Homework: Being Present

A prompt from 13 Steps to Awakening:

Just be present. #wiaddc by dnkbdotcom, on Flickr
Just be present. #wiaddc” (CC BY-NC 2.0) Image by  dnkbdotcom 


  • Remember the last time you lost control, which caused you a lot of emotional or physical distress, perhaps even resulting in a financial loss. Describe what happened.
    • I have to admit it is very difficult for me to remember a situation that fits this question, not because I am so arrogant as to think it doesn’t apply, but because I feel so badly whenever I lose control that I put the memories into such a deep part of my brain I cannot find or pull them out without great difficulty. This is certainly true for the last time I lost control–those details are in the deepest freeze of my unpleasant memory bank. I know this goes back to my childhood when “losing control” usually involved crying or getting angry, neither of which were acceptable to my parents or those around me. But instead of helping me learn how to express the emotions that led to crying or anger in more acceptable ways, I recall only the remonstrances from adults who told me I should know better. Well, maybe I should have, but I didn’t.
  • Analyze the situation to see when and how you entered deep sleep.
    • I’m clearly still in deep sleep about events that led to tears or anger. I feel I have learned to cover up those emotions, though this is not the healthiest way to deal with them.
  • Write about instances where you caused problems for yourself or for others by not being present and instead relied on your instincts. What happened?
    • It is easier for me to go way back in time because those memories can be explained without so much embarrassment. After all, I’ve learned so much since then.
      1. Several years ago I received a bill for the last video in a series I had received through a monthly subscription. The bills arrived after the video along with the option to check a box indicating whether I wanted the following month’s video or whether I wanted to stop the subscription. The bill arrived two years after I received the video. I no longer lived at the same address as where the video was mailed. In fact, I not longer lived in the same country. As a result, there is good reason to believe that the company that sent the bill for the last one had been trying to send it to me for quite some time between the point at which I received the video and then the bill. Except for the fact that I stopped receiving the videos so they apparently received my notification that I wanted to stop my subscription, and that should have accompanied payment for the final video.

        But this bill came with a mildly threatening letter about the possibility of legal action if I failed to pay the bill. I called the telephone number on the bill to explain that I was sure that I had paid for each of the videos I received and that I didn’t understand why I received a bill for one so much later. The woman on the other end explained that the bill was the result of an audit that uncovered the fact they had no record of my paying for the final video. I objected, though I had to admit that because so much time had passed and I have moved from one country to another and had shredded nearly every bill–paid or otherwise–before packing up from my previous relative. Neither the woman on the other end of the phone line or I behaved in an exemplary manner at the end of the conversation. I was angry that the woman on the other end didn’t seem to pay attention to my circumstances.

        The total cost was likely around $10 and not worth either the time or effort to try to collect two years later–at least in my opinion. But she insisted that I owed the money and insisted that I pay. By this point, both she and I were shouting. I don’t recall who had the last word, but I never paid the cost and I never received notification of legal action. But I still remember how upset I was when I lost my temper with a woman who was simply doing her job.

        How should I have handled the situation? First, I should have given the woman time to explain the situation more fully, in order to make it clear I might not have the whole story. Second, I should have asked questions about the possibility of the payment being made but not applied to the account, to show I understood she and I needed to work together to solve the problem. Third, if I still felt I had paid for all the videos, I should have asked her to call me back or have me call her back in a few days in order for me to gather copies of my checks or other payment method before discussing the situation further. Most importantly, I should have calmed down as soon as I felt the anger begin to rise within me in order to keep working with the woman instead of taking up a position against her.

      2. At another point when I lived in yet another country, I had a minor accident in a parking lot which my husband arranged to get fixed. The day he brought the car back to the house, I drove to the grocery store and on my way out of the parking lot (not the same one), a car behind me honked which I thought indicated the driver was annoyed with how slowly I was driving (in that country honking the car’s horn rarely meant the driver was warning another driver) so I continued backing out and heard the scraping of my car against another parked car. I drove straight home to tell my husband, but he was so angry when he saw the new scrape he jumped to the conclusion that another car had scraped up against my car and I didn’t dare object to tell him I was at fault again. I knew I would tell him the truth, but I didn’t dare do so right then.

        A local employee of the embassy where I worked called the local police and arranged for them to look at the car in order to put together a traffic report, necessary for me to get the car repaired. I had planned to tell the local employee what happened as soon as we arrived in separate cars at the meeting with the police, but I didn’t have time. As soon as the police saw the car, they recognized the scape was not caused by another car driving along the side of my car, but the reverse. The police asked me if that is what happened and I admitted it was so. I turned then to the local employee to explain I didn’t dare tell my husband the truth because he was so angry. The employee had seen my husband’s reaction so I knew he would understand. He did. That evening while my husband and I were at the home of a new colleague for dinner, my husband mentioned the accident at which point I admitted that the accident was my fault, not another driver’s. But the damage had been done. Others among my colleagues thought I had tried to place blame on someone else instead of taking responsibility. The fact that I admitted to the police within 30 minutes of the event was not considered.

        What should I have done? Admit the truth immediately, no matter how angry my husband appeared. If I had done so, I know he would have remained annoyed for a few hours, but his annoyance would have been correctly placed and I would have held responsibility from the beginning. And he would have laughed at my bad luck–or stupidity–either of which would have been preferable to the ill will my silence brought towards me from colleagues.

The above prompt is part of the second of 13 free lessons, developed by Alex Moses, Life Strategist, available on the A Life Answers website, shared with his permission.

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