One Year Later
Fifty-two weeks ago, we whacked an effigy filled with candy, then set it on fire. What do things look like one year later?
Up to 2013 I felt like I was on a slow decline. I was mired in bitterness and a good deal of self-loathing. I was using a busted model. I was acting on old grudges and old prejudices. It was a painful place to be. I describe this weight of reaction mechanisms as “encumbrance.” We pack on emotional obligations and models of behaviour. Wars start because armies follow accepted rules of engagement. Too many people use dogma in lieu of common sense. “I was only following orders,” is rarely used to explain success. I needed to break the model and break the mold. I committed to sailing away from the “We’ve always done it that way” mindset.
The details of what became a “rebirth ceremony” are covered here. After I was done with it, I did have thoughts about drilling more into the concept. I did have thought such as:
- Could this process help other people in turmoil?
- Could this be a non-religious equivalent of reborn?
- Could this process help people in a mid-life crisis?
- Could this be a way to satisfy and constructively move through some people's urge for self-destruction?
In the last year, I didn’t intend to build a set of mantras or rituals. The goal was to moult the busted model. After that moulting, I was going to establish purposeful different behaviours. These behaviours are not routes to tranquility; they’re routes to clarity. Clarity makes for concision and understanding. Understanding is needed to build competence. Competence is needed to create action that turns into progress and ultimately success. Our world is full of sources of conflict. People act out of ignorance. People make mistakes. People are bound to ritual and routine. People will compete for finite resources. There are lots of reasons for collisions and collisions are often the source of much upset. Collisions can also be crucibles. Controlled and exercised mindfully, a crucible can burn away the questions and leave only the resolution. I did dedicate myself to either give up and not care; or fight all the way through because it was worth it. That approach, outside of conflicts, plays out as the simple mantra: “go through doorways.” Too often do we step up to a doorway, look at its trim and assess what’s on the inside based on what we see on the outside. In the last year, I have tried to remind myself to “go through doorways” when I stand there, hesitant if I should proceed. Life is full of decision points-- doorways, if you will. Going through the doors is how one makes progress through life. Even if the doorway is an exit, it’s better to proceed than to hold back. It’s better to try to be and later be a has been, than to be a never-been.
People in the last year have asked about this change. Some people can get it. Some people, I know, will be likely unable to grasp the process and its goals. For those who get it, I sum it up as “I was feeling really toxic and this was a way to purge that, shed that and move on.” For those who can’t get it, I say, “Mike is too common a name.” Then I describe a business deal from six months ago: Four players. One was Cheryl and the other three had the given name of “Michael.” Dear families of the 1960s and early 1970s: you didn’t need to use “Michael” so often. Legally, I didn’t change my name-- there was no need. Check the full legal names of many people who you interact with frequently. You would be surprised how many people go by their middle name. I just joined that club consciously last year. When I have to interact in a legal capacity (police reports, banking information, etc.) “Michael DeWolfe” is the name that gets trucked out. Otherwise, it’s a technical name like using Sodium chloride in lieu of salt.
Like following a good diet, people lapse. People do call me by the older name and I get that. I will still sometimes call my friend who conducted last year’s rebirth ceremony by her older name. Old habits die hard. Some people never could swap over. I could rail against that, but I just consider it as some people can’t adapt and I accept that. For a number of people, it pre-approved their perception that I am unbalanced. If nothing else, this exercise flushed out those prejudices. I accept that all sorts of people walk this Earth; but I only want to spend my time with people who I get and people who get me.
Changing is hard. I know many people who start with the wrong name or a wrong idea, and run with it stubbornly. A friend was recently married. She changed her name as a consequence. The full rot of the bureaucracy she works under came to bear. Catch-22 situations abounded as she couldn’t use a false name (ie. her old name) in one circumstance and was not allowed to use her new name in a connected step. In physics, there is the theory that things can exist in a quantum super-state of all possibilities before it collapses into definite that retrospectively can observe. Government paperwork doesn’t handshake with quantum physics. More than once, clerks filling out applications have thought my last name was “Dewalt” and they will keep trying to fill it out and referring back to the wrong name. One even questioned why my driver’s license name reads “DeWolfe” but the application they filled out reads, “Dewalt.” People get stuck in patterns and walk those well worn routes like rats in a cage. Others can be a rats in cage, but I would prefer a different path.
I’ve been walking this path for a year so far. It’s not easier, but it feels better.
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