You Are Not Your Missed Alarm

I couldn’t get to bed early enough the other night, so I decided to sleep in. Instead of waking up at 5:15 AM, I canceled my two normal alarms and instructed Alexa to rouse me at 7:00. ⁣

She dutifully complied. At the appointed time, I sighed contentedly, stretched, and luxuriated in my bed. I let my head sink back into the pillow for just a few minutes, feeling deliciously decadent.⁣

Okay, time to check in. “Alexa, what time is it?” ⁣

“The time is 8:05 AM.”⁣

I bolted upright. HOLY SHIT. I had a Focusmate session scheduled at 8:00 AM―an online coworking appointment. That meant that someone somewhere in the world had been waiting for me and was now working alone, instead of in solidarity with me.⁣

I crashed out of bed and mashed the power button on my computer. While it whirred and muttered about its own rude awakening, I threw on a t-shirt and gym shorts and splashed some water on my face.⁣

When I logged in, I was relieved to see that I’d been matched with Steve, a cheery avuncular fellow that I’ve already done a number of morning sessions with. We touched base and I apologized profusely. He laughed and went back to work and I excused myself to go fill a mug the size of a small hot tub with steaming coffee.⁣

While I was preparing it, I noticed something strange: ⁣I felt happy. Like, really happy.⁣ I was late, but I wasn’t beating myself up about it. I was a good guy, happy to be here, and I just happened to be late for this one session. It wasn’t a moral failing. It did not portend disaster and dissolution and moral decay. ⁣

I was just late this one time. I’m normally not (at least for Focusmate sessions. Date night, that’s another issue, as my longsuffering partner will attest.)⁣ If you had been witness to the inside of my unforgiving head over the years, you would know what a revolutionary shift this represents.⁣

Part of the recognition was spurred by a lovely podcast I had heard over the weekend by Rob Bell, one of my favorite observers of this life of ours. The episode was called “Is This Your First Accident?” (Link in the comments.) ⁣ In it, Rob describes being involved in a minor fender-bender after picking his young daughter up from school. He was TOTALLY at fault. But he didn’t make it any bigger than it was. A moment of distraction, some minor dented metal. ⁣

Because he wasn’t busy freaking out and beating himself up, he was able to be exquisitely attuned to his daughter’s experience and also to the driver of the other car. That is, by taking care of himself, he was able to take better care of everyone else.⁣

We are bigger than the things that happen to us. We are bigger than isolated moments of less-than-perfect action. It reminds me of meditation: one goal of the practice is to insert a pause so that you don’t over-identify with and get lost in the trance of what’s happening in your life. To cultivate The Witness behind the hubbub.⁣

So, listen up. You are not your missed alarms. Or your fender-benders. Or your broken china, or your cheat meals, or your rejected novel. Or that argument with your spouse or your impatience with your child this morning or the tear in your stocking or the wonky test result or your stood-up date or your ugly wallpaper or the weedy garden or your empty bank account or your conditional exam pass or your schedule blown-all-to-hell or your chipped tooth or your tyops I mean typos. ⁣

Don’t globalize them. Don’t make them metaphors for your life. Don’t surrender your precious value to them. You don’t have to judge them (and yourself) in order to take effective action to change them.⁣

Beating yourself up is an activity, a pattern, a habit. It’s not an “objective” assessment. It’s just a way to kill time―your time, the only time you’ve got.⁣

Don’t you have better things to do with it?⁣⁣