Where's the Beef?

There are so few things that are in my control. When the world feels scary and spinning and deeply uncertain, or, worse, when the certainty feels hideous and horrifying, I will find some small thing that I can do. Often, it is something wholly unrelated to the problem at hand; taking up running, quitting coffee. The important thing is that it is an action I can take.  But sometimes, I am able to take a small measure of control over something that is relevant.

My house is very small, and so my ability to store food is limited. The price of groceries right now is, frankly, terrifying; I need dense animal proteins to maintain weight and muscle mass, and those foods are expensive and require freezer space to preserve. The last time I felt that my material survival was under this level of threat for a sustained period of time, I ended up with a life-threatening illness and watched my savings go to zero just to keep the lights on.

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But through creativity and community support, I was able to find a way to purchase a couple of whole animals from a local farm and store the meat in their freezers, and I've taken great comfort in knowing that, at the very least, I have that in the bank. In this one small way I have been able to exert a little bit of control over a situation that dances the edge of terror.


Just kidding.

I got an email right before bed from the farmer. My freezer died and the meat is a total loss, and most of the remaining stock is already spoken for. The expenditure over the summer that was meant to carry forward into the next several months will no longer do so, and as fuel prices inevitably climb again and the abhorrent and anti-human energy and agricultural policies deliver their death-blows to supply, I'm lying awake at night anticipating what's coming.

But sometimes a funny thing happens on the way to the pity party. With no one to blame, even in the most superficial sense, for this and several other inconveniences of the very recent past, I lay awake and inquired into the proposition: God should stop screwing me over. Inquiry, drawn from The Work of Byron Katie, is a fairly simple process; deceptively simple, because, when it hits the place where the pain really is, it is truly annihilative. A massive  burst of energy is released, you move forwards and backwards in time, the laws of physics appear to go sideways.

God should stop screwing me over.

The first question to ask is, is this true? But the initial proposition is absurd on its face, and demands second question in response: Is God screwing me over?

Of course not. How could that possibly be the case? How could there be a cosmic malevolent will exerting any influence over my life? When did I get that important?

But let us proceed.

How do I act when I believe the thought, God should stop screwing me over?

If I'm being screwed over, then I'm a victim. The implication is that I am entitled to some measure of comfort that derives from outside circumstances, and any infringement on that must be someone else's fault or else a function of my own failures; either way, I take no responsibility. And if I take no responsibility, I am not in a position to be of service or to bring any light into the world. So whether my tone is positive or negative, there's no power in it, and then my message to those around me is that they must not have any power over their lives, either, because God just screws you over and there you are.

Without the thought, God should not screw me over, who do I become?

I am in charge of my reactions, I am owning my feelings, I am allowing things to wash over me without denial or bypassing or attachment. I am in this moment knowing I created the conditions for it and am receiving it as a gift, even if the full extent of that gift feels like the opportunity to experience painful emotions and practice not reacting.

What might be true in place of this untruth?

Whatever I am experiencing as being screwed over by God SHOULD be happening. This may be true, it may not be true, but we refer to the above - which of these people do I want to be? The victim, the dead weight, the person without agency? Or the woman standing under the waterfall, singing or weeping or shaking my fists, as the flow of life passes over and around and through me, and being cleansed in the sacred stream of this sojourn in the material realm?

Let it be true, then, that what I experience should be, in this moment, experienced by me.

Was I wise to plan ahead? Was I foolish? Is there a lesson here?

I think the lesson is this: don't be deceived that your actions to control the future are any guarantee that you have done so. You can put all your energy into keeping an eye on the freezer, and then the generator fails in the middle of the storm.

Some days I'm in that storm, and some days I am in the world washed clean after it passes. But I am never, ever, being screwed over by God.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to make a stop at the butcher.


(Keep an eye on this space for the next installment of the paid-subscriber-access tutorial, where we dig into a few more remedies on our way to a practice case-taking and analysis!)

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On The Case Part 2.