This Breath, or Why Change Is Hard

For several years I’ve been caught up in feeling bad about myself. After getting sucked into buying more than a few ebooks by internet blogging geniuses touting productivity solutions like only work on what you want to work on,” I found myself frustrated and resentful at my jobs.

I am not in a position to only work on what I want. In order to manage the cyclical nature of my workload (I work in academia, so September can be absolute mayhem and madness), I’ve tried ten or more productivity systems, trimmed my to-do lists, delegated and sometimes just hated it all.

I can’t only work on what I want!” I yelled in my head. I’ll never have that life! There must be something wrong with me, that I can’t work on only the things I want to work on” Then it came to me yesterday. I don’t have to work only on what I want, I just have to remember to breath.

This breath, the one I’m breathing now, is the one that helps guide me through the tasks I don’t like. The same breath I try to count almost every morning in mediation, the same breath I often forget I’m breathing.

This breath.

I failed miserably yesterday at focusing on my breath. Perhaps 1% or less of my day I remembered to focus. But the astonishing consequence of that 1% was a feeling of tender hearted vulnerability so strong, I just had to see Ms. H. right away (after work) so I could be really close to her.

The fact that I wasn’t working on only things I love was beside the point. I was alive and breathing.

Today ended differently. I focused a few times but mostly I got caught up in the drama of my customers’ needs. Like most customer service jobs, there are a few true buddhas, a lot of just average people and few real number one winners. The longer I forgot to focus on my breath, the shittier my mood got. I left work really grumped out.

But here again, the seemingly insignificant number of times I focused on my breath helped me to realize that negativity is a narcotic for me. I left work in a shitty mood. The thoughts in my head were either Those customers are assholes!”  or Why can’t I control my emotions better on the job??”

Self-aggrandizement and self-pity: two sides of the same it’s-all-about-me” coin.

Counting my breaths as I walked to my car, I came to understand that change is hard, that I resist embracing my breath because the drama of negativity allures me. Embracing this breath is profound change for me.

I am amazed I can remember it at all. That I can, even once, is a miracle.