A year ago, my husband and I decided to break up but try living in the same house for the love of our eight year old daughter. It worked for a while—until it didn’t work anymore. Yesterday, we filed for divorce with our mediation lawyer, and as so often happens during the divorce process, I watched two people who care about each other start volleying for position as we talked about who would get what and how we would divide up the business of me. My Small Self had an inner tantrum. The running dialogue in my head during divorce mediation went something like this (with some of the four letter words removed for the love of my ex):
God dammit. We signed a prenuptial agreement nine years ago so we could avoid fighting over who got what, and now here he is, trying to violate the spirit of our agreement so he can take my money. But it’s mine. ALL MINE. My liquidated retirement account that funded this business. My talent that fuels this business. My painstakingly written books. My teleclasses and speaking gigs and hard earned money. And now he wants a piece of my business for the rest of his life? Mine. Mine. MINE. He’s threatening me. I’m scared of losing everything I’ve worked so hard to earn and having to work even harder than I already am. I have to protect myself—NOW.
Then I heard myself saying things I didn’t really mean because my Small Self felt hurt, betrayed, violated, judgmental, righteous, and frightened. I noticed myself slipping into full on self-protection mode without considering what was best for this man I’ve loved for twelve years. I knew I needed help from the Big Guns, so I called my friend and spiritual advisor Tosha Silver, author of Outrageous Openness. I told her I was trying to surrender the entire divorce to Divine Will but I was having a hard time. I know I don’t want to carry the burden of this divorce. I only want whatever is in the highest good to have room to come into being in a way that is equitable, kind, and respectful to us both.
Here’s what Tosha brilliantly advised.
You can’t change something by making it wrong. You can only effect change if you can wake up the sleeping people, and in order for them to hear you, you must have compassion for how they got where they are. Think of all the truly effective change agents. They didn't come out with hate, guns blaring and voices screaming. They came out with love and spoke to the hearts of those who knew there was another way.
That's my intention with medicine. Many people are angry at medicine because our system is so broken. I used to be too. But the establishment can't hear you if you're beating them up. They'll defend against you, even if you speak truth.
The only way to get them to hear you is to love the very people that are out of alignment with a universal truth. Then, feeling loved and safe, they have the opportunity to release their defenses and examine their own beliefs and actions and choose whether they'll come with you or dismiss what you're teaching.
If they don't choose to come with you, it doesn't mean they're wrong. We live in a very dualistic world, in which you’re either right or wrong, awake or asleep, north or south, our side or their side, and we place judgments on all those positions. But we need to release the judgments. We all have our own paths. If you’re trying to change people who aren’t ready to change, release them without anger. It just means their souls are not yet ready for what you are inviting them to do. No need to be angry. Bless them and carry on.
How To Let Go Of The Anger
If it feels impossible to stop being righteously angry at those you seek to change, this is my prayer for each of you:
I know you thought you were helping me when you taught me that the needs of my patients were more important than my own self care. I know you thought you were training me to be an exceptional doctor when you forced me to scrub into surgery when I had the flu, wearing a diaper and an IV so I wouldn’t throw up, pass out, or have to scrub out because of my diarrhea. I know you allowed me to be the victim of years of sexual harassment at the hands of my physician professors, not because you’re evil, but because you’re just asleep, and you mistakenly think “boys will be boys.”
I know you didn’t mean to make me sick. And when I was taking 7 pills by the time I was 33 just so I could keep selling out my body in order to practice medicine, you didn’t realize you were hexing me when you labeled me “chronically ill,” suggesting that I would die in my fifties from a heart attack.
I know that when you expected me to work 72 hour call shifts, you thought it was because someone had to deliver those babies. And when you insisted I see 40 patients a day, limiting me to 7 ½ minutes with my patients, you thought you had no choice because of how managed care insurance executives have bastardized you.
I know you’re blind to how you’re being manipulated by Big Pharma, and you think you’re doing us favors by hosting “drug dinners” funded by Merck and Pfizer. I know you feel manipulated by patients who come in asking for prescription drugs by name because they’ve been duped into asking by ads aimed directly at patients, funded by Big Pharma (a practice which is only legal in two countries in the whole world- the US and New Zealand.)
I know you’re scared of getting sued because of vicious ambulance-chasing medical malpractice attorneys who have left you feeling like you have to be perfect, when medicine is an imperfect science. I know you order too many tests to try to protect yourself from those lawyers, and your greatest fear is that someone will die on your watch, and someone will blame you. But death is an inevitability for all patients, when their times come, and I hate to break it to you, medicine. But you’re not in control of when people die. God is.
My eyes were opened recently to many of the ways in which I create my own suffering, including how I’ve created this separation story that left me feeling lonely and disconnected for much of my life. Now that the blinders are off, I find myself driving on Highway 1 or hiking in the coastal hills or among the redwoods, with my mind drifting back to ways I’ve inadvertently hurt people, and through that unintentional hurting, how I’ve hurt myself.
Looking back is like a knife in my heart. Oh God, did I really say that? Did I really do that? How could I have been so insensitive when I love that person so much?
It feels like grating my heart with a potato peeler.
I never meant to hurt my college boyfriend, who wanted to marry me before I was ready to get married and who wound up taking the diamond ring he bought me, placing it in an oyster shell, and setting it out to sea. I didn’t mean to hurt that friend who wanted more of me than I was able to give at the time. I didn’t mean to hurt the people who tried to help me with my business before I was quite ready to be helped. I didn’t mean to hurt my mother and my brother and my sister and pretty much everyone else in my family who I adore.
It’s enough to make you think you should just cloister yourself in a closet as a public service to keep yourself from wounding others. But part of me knows that’s no way to live.
You know who you are. You’re the kids who bullied that poor bus driver until she cried. You’re the ones who tortured and killed Matthew Shepard because he was gay. You’re the cliques in high school who band together to make fun of the girls who aren’t as pretty as you are. You’re the society women committed to ruining the lives of those who refuse to follow your stupid, fear-driven rules. You’re the guys at work who steal other people’s ideas and fail to give credit where credit is due.
You’re the assholes who stiff hard-working waitresses after you’ve made their lives miserable during your whole meal because you’re delusional enough to think you’re better than they are. You’re the doctors who abuse your power and treat your medical students like they’re gum on your shoe. You’re the unscrupulous people like Bernie Madoff, who run off with other people’s hard-earned money because of your own greed. You’re Osama bin Laden and everyone else in Al Qaeda.
You’re the parents who abuse your kids. You’re the men who rape women. You’re the crooks and murderers and corporate thieves in white collars.
You know who you are, and I have a few things I want to say to you.