How much of your life do you spend trying to be a better person, a perfect person?
What are the costs of doing so?
Last week our beautiful 16-year-old cat named Guinevere – that’s her in the pic above – went into kidney failure. We admitted her to the Sunninghill Village Vet, a truly amazing and loving group of people who take care of sick animals. She was on a drip for 3 ½ days and struggling to eat and looking frail and vulnerable and we felt so sad and helpless at her pain and at the same time so much love came pouring out of us for this dear soul whom we have loved for so many years.
She came home for another four days but just wouldn’t eat and the only option was to kiss her goodbye and send her into the next world.
Kidney failure is very common in cats and the real problem is that they only start to show symptoms after 75% of their kidney functioning has gone.
So here’s the issue.
About two or three weeks before we admitted her, she was starting to look a little bit thin and frail and her behaviour changed in some ways. We attributed this to the fact that she was very old rather than there was any particular illness. We have a Vet who lives in our estate who came to see her and she said that Guinevere needed bone supplementation because of arthritis.
We all missed the issue of the kidney failure.
So the possible thought arises, “We should have admitted her to hospital three weeks before we did, which might have saved her life! That makes us bad and uncaring.”
The point is we could have, but the reality is that we didn’t.
Maybe she would be alive today if we hadn’t made this ‘mistake.’
But is it impossible to live your life without making mistakes and if it is impossible then you are crucifying yourself when you make a mistake that has negative consequences.
To lovingly allow yourself to make mistakes and to know that sometimes they will have drastic consequences and sometimes small consequences and sometimes none at all, is the teaching.
Have you ever noticed how much time you spend in judgement about the ‘mistakes’ you’ve just made, which are irrecoverable?
Your kids get very sick. You think that you should have taken them to the doctor sooner, but you didn’t because you thought maybe it would go away and you didn’t want to spend the money and it’s time-consuming.
There was a sound coming from your geyser but you weren’t too sure if it sounded like a problem and again you didn’t want to spend the money on the plumber so you waited a couple of days and then the geyser burst and flooded your home.
You impulsively made an investment which lost you money.
You were in a rush and dropped something, hurt someone, fell and broke your leg or your arm.
You got over excited about a business proposition and it failed because you didn’t think it through carefully enough.
You bought some expensive item and it didn’t have the functionality you wanted and your intuition told you that the salesperson didn’t know what they were talking about but you didn’t ask for an expert because you didn’t want to offend them!
Generally speaking you think you should be married, straight, have two kids and a solid job and great income…that makes you ok. Anything outside of this you consider to be a ‘mistake.’
You have been married and divorced, perhaps like me, more than once and you think your’re not ok. Maybe marriage isn’t there to make you happy, it’s there to teach you about yourself. Full stop!
Do you know how many times in your life you have jumped a stop street or red traffic light by ‘mistake’ because you were in a terrible rush and nothing happened? How many times your kid got sick and you gave them painkillers and nothing happened they just got better?
We Are Not Machines
The bottom line here is that we are not machines.
We are imperfect.
Life is imperfect.
This is part of the beauty and joy of it.
Some years ago there was a wonderful advert for National Panasonic and the punchline was ‘the quest for zero defect.’
Wonderful for a machine – but for a human being!?
I have been a psychologist for 35 years and people often ask me if I don’t get tired of listening to people’s stories of pain and suffering and of course sometimes it can be a little bit draining but largely speaking the uniqueness of every human being that I see makes my interaction with them, well unique and inspiring!
It is this uniqueness of our personalities, the ways in which our spirit shines through the subtle and not so subtle qualities of our character that makes these interactions for me, just extraordinary and it is those same qualities that reflect our vulnerability and fallibility that define the magic of who we are.
If we had no imperfections we would be characterless, carbon-copy-cookie-cut-outs of some template made somewhere in some mythical heaven, bland and lifeless, devoid of our unique and magical sparkle.
I have these wonderful light-hearted interactions with my partner Suzie around this issue.
Sometimes she will say something judgemental about herself and smiling, I wag my finger in her face and I say, “Don’t you say nasty things about my girlfriend!”
We both laugh and it’s a beautiful interaction.
I worked with a client recently, a young boy of 18, who had a myriad of physical and emotional challenges in his life. Abuse and illness and difficulties in relating to others. He was immensely suicidal at times and life for many years had not seemed worth living to him.
Yet he had this truly fabulous sense of humour. Despite his agony, his humour was quite delightful to experience, the look on his face when he would make jokes, very dry and cynical but oh so funny and oh so clever.
Very often our imperfections, which lead to making ‘mistakes’ can have devastatingly beautiful consequences.
A Great Case Of Mania
One of the best mistakes of my life was created out of mania. Mania is of course exaggerated happiness. It is an illusion and a lie. It is a fantasy that is out of control.
Here’s the story.
I was sitting in one of the many John Demartini workshops that I attended about eight years ago and was really over the top manic, sitting there with my laptop googling all sorts of references that Demartini was talking about and I manically and ‘irresponsibly’ saw a subscription to a magazine called Shift, that I instantly fantasised was the best thing on the planet and in that moment I just had to have it.
My credit card was out in an instant and the R400 purchase was made without any due consideration or thought – I’m sure you’ve had the experience!
A few weeks later the first edition arrived and it was totally boring and the next month, the same thing and the following month, this empty experience was repeated and I’m telling myself I’m such an idiot for buying the subscription so impulsively, so manically… until the next edition arrived and there was an interview with Adyashanti.
It changed my life.
Instantly I ordered his books and started listening to his audio downloads from his website www.adyashanti.org
I discovered a method of meditation and a spiritual path that I had been seeking for decades.
Out of mania emerged transformation.
Of course mania can cause chaos and the benefits aren’t always easy to see, but I recommend that you just start looking.
We just don’t know what blessings and creativity will come from our ‘mistakes.’
People often say that they have learned a lot from their mistakes.
What I recommend is not just looking at one or two things, but really going into detail, to understand the learnings, because those learnings, leveraged into the future can make a mistake look like a tiny pinprick in the distance compared to their value into the future.
Rational vs Irrational
So much of the time we are trying to be more rational, but everything is double sided.
You will never get rid of your irrationality.
As hard as you try the irrational will follow the rational.
You might be very careful with money and then an irrational investment or splurge will follow.
You might eat healthily and an irrational binge will follow.
You might be very careful in relationships and an impulsive disaster will follow.
The human realm is double sided in every respect.
Embrace your irrational side, it’s not going away.
In the same way as rational and irrational are inseparable Siamese twins, so too are chaos and order.
We tend to resist and resent times of chaos and long for peace and order.
Frank Sinatra sang a song about Love and marriage, going together like a horse and carriage. It goes on. You can’t have one without the other, so too it is with chaos and order.
What is also interesting is that we get bored with too much order and long for change and then it comes, but not in the ways we wanted and so we resent it.
I have been working with a client recently whose business partnership looked like it was falling apart. I received a text message from him this morning saying that it had fallen apart and he was “gutted.”
He has previously said to me how he had wished that he had not made the mistake of getting into the partnership in the first place and yes, perhaps it was impulsive in some ways and not well thought through enough, but part of the magical quality of this man is his tremendously energised and emotional creativity. He has an extraordinary capacity to engage in a vital, dynamic, authentic and deeply spirited way and I’m not sure if he has honoured this quality in himself.
The downside of these qualities is that at times he will let his emotions get away from him and yes, we’re working on that, to learn to modulate them and manage them better but the blessings of his magic are profound, deeply so.
He’s not valuing his strengths enough and not embracing the imperfections inherent in them enough.
My intention at our next session is to help him to see, in detail, all of the learnings from the ‘mistake’ of getting into the partnership and to see how they will benefit him mentally, emotionally and financially in the future.
I also want to help him to see that his life will continue to be littered with ‘mistakes’ and that there is no problem in that. When he does this, he will be embracing his humanness.
When he does this he will no longer be gutted.
Mistakes Are Double Sided
‘Mistakes’ don’t always appear to have positives, sometimes they are hard to find, but if you look hard enough, you can find the blessings that emerge from the pain and the honouring of your imperfections.
In the immense sadness of Guinevere’s passing, what was truly a blessing was the love and caring shared by so many friends, the incredible love and kindness and professionalism of the people at the Sunninghill Village Vet, they even delivered a most beautiful pot plant to us – see the pic above – after Guinevere died and the wonderful closeness that Suzie and I experienced around the whole experience.
It is really interesting how the loss of a child impacts a marriage. It simply highlights the difficulties that are already there. In some instances the relationship gets better!
There was also the relief of not seeing Guinevere suffer any more!!!
If you reject your imperfections, you will judge and resist and resent your life, other people and life in general.
To embrace them with love and delight is to embrace your life and this world.
If you would like to pursue any of the issues raised in this blog in a face to face or Skype consultation, please contact mail me at email@example.com.