78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

It's Not About You


"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."  
-- Jesus, Matthew 6:1

When we are doing something that is intended to help someone else the most important thing to remember is that it's not about you. If you respond to that statement, "Well, of course it isn't, silly, I know that." I'm telling you it's harder than you think.  Our ego is strong.  And smart. And cunning.  And it will sneak in self-congratulatory shit when you're not looking.  

I read a really thoughtful article the other day on the dilemma of "Good White People" in the fight against racism.  The comment section was full of irony, full of "good white people" making it about themselves and then noticing they made it all about themselves and trying to figure out how not to do that.  It's hard. The main idea is that no one should feel the need to be congratulated for being a decent human being.  You just be one as a matter of course.  There are ways to bring important things to the attention of others without also saying, "Look at what a great person I am!"  Sometimes we do this with good intention, but it still reeks. 

I saw this today: Spiritual Molestation in Chik-Fil-A which I feel really nailed how I have always felt about people doing this sort of thing in public.  What made this worse was the underlying coercion of food under condition of prayer.  We might say, "What's the big deal? Even if you don't believe, prayer never hurt anyone."  True.  But to say that one will only help IF the recipient will oblige you is not giving, it's a negotiation.  This kind of negotiation is sometimes appropriate but when we are holding something as crucial to life as food as a bargaining tool, we need to be very careful.  If the manager of this restaurant really wanted to help this guy he had several options, none of which included making a display of his own faith for others to applaud.  He could have asked the guy to meet him around back and take out the trash in exchange for the meal.  He might have been able to offer him a job if he showed up every day to take the trash out (and get fed).  The manager could have prayed for him silently without drawing attention to himself.  I understand God can hear silent prayers.  

I also saw this today on why this woman stopped "being a Voluntourist," that is, stopped going on aid missions to third world countries and started coordinating aid efforts that didn't involve her actually being there.  The part about the workers coming behind them and tearing down their shoddily laid bricks and relaying them properly (and safely) in the night so the volunteers wouldn't know really brought the point home that these programs are too often set up in a way to be more about the volunteers feeling good about themselves than about the people they are trying to help.  

Those who read tarot for others have that "helping others" gene.  We truly want to facilitate growth in others and support them in their struggles.  That's often the foundational impulse behind what we do.  Like any other helping profession it can attract narcissists who get off on various twists of gaining attention, power, and ego stroking, but most of us just want to help.   However, even the genuinely motivated ones among us can fall into the "About Me" trap.  When we focus on whether or not we did it right, had the right answer, or found the correct interpretation.  When we worry too much about the feedback from our clients.  When we promote ourselves as super intuitive or act like our readings aren't wrong, the client just isn't in a place to accept the truth.  Stop it.  It's not about you. Yes, you are the one the client is looking to, but you know better.  It's not you, it's them.  It's their issue, their struggle, their dilemma, their questions.  You're helping only if you understand this and take yourself out of it.  The dialogue is between themselves and their understanding of the cards you have done your best to translate for them.  You are the interpreter.  The conversation is not about you.  This subtle but important shift in focus will make such a huge difference in the impact of your readings.  By impact I don't mean "accuracy," although that will likely be perceived as such, but by the real and actual help provided by the reading. 

All this stuff about helping in a certain way gave me such food for thought because I find myself in a situation now where the last thing I want to do is bring attention to myself for doing something "good" when really, I feel that it's the only human option.  My sister was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014.  Chemotherapy put her in remission for almost a year.  Then she relapsed.  The next step is a bone marrow stem cell transplant.  Of her three siblings tested, I am the match. In all honesty, I wasn't thrilled with the news and felt like an asshole for not being thrilled.  It's not like giving blood, it's a much bigger deal.  And the hospital where this will be done is 1000 miles away.  There will be missed work, FMLA paperwork, travel time and costs, hotel costs -- all of which our mother is generously financing because it's not covered by my sister's health insurance.  Not to mention the procedure itself will require me to be injected with a drug originally meant for cancer patients that disrupts my own bone marrow and causing bone pain for several days and having to sit immobile for six hours or more to have the stem cells harvested.  So yeah, it's not nothing.  But it really IS nothing when compared to what my sister has endured and will have to endure as the recipient of the transplant.  Cancer has turned her life and the lives of her husband and children totally upside down and inside out in ways I'm sure no one but they understand.  She recently started a GoFundMe drive in an effort to defray the monster costs of all of this.  In my attempts to get the word out to others to hopefully increase donations, I have mentioned my participation in this effort as her donor, but I have tried not to make it about me.  Because it's not.  Even though it is a little, ultimately it's not.  And I know people are just being kind and supportive when they laud me for the act of donating, and I thank them genuinely, but I cringe a bit at the comments that I am "being an angel" or that I am "so awesome."  Thank you, and I mean that, but no, I'm not.  I don't really see any other option except to be a shitty human being that would deny her the best chance she has to live.  And to be honest, I felt weird about posting the GoFundMe thing because I didn't want to bring attention to my part in this but it seemed the best way to get donations for my sister.  

I've been taking a break from reading tarot for others until the transplant is over.  Just because it's not about me doesn't erase me from the equation.  I must still be aware of my own needs else I become useless to others.  Making it not about you doesn't mean nothing is about you.  You are about you and you need to take care of you.  Always remember the flight attendant adage -- "Place your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others."