When should I hold on to a belief and when should I let it go?
Sometime ago, I wrote a song about relationships called “Holding On.” At the time, I was witnessing some love-starved marriages where the couples were isolated from one another. It seemed to me that they were holding on to something that was no longer viable, living or growing. Why didn’t they just call it quits?
The song is on my mind today and it has nothing to do with those couples. Instead, it’s about how I have been holding on to outmoded beliefs, thinking that there is always a “right and a wrong” in all situations. As I’ve said before, this kind of binary thinking is hard to change. It’s how most of us were trained at home, school and, perhaps, in religious or military institutions.
I was also trained at my jobs, in particular the restaurant industry, where I spent many years working as a busboy then a waiter in country clubs and fine dining establishments. In those places, demanding maitre d’s and managers instilled in me how to do everything “right” on behalf of their exacting standards of correct dining service. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that these bosses used fear to train us. We were, after all, wild boys who needed to be civilized.
Twenty five years after my last restaurant job, I still take pride in what I know and learned. However, last night I learned that some of these old, traditional ways are no longer the standards. Moreover, I learned that insisting that my way is the right way is very off putting to people who don’t share my standards.
At the end of last night’s meal, one of my dining companions began to stack the plates and silverware at the table. They were doing so to help our server.
In my world, this is a breach of etiquette. Servers and busboys clear the table, not diners. Stacking and scraping might be okay at summer camp or a BBQ, but it was never done while dining out.
My mistake was to discuss this with my companions in binary terms of right and wrong, to make a big deal of something that was consequential to me but not to my fellow diners. I cited a Google search where a manners “expert” agreed with me. As you may imagine, this only elongated the discussion and made it more heated. Yuck. (This is how to spoil a dinner in one easy step.)
This morning, I woke up recognizing that I had become the old fuddyduddy we used to make fun of in my teens and twenties. I was stuck in a belief that my opinion was correct and, worse still, that it was my right to let everyone else know what I knew to be correct. Ha!
Holding On is normal. Letting Go is learned. Luckily, I can see that I fell into a self made trap and that there’s a way to make amends and relearn my old-fashioned ways if they no longer serve me or my relationships. I’ve done the same with transgender, race and feminism to name a few. It’s happening now with yoga and the Tantric philosophy that I’m learning in my teacher training.
But it’s also unlearning lessons that I learned from elders in my youth. At an impressionable time in my life, I was taught the do’s and don’ts that they probably learned from their elders. Tradition!
It would be unfair to say that there aren’t some standards worth keeping. That said, it’s worth examining what we consider to be absolutely true and ask, “Is it so?”