Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

I'd Rather Be With Me

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

Fourth of July, 2008

This essay, I'd Rather Be With Me, is the third in a group of sixteen written on the Fourth Of July:
  1. Anticipation: Accounting For An American Love Affair
  2. Independence Day
  3. I'd Rather Be With Me
  4. Do It For Nothing
  5. The Only Way Out Is Through
  6. Under All Circumstances
  7. Word Power
  8. When There's Nothing To Say
  9. The Possibility Of Being Independent And Free
  10. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  11. What Goes On Internally
  12. Imprints Of Love
  13. Bookends: A Reflection On Mortality
  14. Come Back To Being
  15. Nobody Is Responsible Except You
  16. Like A Monk In A Cave
in that order.

Her intimacy, the sheer depth and unguarded nakedness of it, was such a gift. She stood before me and shed her clothes - figuratively, that is - letting me see exactly what was going on, exactly what she was looking at.

She said she'd left the man she was once married to because after a while she was no longer sure he was the one. She didn't want to be with him after that, although she hoped they could continue to be friends.

There were various similar situations later in her life, like when she stopped going for walks at dawn on the beach with her girl friends. They weren't really the desperate housewives  they kidded each other they were. They were ordinary people who knew each other in passing from the neighborhood they all lived in, who shared a desire for company. So they walked their dogs on the beach at dawn together until she no longer enjoyed their company. She said she'd tried to make it work but eventually she realized they simply had very little in common.

There were other earlier, similar endings to the contacts she'd made with the people in her life, each one punctuated by a similar, perfectly justifiable story, each one leaving her with the position that they just weren't right for her.

The tears welled up in her eyes. I didn't have to ask why. Inside of her own inquiry, she was starting to see her justification, her story  was ending all her relationships, all at about the same time, all when about the same level of intimacy had built up. For all of them she had the same set of reasons and similar expressions of dissatisfaction.

I didn't want to jump in too quickly. I already knew she'd gotten what I was about to suggest. Quietly I asked "Who is it you'd really  rather not be with? You know it's not them, don't you?".

She took a deep, deliberate breath, and straightened her shoulders. I could see she was calming herself. Her eyes opened wide. She gazed straight ahead, tears bejeweling her lower eyelids but no longer flowing. "No, it's not them  I'd rather not to be with" she said. "It's never them. It's me  I'd rather not be with. I'd rather not be with me.".

There was no need to say anything, so I didn't. There was no need to say anything smart. A pat  retort would have been inappropriate. She got it, and I could tell she got it big time.

Later in the evening I revisited the issue. "So you'd rather not be with you, and with that going on, you're around people. How do they, given how you're being, show up for you?" I asked. She said "It's like wearing a pair of sunglasses which, without me knowing, have violet tinted lenses. Everywhere I look, people show up violet - not my favorite color. I make the assessment they're violet. I don't like violet. So I determine I'd rather not be with them. Yet even as I'm doing that, I have no idea  it's my own sunglasses which cause them to show up violet for me. Given it's my own sunglasses which cause them to show up violet for me, there's nothing they can do  other than show up violet.".

Noticing how it goes in my own life, I've learned one of the essential aspects of a breakthrough is for people to experience it personally, by themSelves, all the way through. If pushed, if it's explained, if it's not granted the space to be with  it, it quickly gels into concept, recipe, strategy, belief. It ends up having a kind of intellectual  value which has as much lasting satisfaction as merely thinking  about a cool shower during the dog days  of July and August. So I chose my words carefully, wanting to participate with her bringing an experience forth without interfering. I said "Good. When you wear sunglasses with violet tinted lenses, there's nothing they can do other than show up violet. What about you?".

At first she didn't get it. "You mean there's nothing I  can do other than show up violet also?"  she asked. "Yes, clearly there's that too" I said. "But what else do you see with regard to your role in there being there's nothing they  can do other than show up violet?".

She stayed silent for a long time this time. Then she started to nod, agreeing with herself as she began to see the baseline of her predicament. She smiled. "I get it. Given my sunglasses are violet, there's nothing I  can do other than have them  show up violet.".

It was an amazing moment, a moment when time stops, a moment when there's suddenly no more certainty, no more predictability, a moment when anything  can happen next ... and probably will. I backed off, not saying anything, walking away, leaving her alone in her moment of silent revelation.

A few weeks went by before our paths crossed again. She looked amazing. Years had fallen from her face. The wrinkles, the crow's feet  had gone from her temples. Her eyes were clear. A smile danced on her lips as if she was sharing a private joke with herself. I said "Wow! So what happened with the violet sunglasses?". "I gave up wearing them" she laughed.

Just  ... like  ... that, I thought. Not bad. Not "took them off". Not "gave them away". Not "stopped wearing them". Not "figured them out". None of that. Instead, simply gave them up  - just like that. How big is that? "Congratulations!" I said. "How is it for you, now that you've given them up? What's shifted for you? What's it like?".

I could see she was elated. "It's awesome!" she said slowly, still bathed in the newness of it. "For the first time in my life, I'd rather be with me.".

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