This morning, I woke up with a kind of sunken feeling in my chest. Oh god, I thought. Another day of this nightmare.
Another day where I can’t do what I really want to do. Where I can’t build my empire of riches on this planet with the people I love. I have to deal with this god-ugly virus thing and its consequences.
I feel helpless. Deeply powerless. It’s a kind of drag just to get myself out of bed. My drug of choice for the last few days since the quarantine began here in Austria has been a tasteful cocktail of the following: porn, online chess, killing zombies in Arizona Sunshine on my VR goggles, more porn (on my VR goggles this time, it’s incredible!), chips, soda, and naps. Sometimes I play so many chess games in a row that I look at the clock and it’s two or three hours later and I wonder where the time went. (Add me “leonwid.”) My eyes hurt from the screen time, a feeling I haven’t had since I was 13 and playing Fallen Haven on my parents’ computer as if there were no tomorrow.
Wow! Every so often I’d drag myself out for a walk to the forest and feel periodically better, but the feeling soon enough would come back.
And then, there’s the shame. How come I don’t know any better about how to deal with this crisis? I spent a f*ckton of time in the monastery, built a multimillion-dollar business, worked through all kinds of crises, sat hours on the meditation cushion, in the therapy room, in nearly every self-express and healing modality I could get my hands on, from Burning Man to sweat lodges to psychedelic drugs, you name it. All as a full-time endeavor for years! And yet, this I can’t handle, and struggle with so hard?
I see people, especially other coaches and spiritual leaders I admire (frantically?) offering community Zoom calls to help others to cope with the crisis. “I should be doing this!” A voice says. I can’t get myself to do it. It doesn’t feel right. This doesn’t seem like what this is all really about. I wouldn’t be doing this from a place of true service, but a sense of shame and cover-up of my own sense of inadequacy and powerlessness and fear. How can I serve people when I’m in that place? It’d be nothing but a Band-Aid and so in-line with my old patterns of saving everyone around me, save being with one person that actually matters to be with right now: me.
Somehow, that’s not enough—not good enough to care about just that one person who needs it the most, because they are off-centered: myself.
So I continue to slog it out, minute by minute, hour by hour. I answer some emails to existing clients, and that feels better. That feels true. Those are commitments that still emit their light of love and service from which they were created, not from fear. Ah, an exhale. My heart drops a little, in a good way, the bracing eases.
I receive a message from someone I haven’t seen in a while. It’s just a link to a podcast episode and a picture of a book, no explanation: “Carolyn Elliott, Existential Kink.” It seems vaguely interesting; maybe I’ll listen when I’m in a better mood. A better mood doesn’t come, I click on the link anyway. A pitch-perfect radio voice guy starts talking, so perfectly that I wonder for a second if this is an automated reading of an audible book. It’s not. Eventually, Carolyn starts talking, I never heard about her. Within a minute, I’m mesmerized. What a woman! I hadn’t heard anyone express ideas about our lives as humans in this profound, yet playful and exciting way. I’m hooked.
There’s one line that completely blows the door off and I’m paraphrasing: “The most dangerous people are not those in power, but the ones that haven’t come to terms with their natural human need for power.” They will continue to act out in passive-aggressive and unconscious ways and hurt everyone around them—including themselves—until they integrate their own need for power.
I’m floored. That’s it. Everything clicks. My childhood, this moment, the virus, so many things slot into place. For the first time, maybe ever in my life, I’m acknowledging to myself, plainly and evenly, that I have a natural need for power over my environment. That I want to shape it, plant trees, go out when I want to, make shelter (more like “make mansions”), offer invitations, turn things down. It’s a relief and it’s a sadness and it’s a disappointment. Disappointment that I’m now not getting away with a life where I was hoping to get everything I need without ever acknowledging my socially unacceptable and often dangerous need for power.
And relief, because I get to drop the old belief, in the face of everything. I’m immediately having the vastest, most powerful surge of energy in my chest and life, bigger than I can remember.
Powerlessness as the doorway to my frustrated need for power. A need that finally sees the light of day and consciousness, maybe for the first time in that intensity and clarity ever.
I join a call with David, a former colleague at Buffer, who I messaged about some help with my website. We have the most incredible, profound conversation piecing all of this together. He talks about the idea of “stacking,” a letting go of our agendas before a call so that we can co-create and stack our inputs in a way that creates a limitless potential of creativity. It’s working. We’re going everywhere and nowhere. We’re recording it. We wonder if we’re on mushrooms (we’re not!). We’re solving the whole equation and nothing at all, all at the same time. We’re exhausted—“Let’s let this ruminate for a bit.” Good call. Much needed. Ruminating around seems like just the thing to do.
But was that really it? Was it about power? It doesn’t seem like it. It was just about the endless quest, sometimes ordeal, sometimes joy, of being with what is. Right here, right in front of us, this moment, then this moment. Always unpredictable, no matter how much we like to calculate it. We can’t, and once I let that sink in, I realize that that is, in fact, the biggest gift.
The powerlessness to the moment that I get to contribute to and shape, but that I don’t get to control. What a fine line, and how easy to cross it in either direction.
I have lunch, I sit down, I write this. And then, in an instant. I’m back. Right here, right now, taking trust in the present and this moment that seemed so scary just a second ago.
I’m alive. For another moment.