the other day - an hour drive from my home - a man with the same-time appointment as me was already there. The acupuncturist asked why I was there and told me I didn’t have an appointment with him. He said there was “no way” he would have booked that day/time, as the man who was there flies across the country for his appointments, which he books months in advance. Then he told me that our appointment was a week from that day/time, and I’d made a mistake.
At home, I looked at my desk calendar and saw that I was going to be out of town on the day he said I made that appointment. I remembered conversing with him about the appointment that was mine that he didn’t think was mine; I had my calendar in front of me then as well. There is “no way” (I thought) that I’d make an appointment with him for a day when I was going to be away. You’re wrong, I said to him in my aggrieved mind. You owe me an apology. You double-booked yourself and now you’re blaming it on me. And anyway, why don’t you confirm your appointments in advance, by email or telephone? Do I have to do everything myself? How can you even call yourself a health practitioner, you irresponsible, lame-brained fuck up. And—I don’t like those Hawaiian shirts you wear.
Huff puff. Rant, rant. The reactive mind at work.
By the next day, there was a teeny crack in my self-righteousness. I realized that it was impossible to figure out whodunit. Maybe it really was me. Maybe I wrote it down wrong. But I still secretly believed it was him and I wanted payback: a session for free. Flowers. Mea culpas. Prostrating at my feet and asking for forgiveness. Like that.
By this morning (the next day after the next day), when Matt and I were talking, I heard myself getting on the “I’m right-you’re wrong” horse. The need to defend myself. The need to be right. The way being right scratches the itch of that poor little self who is flailing around trying to look good, be smart, prove to anyone who wants to listen how right she is about anything, everything. (Its favorite phrase is: You’re the one who…)
And then I started asking myself what being right (and someone else being wrong) does to my body. How it feels in my chest. My nervous system.
The answers: My heart hardens. The other is my enemy. My blood races, my nervous system is on high alert. Brittleness abounds. It’s me against the world. Everyone who has ever done anything to me that I didn’t like, anyone who has ever hurt me, rejected me, didn’t chose me, funnels into now.
The short answer: it feels awful.
For a long time, I didn’t realize it felt awful. Even the other day, as I was huffing and puffing about the missed appointment, it didn’t occur to me that I was causing myself pain. Being right used to feel so good. I felt as if I had to fight back. My life depended on it. It felt like I was speaking up for myself, telling the truth, not letting myself get pushed around. Letting go of my position felt like falling off a cliff to which I’d been hanging by my fingernails.
There are the facts: the acupuncturist had another appointment at the same time as “mine.” A double-booking occurred. He couldn’t see both of us. I drove home. The whole shebang took a few hours, not to mention—I can’t even begin to figure that out—the ranting time.
Now what? Do I replay the story again and again? Think of what I should have said to him? Will say to him? Demand an apology (for something he is convinced he didn’t do)? What purpose will be served by my insistence on being right?
If my priority is ease, relaxation or an open heart, if I want to climb out of the ranting mind, here are my choices: I can ask him to have automatic email confirmations. I can decide to stop seeing him so that this doesn’t happen again. I can decide to confirm my appointments with him in advance.
But before all this, there is a turn without which the rest is just blather: the willingness to turn towards that little tough fighter part of myself with tenderness. It got me this far—I survived--and that’s good. Now it can put down the sword because there’s a bigger girl in town: presence itself. That which can hold the fighter-girl.
In love and with tenderness, anything can dissolve because love is all it ever wanted anyway. With love and without judgment or blaming myself for being self-righteous, I can let my insistence on being right dissolve. (As long as I blame myself for ranting or calling him a fuck-up, even in my own mind, I pick up the right/wrong sword again, but now it’s internalized. I start fighting with myself.)
Without that (external or internal) fight, what’s left?
Answer: No huff, no puff, no rant. No positions. Nothing to defend. The willingness to see that, as my friend the contractor says, “Shit happens. Mistakes get made.” And in this case, the worst that happened is that I spent a few hours driving on a bright summer day.
What else is here? A soft heart. A relaxed nervous system. Open space like a cloudless sky. And although many people would consider that nothing, it sort of feels like everything I ever wanted.