Who are you? What parts of you do you want to keep and which parts do you want to leave behind? How do you find out the difference?
The best glimpse at who you are is revealed through your choices. Making choices in a finite world is how we make what is inside of us visible. We reveal our priorities, our beliefs, our training and our desires.
There is more than one woman who didn’t go on a second date with a man because he didn’t treat the waitstaff well. He may have had sweet words and powerful tales about himself, but his actions revealed a bit of who he was inside, inconsiderate, rude, disconnected and egotistical.
In the end, we rarely tell people who we are, we show them. It’s not our polished stories that speak for us, it is our choices. Many people, though, never take the time to consider their choices and what they say about us, instead deciding only to speak louder as if somehow, that will make our assertions more real.
Jane Pauley understood what David Letterman did on his show. Rather giving people a place to tell their story, he threw them curve balls, put them under pressure. This let us see something real, authentic and raw about them, gave us a glimpse of who they are under pressure.
This technique often created sympathetic and compassionate laughter. We saw their discomfort, understood that we would be uncomfortable too, and watched them stumble a bit and then regain their footing. As they got back up after being thrown off balance they revealed an essential humanity we can relate to.
If they got angry, blustery, or controlling, though, that also showed.
The kind of surprising curve balls that make you think outside of the box have always been a key part of my shamanic tool kit. I will almost always come in with an idea out of left field to create a response, a way to see the world in a different way that breaks expectations and creates new vision.
The people who came to help my parents were often versed in conventional expectations about old people. They pulled out rote and comfortable routines, seeming to want to wrap the oldies in cotton wool.
My approach to my parents was very different. I was always surprising them, challenging them, asking them to change their footing. I would mispronounce words, offer diverse foods, show stupid videos and ask interesting questions just to keep them aware, active and attentive. You may not love that purple cauliflower, but at least you can say that you tried it, adding it to your book of experiences.
I wanted them to stay present in the world, open to possibility, curious and actively engaged in the moments of their life. This was the way I worked to give them “one more good day,” not from banal repetition but from the novel, challenging and delightful.
A world controlled enough so you only get what you want and you like is a boring world, without excitement or growth. It offers little stimulation and no challenge, no need to use the human revelation that comes from dealing with the new and different.
To me, this is all part of the Divine Surprise, that gift we get as humans when we open ourselves and are present in the world. When we get a surprise we learn something new about the world and we learn something new about ourselves, which, to me anyway, is at the heart of enlightenment and growth.
Being uncomfortable is important in a human life, no matter how much the ego wants to resist it. There is no way to the new without breaking some barriers, hopefully with a bit of laughter to ease the shock and add a bit of joy.
Learning to let go of control and relax even into the surprising lets us come from somewhere deeper inside of us, below the part who wants to follow and enforce rules, that surface pull to be slick, instead going into that open, revelatory and potent nature.
Surprises keep us present and engaged. Our responses to them stimulate a real compassion and connection between people as we go below the surface and reveal something deeper and profoundly human. Teams bond over shared challenges, each member revealing strengths and weaknesses that compliment the whole.
I understand why many people like well rehearsed, well polished and well controlled scenarios, preferring familiar and habitual seamless armour over the challenge of real. raw and active presence in the moment.
The idea that what comes out of us will be a surprise, even to us, is kind of thrilling and terrifying. Beyond that, the requirement to examine our choices, understanding where they come from and how to change them can seem like work we can avoid, staying stuck in old routines.
I believe in Divine Surprise, the kind that brings revelation and growth. I use surprise everyday in all my relationships, working to break through the stale to find the fresh and brilliant. Surprise was at the core of the way I took care of my parents and is also at the core of why many find me disquieting.
Your choices reveal who you are. To me, revelation is worth the surprise, the laughter and the challenge. It informs our continuous common humanity, showing that what is beneath is a human nature that connects each of us.
The true surprises lie inside of you, and the big surprise is how much you are a part of something bigger. Surprise!