Enjoy this excerpt from local author Jenniffer’s Weigel’s newest book, “I’m Spiritual, Dammit!”:
Judgments, a Rat, and Big Dicks | Don’t Take It Personally
First Presbyterian Church responded to The Lady of All Saints by posting:
DOGS DON’T HAVE SOULS. THIS IS NOT OPEN FOR DEBATE.
“I’m on the big slide! ” Britt said with pride as we played at the park.
My son didn’t really start talking until the day he turned three. He went from being mute to not being able to shut up. While he has become quite the “Chatty Cathy,” he isn’t very clear with some of his consonants. His “S” sounds like a “D” and his “R” a “W.” For the most part, I can make out what he’s saying with a little patience. He also gets his needle stuck if he wants things a certain way, and will repeat things one hundred times in hopes of getting his point across.
“I don’t wanna go, Mom,” he said with a sigh.
Leaving Britt’s favorite “ﬁre truck” park was always difficult, especially because he’d found a stick that he wanted to take home. Since we already had a collection of sticks a mile long in the backyard, I nixed the idea and went to put him in the car seat.
That’s when the fun began.
“No, Momma. I want my big dick!”
Obviously, I knew what he meant, but he screamed this at the top of his lungs as I was trying to buckle him in, so we were quite the spectacle with the park crowd.
“Mommy, where’s my dick? Give me my big dick! I want my big dick! Now!”
I started to get the giggles so bad that I almost couldn’t latch his belt. I looked over my shoulder, hoping that nobody else had heard, and I made eye contact with a woman who gave me an evil glare. She was covering her three-year-old’s ears and shaking her head in disapproval.
First of all, I wanted to tell this chick to get laid or get bent for not having a better sense of humor. Who were we really disturbing? So her little girl heard the word “dick”; I doubt she knows what that is. (And if she does, then her mom shouldn’t be judging me!)
I thought about walking up to her and getting in her grill with a “who do you think you are giving me the look of death” speech.
Then I thought of don Miguel Ruiz.
Don’t take it personally.
I had interviewed don Miguel Ruiz several years before, and it truly changed my life. He was coming through Chicago, promoting the paperback release of his bestselling book, The Four Agreements. The one agreement that always seems to pop up in my life is “don’t take it personally.”
“Someone’s reaction to you has nothing to do with you,” he told me. “If you are doing your best and embracing a spiritual practice, it’s not about you. We have no idea what is going on inside someone’s mind or body.”
As I became a mother, this philosophy really hit me on a new level.
“We all want to control our kids or even our parents,” don Miguel said. “We are each responsible for our own lives and nobody else’s. It’s as if we are making a movie, and we need to write it, cast it, and direct it. The people in our lives are just actors playing a role. Only you can decide what happens in your life story.”
Now that I was a mother of a three-year-old, I had a hard time accepting that I’m just the hired gun to play Britt’s mom. (I’d like Jennifer Garner to be me in the ﬁlm version, by the way . . .) I wanted to make sure Britt was safe at all times and help him make good choices. Was that so wrong?
“All we can do is lead by example. Those around us will watch how you live your life, and hopefully, they will want to emulate that behavior,” don Miguel told me.
If I yelled at this lady at the park, It probably wouldn’t be a shining example of behavior for my son to “emulate.”
Don’t take it personally.
Maybe this woman hadn’t seen a “big dick” in a long time and she was feeling bitter. Maybe her dog just died.
Or maybe she’s just a primo North-shore bitch.
Whatever the reason, it wasn’t something I wanted to take on. I hurried into my car with my very pissed-off three-year-old gaining momentum and started to drive away.
“My BIG DICK! Mommy, where is my big dick? GIVE ME MY BIG DICK! MMYYYY DICK!”
I know this is such potty humor, but hey, when you have a miniature person saying very adult words at full volume, it’s pretty darn hilarious.
I called my husband Clay to tell him of our whereabouts, but he didn’t pick up the phone. I did my best to leave a message.
“We’re leaving the park now. . . . GIVE ME MY DICK! Um, Britt’s a little upset . . . MY BIG DICK! MY DICK! ”
We made it home, but I don’t think Britt took a breath for the whole seven-minute drive. I tried to count the number of times he said “dick,” but I stopped keeping track after twenty-seven.
When he got to our backyard and started playing with other “dicks,” he soon forgot about the one from the park.
But hours later, when I was reading him a story after his bath, he looked into my eyes and reminded me with a whisper that he remembered everything.
“Mommy, tomorrow can we go and get my big dick. Tweeeease?”
How could I say no to that? He said “tweeeease.”
The next night, I had a book talk downtown, and, for some reason, I was a little nervous.
“Why are you nervous?” Clay asked.
“I haven’t done one in a while,” I said.
There were about forty people at this talk when I arrived. They seated me at one end of the room and asked me to speak for forty-ﬁve minutes or so. Afterwards, there would be a Q-and-A session. As I got settled onto my stool, I started telling stories from the book and noticed a woman in the front row. She had her arms crossed and a terrible scowl on her face.
“Bestselling author James Van Praagh told me that there really is no such thing as Hell but that Hell is here on earth,” I said.
“Yeah right!” the woman blurted out.
I was sort of taken aback by her comment, but I continued. “He says that our afterlife experience reﬂects the way we were on earth, so if you were a mass murderer, you are not going to be hanging out with the Saints like my grandma Ginny,” I said. “But he says you do have a sort of ‘life review,’ where you literally see and feel every emotion you ever put out. It’s like reliving your life in an instant. So depending on how you treated others, this can be heaven, or this can be hell.”
“Aaaaachhhhk . . .” said the woman. It was a sort of grunt and gurgle at the same time.
Holy crap! I have a heckler.
I’ve had people react to my talks before, but never had they been this vocal.
Don’t take it personally.
I looked up at the rest of the crowd and made eye contact with a woman near the back row who was just beaming. I continued to talk and directed almost every word to her warm and welcoming face. The mean lady in the front row continued to make her noises, but I just chose not to focus on them.
That crazy lady’s reaction is not about you. You can’t take it on.
It was an excellent exercise in discipline to not let that woman’s squawking derail my talk; I was determined to keep going.
After the Q-and-A section, I walked toward the smiling woman near the back and introduced myself.
“Hi there,” I said. “I wanted to thank you for smiling at me; it really helped me deal with the heckler in the front row,” I explained.
“Heckler? I didn’t hear anything,” she said.
Wow. She was so focused on what I was saying that she hadn’t heard the heckler?
“My name is Mary Ellen,” she said, holding out her hand. “I have to tell you, I heard you on the radio with Eric and Kathy. I never come to these things, but I just had to meet you and tell you what happened,” she said.
“Nice to meet you!” I said. “What happened?”
“I was driving my car, and this hawk swooped down and ﬂew right over my windshield, and I heard ‘turn on the radio.’ I never listen to the radio, but I always think of a hawk as being a sign from my dead dad, so I listened to the voice and turned it on. At that exact moment, you were on the radio being interviewed by Eric and you were talking about your dead dad and your book. I thought ‘what a coincidence!’ So much of what you said made sense to me, so I wrote down where you were going to be talking, and here I am! Will you sign these?” she asked, holding out a pile of books.
Because I didn’t take it personally and ﬁxate on the mean person who didn’t like me, I was able to open my eyes to the entire room and appreciate the rest of the audience.
“You made my night,” I told Mary Ellen, signing her books.
“Jenniffer?” A woman said from the other direction of the room, trying to get my attention. “I wanted to invite you to our séance next Thursday night.”
I looked over and saw a large woman with anxious eyes approaching me.
“Here is my card,” she said, handing it to me. “I channel spirits,” she whispered.
“Oh, I see,” I said.
“But next week, we will be channeling the ghosts of Marilyn Monroe and Thomas Jefferson,” she said with a straight face. “We want to get their take on what’s happening globally. I really think you would enjoy it.”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
“Thank you very much,” I said, trying not to laugh. I looked to my right and made eye contact with my friend Laura. She walked up to me and whispered, “Welcome to the downside of the Other Side . . .”
The channeling lady walked away.
“Why me?” I asked Laura.
“Hey, you’re talking about reaching your dead dad, hon. Why not bring in some dead famous people for your next book?” she joked. “Marilyn Monroe would be awesome.”
I looked around. A few people that I had invited were “no-shows.”
One of them I had been trying to get to a talk for months, but she was always canceling at the last minute.
“Where’s Deb?” I asked Laura.
“Not sure,” she said.
The next day, I was talking to a mutual friend over the phone, and she ﬁnally let the cat out of the bag about Deb.
“Deb has issues with your content,” she said.
“Yeah. The whole medium thing. It goes against her Christian beliefs.”
Don’t take it personally.
I sent Deb an email and tried to explain that if she really was a believer of Jesus, a man who didn’t judge and was full of love, then maybe she herself could do the same and just be a supportive friend.
Weeks went by, and I never heard back from her. I tried not to pass judgment. After all, this is what I was asking of her, right? However, every time she popped into my mind, I would get pissed off .
One day I went for a run to blow off some steam, but I had a hard time clearing my head.
Who is she to say her way is the only way? Why is she so stubborn and narrow-minded? She is so shallow!
After I ran for a while, still fuming with my angry thoughts, I realized I didn’t feel any better than I did before I’d started. My negative energy left me exhausted. Then a conversation I’d had with Deepak Chopra ﬂashed through my mind.
“You see all those protesters for peace, and they are just as angry as the people ﬁghting the wars. Emotions have energy. You have to come from a place of compassion and forgiveness, or you will never be able to ﬁnd neutrality.”
“But how can I feel compassion when I truly feel that someone is being irrational?” I had asked.
“To say ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ is counterproductive,” Deepak warned. “Any judgment, no matter which side of the fence you are on, is still a judgment. You have to make sure that your every thought, your every word, your every action is ﬁlled with loving energy. This will have a ripple effect in the mass stream of consciousness. That’s how you can make a difference.”
“How can I feel love instead of anger?”
“Anger should be acknowledged. It can initiate change. But many people sit in a state of anger, and they choose not to move forward. That’s when it does more harm than good.”
I tried to think compassionate thoughts about Deb.
Thank you in advance, Universe, for helping me feel grace and forgiveness.
I once had a therapist who told me the best way to feel compassion for someone who pisses you off is to picture them as a terriﬁed ﬁve-year-old on the ﬁrst day of kindergarten. It’s hard to imagine yelling at a quivering child. Since everyone has some sort of fear and wound stemming from their childhood, this visual has helped me keep my cool on many occasions. Got a shitty boss? Picture them with no friends for the ﬁeld trip. Mean ex-boyfriend? Maybe he peed his pants during recess and hasn’t gotten over it. We never know the depths of someone else’s wounds. That’s why you should never take anything personally.
“You’ve done all you can do with the Deb thing,” my friend said. “You might not be able to undo decades of conditioning and beliefs.”
Thank you for helping me feel compassion and grace when I think of Deb. And for helping me not take it personally.
Copyright © 2010 I’m Spiritual Dammit! by Jenniffer Weigel
Reprinted with permission of Hampton Roads Publications
Available at any bookstore or through the publisher at [email protected].