Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
I work at a grocery store as a cashier.
To say it’s been humbling is an understatement.
Instead of seeking a job in a cozy little boutique (my usual fallback plan), I pursued this job to see if I could actually work without ego.
That was my thought, anyway, as I filled out the application.
But one afternoon about a week after I started, I found myself crying on a park bench. Sobbing, really.
The sun was shining. Kids were playing. I was miserable.
Turns out, facing the ego is 1,000 percent more difficult than I thought.
And the struggle’s only begun.
The first day as a cashier was great.
My co-workers are really nice, and I was actually having a little fun. (Scanning groceries is kinda satisfying. I think it’s the beeping sound. A childhood fantasy realized.)
There’s also a sense of anonymity that comes with this job as if I’m playing a version of myself.
It also brings a type of relief – I can just do the job and go home.
Absent is the need to succeed. The pressure to be “the best” is gone.
Maybe this is what contentment feels like, I thought. Maybe I’ve finally found a little peace.
But as the days went on, the novelty wore off and the ego settled in.
What’s that guy’s problem?
It’s only been 30 minutes since I clocked in?!
My knees hurt.
Why the F am I doing this again?
I have a college degree!
That’s when it hit me: I was in the trenches. In the wretched bowels of the ego.
And the worst part? It oozed out to affect the rest of my life.
I found myself in a bad mood about 80 percent of my day.
Little things would set me off.
A slight change of plans, for example, would shoot me down a hole of pessimism.
I was the new critic in town.
Nothing was good enough.
Then guilt would set in because I fell for the ego’s dirty tricks.
I seemed to retreat back to a place I worked so hard to get out of and willingly threw myself back in.
Up For The Challenge?
The middle of last year (the exact time I left my job in California, moved in with Jason, and “risked it all” for the sake of love), I made a vow that I would delve deeper into my self.
Go into the dark shadows and really face personal issues that make me shudder. Alleviate emotional weight I’ve carried around for so long.
And a handful of other hidden gems collected since childhood that can make a person feel not-so-warm-and-fuzzy.
I knew it would be hard emotionally, but for some reason, I had it in mind that it wouldn’t be that difficult.
Now that I’d made a conscious decision to face my demons, I could observe each like animals at the zoo. Examine them from a safe distance, learn from afar.
The ego is a sneaky bastard. It gradually pulls you into the suffocating muck of negativity before you realize what’s going on.
And I’m still working through it.
Practice Makes You Feel Less Insane
Each day (hell, each minute) I have to reset.
I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to go back to the days unawareness.
How much easier it seems to turn a blind eye to bad habits and cycles to break.
But I’ve gone this far and there’s no turning back now.
My third eye is permanently open.
But through this emotional discomfort, I see the other side.
If I try really hard, (like, really F’ing hard) the anger surrounding my heart dissipates, if only for a few moments.
It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, softness and ease take its place.
The challenge is to remain neutral, observe emotions when they arise, and allow them to pass without clinging and deciphering them into oblivion.
At least, that’s kinda what Buddha says.
I don’t want to be a person that feels “too good” for a job, certain people, or places on this Earth.
I don’t want that to be me.
So I trudge through, on my hands and knees, and continue to the battle with the ego.
And I’ll strive to do so until I am able to find some space and clarity to allow my inner self to be free.