Why had I decided to go to my 40th high school reunion? To fulfill a homework assignment?
In the wee hours of the morning, I found myself second guessing my decision and looking for ways out. But during the daylight hours, I sensed my inner wisdom was right. And based on what I have regularly told my coaching clients, I was confident there would be a gift waiting for me if I only pushed through my self-doubt and fear.
I had been listening to Byron Katie lately and decided this would be an excellent application for, “The Work.” How I love Katie’s four powerful questions! So, here’s what happened. I focused intently on who I was in high school. Awkward. Misfit. Unsure. Afraid. Uncomfortable. Vulnerable. And then I asked myself the questions.
Question #1: Is it true? Answer: Well, sure. I was there. I should know! I remember very clearly being all those things.
Question #2: Can you know with certainty that it is true? Answer: With certainty? Hmmmm. I felt awkward. I clearly remember that part. But was I really awkward? Would a reasonable, objective observer find me awkward? When you put it that way, maybe . . . just maybe . . . it might not be completely true after all. With that admission, I felt my thinking begin to shift. I was ready for the next question.
Question #3: How do you feel when you think those thoughts? Answer: Well, that’s easy. I feel like crap! Next question!
Question #4: Who would you be without those thoughts? Answer: Oh, my! It’s hard to say. I’ve had those thoughts for 40+ years. Who would I be without all that judgment, condemnation, and self-pity? I suppose without thoughts of “awkward misfit,” I might be free to just be myself, my own unique brand of me. No shame. No apologies. Who else could I be, anyway?
I allowed the shift to percolate, and within a few days, I found myself wanting to know more about what a reasonable, objective observer might notice about who I had been at 17. That’s when an idea struck with such power, I couldn’t do anything else until I acted on it. I needed to read my diary. But not just read it. I would become that reasonable, objective observer. I would pretend I was reading a book written by someone else. I would approach the book with curiosity, setting aside everything I thought I knew about this young woman. And I would let her talk to me.
Okay, Barbara Schmitt . . . tell me about your life. I sat down with my diary and did not get up again until I had read every single entry from the first day of my senior year in high school until the day I graduated. (To be continued . . . .)