A Slice of Humble Pie

So, last night, flush with the synchronicity and flow I had experienced on my trip, I decided to work a little bit of that magic on my own behalf. I said to the people giving me a ride to the airport, “Let's hold that I get upgraded for my red-eye tonight and have a solid sleep on the plane.” They agreed to hold that intention, and I walked through the airport in a state of calm, positive anticipation.

An hour later, I was seated in the worst seat on the plane: in the center seat of the back row next to the bathrooms, sandwiched between a very large woman wearing too much perfume, and a large man with long elbows. Epic fail!

My first response was just to chuckle at my hubris. The universe is capricious, I thought; or maybe the Trickster spirit is serving me a slice of humble pie.

Or (as I always like to add for the sake of those readers who imagine that I am a simpleton and the thought has never occurred to me), perhaps I am merely projecting meaning onto a random universe, and that the “epic fail” was just a reversion to the mean.

It was only several hours after my arrival back East that a third explanation occurred to me, an explanation that rang true in my bones. I realized that all the magical moments of this trip, and many of similar nature I recalled from the past, happened when I was in a state of service to something beyond myself I cared deeply about: the miraculous ride to Oakland, for example, so that I could speak there. In contrast, the seat upgrade and a few other things I'd asked for that didn't materialize were not so aligned.

Wait! You might protest that a good night's sleep is certainly aligned with my larger purpose; after all, I can't do my work effectively if I am exhausted. I told that to myself too, as part of my growing acceptance of my need to be well-nourished so I don't burn out. Yes, I accept that in principle, but do I really believe it? Do I really feel deserving of it?

When I reflected honestly on what I was feeling, I had to admit to mixed motives. Certainly, partly I wanted to be good to myself, to nourish myself, to accept that giving and receiving must come into balance, and to welcome the resources that will make me more effective, but partly my asking was tinged by a feeling of unworthiness and a consequent desire to be special, to be lucky. Also, I wanted a repeat of the high I'd felt from being unstoppable the week before.

The week before I had no hesitation to do whatever it took to get to Oakland, because I fully believed in the importance of doing so. Did I believe getting an upgrade was that important to the integrity of my mission? No, not really. If I had, when the check-in kiosk asked if I wanted to pay $985 for an upgrade, I would have said yes instead of, “Are you kidding me? Why should I pay that when I might get one for free? I could do a lot of good things with that money.” It seemed there are a lot of much better uses for that money, uses that would contribute more to what I care about.

Dear reader, please don't send me emails encouraging me to get over scarcity programming and adopt a belief in my own worthiness. Sure I am worthy, but I don't believe I'm more worthy than anyone else in economy class. For thousands of years people have concocted spiritual justifications for their social and economic privilege. It is not as if I condition my choice of self-care on whether my work is having an impact, but knowing it feeds back into my choices indirectly, altering my perception of what is important. In other words, when I genuinely see a self-care choice as not separate from serving what I care about, I am more likely to prioritize self-care. But it has to be genuine, and not an item of spiritual doctrine.

What this experience really reveals for me is my desire to come into deeper fusion of giving and receiving.

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