dating Matthew and other terrible ideas

Dear Ones, 

Hellooooo there!  It's lovely to connect with you on this spring day.  Since I last wrote you, things have been happening.  I asked someone out (and got rejected), I was called "a beast" during a coaching consultation (which was both intended and received as a compliment - LOL), and I approached the building managers where I live about starting a meditation group for residents (which looks like a go, but we'll see).

My ego has been freaking out.  Can you imagine!

Hang on for a sec, though - let's slow things down.  I'll begin with a casual definition of terms. 

When I say ego, I'm referring to the self of an individual person, the "I":  the conscious mind that mediates between the external world and the internal one.  As in, I am JulieI am writing.  I love cheddar cheese...I mean, kale!

Culturally the ego gets a bad rap, but actually it performs a very important function; it's the part of our psychic structure that prioritizes our survival.  In other words, the ego looks out at reality, takes note of all the potential threats to our safety, and then decides which of our desires can be expressed without exposing us to risk.  For example, it helps me know that swimming to Alaska or skipping a rent payment or walking to Pike Place Market in my underwear would all be, um, dangerous. 

This is a valuable service.  We need our egos.  As my mentor jokes, "Don't leave home without it!" 

The problem with egos doesn't lie in the ego itself - it lies in us.  You see, we are far, far more than our egos.  We have quicksilver minds that can actually observe the ego at work.  We have bodies that can tell us quite clearly when we're off-track (even if that track is ego-approved).  We have - or perhaps, we are - the deep self, the soul, the exhilarated part of us that is connected to all beings everywhere through all space, time, and dimension, the part that loves children and puppies and ice skating and hugs. 

The problem with egos is letting them run the whole show.  The ego wants to run the whole show, to be sure, but that's actually not the only choice available.  It's a popular choice, a culturally-approved choice in many ways, but it's most definitely not the only one.  If we only allow ourselves to do what the ego sanctions, then we slide slowly into a small, numb (and numbing) life featuring more of a hemmed-in quality than any significant measure of joy or freedom or delight.

I know because I have been there.

So, please know this:  there is nothing inherently wrong with your ego.  Your ego, like mine, wants money and food and acceptance and power because those things ensure survival.  And that is enough, as far as the ego is concerned:  have plenty of resources, be invincible to attack, and all will be well.  Your ego is simply doing it's job. 

But I have learned to put my ego in its place.  As I've written before, this part of me is the C.O.O. - but my deep self runs the show.  Ego helps me evaluate potential risks and analyze possible decisions, but my deep self has the final say.  My deep self - my soul - is the C.E.O., and I expect to keep this model on a permanent basis. 

How about you?

To assist in answering that question, I'll share with you a conversation that happened inside my head for about six years.  (Yes, SIX YEARS.  That's super embarrassing for me, right?  Oh well.)  Ready?

EGO:  You can't quit your job.  You're too old to start something new, plus you know nothing about business.  What if you fail and waste a bunch of money that you really don't have? 

SOUL:  I want to do my real work, and the money doesn't really matter. 

E:  But everyone will think that you're crazy!  You've worked so hard to get where you are - you can't just throw all of that away.  You're basically flushing your graduate degree down the toilet! 

S:  Pursuing money and status doesn't seem to be working very well.  I want to be happy.

E:  Happy?!  Just relax!  Have a glass of wine!  Take a beach vacation, buy yourself those new shoes, just BE happy now!  But don't you dare quit your job. 

S:  I've tried all that, thanks.  It's not good enough.  I really want to do my real work. 

E:  You are signing yourself up for disaster.  This is the worst idea you've ever had except for dating Matthew in 1999.  Think of all the friends and money and respect you're going to lose! 

S:  Okay, I do agree about Matthew.  But not the rest - because I'm okay with losing some money, some friends (if that's really how it goes), and the respect of others.  Because you know what?  I will gain SELF-respect by facing these risks and choosing to do my real work.

E:  Wow.  {Shakes head.}  I thought you were smart.  What happened to being a responsible grown-up?  What happened to doing the right thing?  This is mere childish indulgence - what makes you think you deserve to be soooo happy?  Who do you know who prioritizes their happiness over paying their bills??!!!  We both know that you'll be happy when you're promoted and when you've got enough money in your accounts and when the people in your life actually like you.  That's more than good enough.  Then you can relax and do whatever you want, so PLEASE,  just hang in there.  It's really not that bad.

NOTE:  This is where the conversation used to end.  But eventually, here's how it ended:

S:  {Exhales.}  I hear you.  And I do get the risks involved here...and I'm willing to live with them.  But it's time for me to do my real work. Finally.

Want to read that conversation again?  Go for it, and try inserting your own circumstances.  Or write your own (hello, classroom teachers!).  What terrifies and scandalizes your ego?  What does your soul keep insisting on despite the protestations of your ego?  Which part of you appears to be running your show?  And, what, if anything, wants to change? 

Much love,