Oh So Very Close: TorahCycle Chukat

37Do you remember from Psych 101 that rats on a treadmill run faster when they get closer to goal? What about you?

This week’s reading’s after a big ellipse in time. Forty years, gone with the turn of the page. The Promised Land so very very close. But the troops are cranky, whiny, and thirsty. God tells Moses water will spring from a rock if he asks, but when it doesn’t flow and gush, Moses gets angry and strikes the rock with his staff. For which act he’s told he will not cross into the Promised Land.

He takes it surprisingly well. Better than I would’ve. By me, after 40+ years of tough slogging and cajoling, he’s earned his gold watch and pension. Milk and honey and a cozy place by the fire.

Perhaps he knows himself so well he understands the consequences of his actions. His angry self is mirrored in the folks tugging on his robe. No one’s worse to be with than yourself when you’re in a bad mood. Wherever you go and whatever you do, there you are, crabby, too-sensitive, and annoying.

Some of us are like the treadmill rats. We find that extra sprint you see in racehorses and runners. The last burst of energy and endorphins amped towards goal because you are so very, very close.

Others of us inexplicably punch on our brakes. Do something rash,  or stupid, or both. Some form of screwing things up so we taint the prize and possibly even our ability to achieve it.

Why? Which of those people are you? Does it depend on the goal? Or your age? Or your health, wealth, love life, or general state of happiness?

Each of us has an Achilles heel. In the physical domain, I’ve been wrestling with mine for two years. And the metaphor’s not lost on me. I’m eyeball to eyeball with some of my most vulnerable parts. The ones that I need to make peace with if I’m gonna emerge fully into what I call Helen 3.0. My own promised land. Different for each of us, but a vision, if we’re lucky, that we’ve had, that we cultivate, and that we aspire to.

I’m trying to befriend my Achilles heel; trying to heal her. Do you know yours? Can you name the part of you that, like Moses’ anger, flashes at exactly the wrong moments. The part that’s like the dinner guest who says something rude and wrong too loudly in that exact and  awkward moment of silence that sometimes descends on groups.

Odds are this part of you is a consistent mechanism for your self-sabotage.  Whatever the trigger, this is how you act out.  Even if you can’t eradicate the underlying dynamics in your psyche, you can identify both this behavior and some interventions, a system of bells and whistles that’ll alert you that you’re about to hit the rock and hurt yourself. It’s gotta be worth a try.

Question for the week: When you’re triggered, how can you act in ways that won’t cause you remorse? What will inspire you with clarity, vision, courage, and stamina?

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