusions below.
I finally feel like I’m anchored here, like I can remember what happiness feels like. I don’t think you ever really know when you’re happy, but you know afterward. Every day I wake up, and think: was I happy yesterday? And I answer: yes.
It’s mainly because I’ve been following the path my sister and I talked about.
1. If you can't do it from a place of love, don't do it.
2. There are only ever really two options: do the dishes or don't them. (See below.)
3. Let it go.
4. No regrets.
5. Tell people how you really feel. Don't try to small talk if you can't.
6. If you don't have anything to say, just ask how others are doing and really listen.
7. Nobody is bad at yoga. Just like nobody is bad at anything else in life. Someone just may not have practiced a pose enough yet.
8. Practice makes perfect, or however that famous Buddhist guy says it. [“Practice, and all is coming.” Sri Pattabhi Jois]
9. Get rid of useless stuff that just drags you down in life. Each thing you own is one more thing to worry about.
10. Take care of yourself. Treat yourself kindly. Do not harm yourself.
11. Don't be scared to try the next difficult step, in yoga, and in life. You can't fail.
12. Quiet your thoughts. Let them drift by.
13. Don't try to do a million things at once and fit as many activities and achievements into a period of time (be it five minutes or a lifetime) as possible. Meditating, even amid the chaos, is just as important as getting stuff done. Often it is more important, because it allows you to know what must be done.
14. Peel off the band-aid. Admit you have a mouse problem. Or a rat problem. Or a lice problem. Or an alcohol problem.
15. Procrastination is fear.
16. Don't agonize about loading the dishwasher, doing the laundry, sweeping the floor. Do it or don't do it. Then you can do yoga.
Here’s the “do the dishes or don’t do the dishes” story, courtesy of festivus.net. (Click for the original post.)
I read another story that I’ve been trying to keep in mind when I get crazy angry about all the unfair things. The story was about a woman whose husband no longer drank, but was still what they call a “dry drunk” — still exhibiting all the symptoms of alcoholism, just no longer drunk while doing it. And she began to exhibit the symptoms of a dry drunk’s wife, still trying to control him, make him behave the way she wanted, believing it was his behavior that caused their unhappiness, and if she could change it, everything would be better.
She decided that things would be better if he took more responsibility for household chores, so informed him that he would now be doing the dishes from now on (this is called: setting yourself up for disappointment). The first night he was supposed to do the dishes, he just got up and left the house after dinner. She called an Al-Anon friend in a rage, explained the situation. “And so now if I do the dishes, he’ll think he doesn’t have to!” she said. “So don’t do the dishes,” her friend said. “But then the dishes won’t be done!” “So do the dishes,” her friend said. “But then he won’t!” “So don’t do the dishes.” “But they have to get done!” “So do them!”
Eventually she realized that these were truly her only two options. Should they be the only two options? Were they fair options? Those questions don’t really matter, because they don’t change the fact that those are the only two options. The third option, “Fix my husband,” doesn’t actually exist, but putting all your energy into it provides a great distraction from reality, and a great scapegoat for your problems. “If only he would do the dishes,” instead of, “If only I would stop trying to force him to change in order to fix my unhappiness.”
I think about that story a lot, whenever I get into a rage. I try to simplify my options. My co-worker, for example. Goddamn, I hate her. I hate that she asks me questions. I hate that she does her job wrong. I hate that I have to clean up after her… hey, wait a second. I don’t have to clean up after her. But if I don’t, then the work won’t get done! Then clean up after her. But if I do clean up after her, then she just keeps getting away with it. Then don’t clean up after her.