I have been working with doubt and choice and agency lately. I posted this on Facebook last week, and it got reposted/liked/commented on hundreds of times - so I know it is not just me.
Most days I give myself the choice to do nothing. Fuck it, I think, when my Bluetooth keyboard won't connect with my computer, when the coffee goes all over because I didn't set up my aero press right. Small frustrations threaten to pull me way off course.
No matter how much privilege and access we have, life often feels brutal, boring, irritating and too hard. But because I have privilege and access, especially to powerful, life-affirming Buddhist teachings, I know I need to keep going.
I take a deep breath. Feel the minor frustrations and real crippling suffering of all human beings. I step back, go for a walk or write, and come back and do it again.That's what I am doing right now - writing this to remind myself. I have a lot to offer. It is worth it.
To myself: Don't shut down and watch TV all day. You've got this. Take breaks, snuggle cats, eat chocolate. But keep going. You've got this.
I don't want to live in the place of "I will do it because no one else will, no one else can" - the martyrdom of victimhood. I want instead to choose, even if it feels like a choiceless choice. Even if I know I am the only one who can do it, I can still choose to do it - or choose not to. The fact that I am doing it means I have made a choice, but being aware of the choice and acting on it helps me to feel empowered and see my own agency, heretofore something I was blind about.
And, as is so often the case, the people I am working with are working through these issues, too. These quotes are from a writing client. They are part of a response to an email where I insist she is the only one who can do this project and that she needs to recognize her confidence and choose to do it: "Doubting myself there adds real suffering that I can't afford right now."
What a brilliant statement of agency and ownership. To realize that doubting ourselves is a luxury, and one most of us cannot afford. At the end of her message, she notes:
I was at a concert the other night, where the musicians just played their hearts out, and I thought, imagine what I could do without the added layer of self-doubt and fear? So much simpler, and fun!
Easier said than done, but yes, simpler and more fun.
You may say this is all mind games. But it isn't. The fact is I am going to do my work and she is going to do hers - all of us will do what we need to do, or not. But how we do it, and the view we keep in mind about our importance and significance, can make the difference between misery and satisfaction.
These are subtle layers of resistance.
These layers are for folks who aren't likely at risk of not doing what they love, but growing to resent doing it because they forget - we forget - why we love it. And this kind of work takes daily check-ins and reminders. Every day since I posted that Facebook post - a week ago today - I have reminded myself that I have a choice. Lots of choices.
Choosing has helped me to doubt less. Agency is empowering. Let's take it where we can.