For my husband’s birthday last month, I asked my daughter what she wanted to get him for a present.
“A Tesla, of course,” she instantly replied.
(My husband is a huge electric car fan and the Tesla is his spirit animal.)
I told her Teslas start at around $80,000, and she grimaced. “OK, I don’t have that much money. What about a toy Tesla?”
So we went online to check out the official Tesla merchandise. We found the T-shirt in that photo up there. I ordered one in my husband’s size and waited for it to arrive.
When it came, it was the wrong size.
Damn Tesla, they screwed it up! I immediately thought when I saw the “S” on the tag.
I brought it upstairs and hid it in my closet until I had time to go in to my email, look at my receipt and see what the return process was.
A day or so later, I looked up that email. In fact, I had ordered the wrong size. Oops.
You ding dong! You screwed it up!, my ego piped up when I realized what had happened.
For a while, I resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to buy another T-shirt in the right size to give to my husband. Mind you, these T-shirts are made of organic, Peruvian cotton and cost $40 before shipping. I wasn’t psyched about the thought of purchasing another one. The cost of two of these T-shirts would make a nice contribution to a Tesla savings account, you know what I mean?
Then I told my husband what had happened. I held it up to myself to show him how small it was. He said, “Ooh, that’s a sexy shirt.”
Then I got it. His present is getting to see me wearing the Tesla t-shirt. I mean, he can’t see the shirt when he’s wearing it. Plus, he gets a visual reminder that I support his dream of owning a Tesla (they just released a more competitively-priced version today, as a matter of fact).
I wish I could promise you that it’s possible at some point to stop blaming, judging and beating yourself up. It’s just not the case. Those unpleasant thoughts are still going to come up—you can’t eradicate the ego anymore than you could permanently shut off your capacity to love. It’s part of being human.
What you can do is learn to let those thoughts be for long enough that you immediately accept them as some sort of truth.
The Tesla t-shirt story is a pretty mundane example, but the process of getting from petty to peaceful is the same in any situation, no matter how big—you notice the thoughts, you resist the urge to sink your teeth in to them, they recede and a new way of looking at things becomes possible. It’s a process that you can bank on. It is real.
The flip side of all this is that hanging out in those judge-y, blame-y feelings is, at some level, a choice. It may be a subconscious choice, but it is still a choice, nonetheless. And while it may feel righteous and momentarily awesome to identify those feelings, they will ultimately wear you out. Because judging and blaming (two very human traits, mind you) disconnect you from some very important things—other people, empathy, peace, and love.
Next time you hear that mean voice in your head, just notice it. Even if all you do is briefly wonder if maybe there’s another way to look at the situation, you’ll be making a choice to do something different about your oh-so-human tendency to judge and blame. And that is the start of wonderful things—all because you chose to interact a little differently with your thoughts.
Remember, the choice is yours. =)