My best buddy Monty, who died ten weeks ago, was expert at tuning into himself – at not doing things that “don’t serve me”. I’m not so good at this, do lots of things that don’t serve me – that if I took the time to ask myself, and had a better sensor for what is good for me, I wouldn’t do. I did three of them last weekend.
I was on a roadtrip. Me and three other guys were headed to Louisville, KY – them to attend the Humana Theater Festival, me to visit my son, daughter-in-law and grandbaby. When all four of us had rendezvoused and gotten in the car, John produced a treat he had gotten for us – four beautiful truffles from the Well Bred Bakery in Weaverville. Had I taken a moment to ask myself what served me in this situation, I would have accessed the fact that I was several days into staying off of sugar. Eating the truffle didn’t serve me at all! Life made this really clear when the cocoa powder that my truffle was drenched in just exploded onto my lap, leaving several splotches of chocolate on my tan pants. There was going to be no way for me to ignore or forget that I had betrayed myself.
If the first instance of my not doing what Monty would do involved letting myself down by indulging in something I had committed not to have, the second instance had to do with denying myself something that I had been trying not to have. We stopped for lunch at a diner that was so proud of their chili that they served each customer a little taste of it before they ordered. I liked it a lot, but did not let myself order it because the beef was probably not “ethical meat” – the cows were probably not humanely treated. Now there are all sorts of snags here: the assumption that the meat served in this restaurant was not ethically treated, the assumption that fish (my usual alternative) suffer less from factory farming than do cows or chickens, the whole concept of “humane slaughter” of animals.
What would Monty have done in this situation? Unless his choice would not have served him – like eating sugar when I have clear reasons to not have it, he would have eaten what he wanted. I ended up very dissatisfied with the fried fish I ordered – and jealous of Patrick’s chili. Could I have known in advance that it would turn out this way? I think so – if I had tuned into myself and asked myself “What do you really want?”
The third situation involved my son and granddaughter – and me letting go of decision-making. My son and daughter-in-law cooked up a plan for her and her mom to take the toddler to the zoo while my son and I would go to a movie – or, actually as it turned out, rent a movie. There was something to be said for this plan – movies are a rich part of our history together. But it was a beautiful spring afternoon, I had a short visit and not too much time to be with the baby – and would have preferred going to the zoo.
Monty would very likely not have allowed this situation to happen. He had a policy of not acting until he got a clear “yes” about proceeding. He said that he sometimes paid a price for this non-action, but that overall it was worth the price. He would have been much more sensitive to plans being made for him that he had not been part of. Monty’s whole orientation towards action was based on himself, listening to himself, and not much based on others. It erred at times towards self-involvement and insensitivity to others. But there’s no question to me that I could use more of it.
“What would Monty do?” will not always lead to the right choice. But not taking care of myself in my decision-making may increase depression – and in these three instances I think that asking “What would serve me?” would have been very helpful.