Today is my birthday. I woke up feeling pretty happy after an evening with my group and a warm text from a new love interest. But when I entered the kitchen, I saw that my teenager had not in fact done the dishes last night as she had promised. My hope had been a clean kitchen to start my birthday morning. Making coffee in the early dark hours, a clean sink really makes a difference to my experience. And there were A LOT of dishes. True, this was partly because they had made me a cake last night, but really, being home all evening, why was this neglected? I could see my mood spiraling down.
My youngest child came to eat breakfast and made big efforts to shower me with love, but it was a struggle to show her only a happy, receptive, appreciative face. I began cleaning the kitchen (not the dishes, the teen was still responsible for that), taking out the trash, organizing my space. A voice inside my head said, “hey, it’s your birthday! Why are you having to take care of things? This is wrong. You are supposed to be the queen.” Another voice responded, “wait– this is INNER CONSIDERING. Just because it’s your birthday, you don’t need to start expecting others to treat you a certain way. That will only cause pain, mostly for you, but also for your beautiful daughters, and that’s not a good way to raise them.” The two sides of me didn’t argue, they just co-existed, neither one winning. My mood continued to be rotten. I think it was a third voice that said, “since it’s your birthday and your mood is so bad, the morning after a night with your group, you probably need to take out the garbage and do some dirty work. Come back to earth.” So I walked through the piece of yard I share with my neighbor, picking up bits of trash as I dragged the bin to the curb.
Then I was in the kitchen with my 13 year old. She was in a horrible mood. Picture day, and her shirt wasn’t perfect. She stormed around, trying on my clothes, being irritable, crying, yelling at me. I had to remind her to say Happy Birthday to me. I tried lecturing her to put on a fake smile and she told me I was ruining her morning. But then, a little miracle occurred. The voice that had told me I was INNER CONSIDERING recognized that she was doing the same thing. How dare her bagel get cold? She was indignant! She deserved a warm bagel! Just like I deserved a clean kitchen… Hmmm… suddenly I could understand her inner world. My heart flew open to her, and all I wanted to do was hold her. I grabbed her and she cried on my shoulder. She released her grief, we bonded, and I felt so amazing.
Soon after, the teen woke up and began teasing us. I asked if she was up early to do the dishes? Early? she said. I told her my morning was blemished by the nasty sink, and she was slightly sorry. Then she suddenly remembered it was my birthday. So much for Queen Mommy. But I wasn’t upset anymore. I was already happy and in love with my family again. So I just pretended to be sad, and both teens came over and cuddled and kissed me, and everyone felt great.
So what is INNER CONSIDERING?
Mr. Gurdjieff taught Ouspensky this: ”
“On the most prevalent occasions a man is identified with what others think about him, how they treat him, what attitude they show towards him. He always thinks that people do not value him enough, are not sufficiently polite and courteous. All this torments him, makes him think and suspect and lose an immense amount of energy… develops in him a distrustful and hostile attitude towards people…
“The opposite of internal considering and what is in part a means of fighting against it is external considering… an entirely different relationship towards people than internal considering. It is adaptation towards people, to their understanding, to their requirements. By considering externally a man does that which makes life easy for other people and for himself. External considering requires a knowledge of men, an understanding of their tastes, habits, and prejudices. At the same time external considering requires a great power over oneself, a great control over oneself…. if a man really remembers himself he understands that another man is a machine just as he is himself. And then he will enter into his position, he will put himself in his place, and he will be really able to understand and feel what another man thinks and feels.” pp. 151-3, In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky
From my story, it is pretty obvious that I don’t have “great control over” myself. Yet a miracle happened and my birthday wish was granted. I came back down to earth, to a place where my children exist, where my love for them abides. I must give credit to Mr. Gurdjieff for teaching me about internal and external considering, which gave me a framework for understanding my dark mood and thoughts. I must give credit to my group, for the efforts we made together last night, which gave me space inside for these voices to co-exist without judgment and fighting. I must give credit to my mentors, who tell me to clean the bathrooms when I’m feeling too high.