The Natural Next Question

I knew she was going to ask me. What’s wrong? I could feel it coming. And I didn’t want to lie the following lies:

  • Nothing
  • I’m fine
  • Oh, it’s just ________ (thing it’s really not, such as tired or hard day)
  • make up something which sounds good or reasonable and deflects the question

I don’t want to tell those lies anymore. Ritual lies, I call them.

Ritual questions and ritual lies. Our culture. Rude not to conform to the culture of social rituals. Even so, I don’t want to lie anymore. Not even when it’s easier. Not even when the other person expects it. Not even when the other person is counting on it.

So I began rehearsing my speech. I would have the truth ready.

I’m frustrated that every other player in my group is improving noticeably except for me. I’m not improving as steadily as everyone else; in some cases not at all. I only play well in first few minutes.

I’m rehearsing alone, of course, but my inner wisdom was listening. A question bubbled up. Why the first few minutes?

Telling more truth, Because I’m relaxed in the first few minutes. Once the warm-up is over I get tense.

Perhaps it’s not a lack of skill or a lack of improvement. Perhaps it’s just the tension.

In asking the natural next question — Why the tension? — more culture imperatives emerge. The tension is the pressure to prove proficiency, or at least demonstrate improvement, because the expectation is that practice produces excellence. I must exhibit proof. In doing so I prove I belong.

The pressure to prove creates tension. Tension translates into poor play.

It may not be a true statement that everyone else is improving except for me.

It may be a true statement that my improvement isn’t obvious because I’m playing tense.

It is also a true statement that I am therefore frustrating myself unnecessarily. I’m not playing to prove I’m good at playing. I’m not playing to test, measure, or produce. No one gets to decide where I belong because, as Pippa Grange tells us, my results are simply an outcome; they are not my worth. The pressure does not apply. If the pressure does not apply, the tension is wasted effort.

And in the end she never asked. I never had to confess any of it. The question I felt was imminent was likely asked by my inner wisdom in the first place so I could self-soothe.

Self-coach. Self-reconcile. And so the importance of telling the truth is infinitely more critical, not only as a gesture of cultural non-conformity, but as a practice to ease my own path.

Over and over the Universe shows me this as my purpose. I ease the way. I ease the path. The path toward. The path away.

When I do it for me I do it for all. I belong anywhere this need exists.

If we were in church, this is where all the people would say Amen.

And I would bless them.

— Mercy

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