sometimes i have wild impulses. i’m sure you do, too. they just wash over me and more often than not, i follow them. last month for example, a wild impulse led me to wade into and out of a freezing cold river. over the last few summers, a wild impulse became a garden, then two gardens, then a community garden, all grown from seed. i get impulses to teach my puppy circus tricks; to order more books from the library than i am likely to read, to find new hiking trails and walk them alone, with ‘other-than-humans’ for company.
on the other hand, my new pup, bebe, and i have been working on impulse control. we’re taking small steps. it goes like this: get treats in fist, open hand, wait. dog mouth leans toward, close hand. open hand, wait. mouth leans, hand snaps closed before jaw snaps. open hand, wait. wait. sacred pause…ok, good girl, it’s yours! now as for me, it’s phone in hand, wait. start to open it, close hand. wait. start to open, hand snaps closed. sacred pause…ok, good girl, now go read a book.
recently, i did experience a small moment of victory-over-impulse – it went like this: someone had acted thoughtlessly, hurt my feelings. i pouted and vowed to write them off, and then i stopped. i remember i have choices; wait, do i really want to follow my impulse to cancel them? i like them a lot, daresay, even love them. so, i took a deep breath, then texted to ask if we could talk – actually speak on the phone, – which is as close as we can get to being in-person these days. and then we did it, we talked, we listened, we worked it out. i got a nice apology, they felt heard, and we came out on the other side, excited for whatever the future brings for us. woohoo, one for friendship!
there was another time this year, however, where i actually did follow my impulse to walk away and not work something out with someone. i felt the sting of their crazy action, called my sister for help off the cliff, and ended up redefining what friendship really means to me. it was clear that this relationship didn’t cut it, so while i was sad, i was also relieved to uncover the truth for myself, move forward, and not continue to bark up the wrong tree. trust me, i know a lot about barking up the wrong tree.
sometimes the impulses i have aren’t of the wild variety, or the relational, but come from the “help, i wanna escape” or “i’m confused or scared” category; scared of americanist america, cishet racist ableist patriarchal transphobic america, i want to escape and run away because it’s hard and i have a part in it and i don’t want no part of it. i forget i have choices and i cave. (honestly, i don’t mind caving sometimes, but not if it’s because i forgot that i have a choice). so i forget i have choices and then i remember and stop, take a seat, sit down with the hurt, fear, anger, the hard stuff. this process is what i’ve been thinking of as impulse curiosity and it allows me to forgive myself, choose not to run, but instead re-commit to act, choose action, connect in small ways, and not to turn away.
phew, fresh start, 1000 times a day.
here’s a mantra i love and learned from the brilliant Bonnie Duran, a native american buddhist badass. she’s crush-inspiring, really. Bonnie teaches to repeat to yourself these three parts:
1. not perfect.
2. not permanent.
(then it’s funny but i always forget the third one, oh right…)
3. not personal.
i remember that i have choices and i pause, wait.
snap. there it is. i forgive myself, again, repeat mantra, keep going.