As soon as she said it, I felt my shackles go up and I was immediately jettisoned back to the last time this happened between us. Talking to a trusted colleague, I had a sour taste in my mouth from something she said in confidence. My response was a visceral one: I felt my jaw set and my head fix lower. She spoke to me as a comrade, as someone with whom she’d earned stars and stripes. All things told, it was fine and in no way malicious: a truth I could partially accept as my own.
But it triggered something deep within me: my pride? Old wounds?
I was sent into a tailspin the last time this happened between us. I was deeply perturbed, and sought relief by entertaining possibility after possibility (did she want me to agree with her? Was she testing me? Is she leading me to water but trying to be coy?).
Eventually, I chocked it up to ego. This person’s cardinal sin is her pride, and as hers swelled in the conversation in such a way that my ego was threatened, I slammed in to a fight or flight response. Rather than engaging in the conflict with my friend and comrade, I locked my jaw and sat on the defensive, keenly aware of the freshly drawn line in the sand between us. If she crossed it, I would cut her shit up. I sat back on my haunches and waited.
Except… it never came to that. (Thankfully! Could you imagine?! I try to be a chill person, but when I feel really threatened….) Eventually, I made peace with the moment by “owning my part.” I told myself: “I’m just going to notice my ego response and watch it from over here. S’all I’m doing. Noticing. Just going to notice it from over here. See what happens.” I lightened. Time eventually passed.
So this time, when I felt my jaw lock, I did the exact same fucking thing I did the first time. Haha. It’s like the neural pathway was already lit up for me, so I just walked down the damn thing. (It’s absurd and comical now.) As I drove home tonight, I did that thing where you feel yourself “come to” as you pass through an intersection or round a corner, only to realize that you had been deeply on autopilot for some unknown (and generally ghastly, worrisome) amount of time.
I got home and knew I needed a workout to burn off some of my grueling work week. I thought to myself : I’m tired; it’s this damn Saturn-opposed-Sun transit I’m in the middle of; I’ll feel so much better if I just hit the gym. Feeling tired and gluttonous overruled healthful thinking, so I dipped some pretzels in cream cheese and went about some household chores. I didn’t set up music or light a candle or turn on my diffuser. I just started shepharding items around the house from wherever they were to wherever they were going and I just let the tension build and build inside.
What she’d said had bothered me, true. But by the time I’m finished unloading the dishwasher, the gremlin eating away at my zen and causing me strife has shapeshifted completely and I am now on the brink of questioning my execution, leadership, and attention-to-detail at work. My very fitness for the work, if you will. And for one brief, fleeting, almost-missed-it, squint-into-the-sunlight second, I played the martyr. Me. The martyr.
When I stop.
I take a breath.
I realize: it’s not about her ego. It’s mine.
(You already knew that.)
Yes, but this time, use what you’ve learned and ask.
Yes. Ask your ego what it needs and sit in that space holding all the love you can muster.