Buy Something Red For The Turtle

Posted: June 18, 2014 in thriving
Tags: , , , ,

As I left the house today for the grocery store, my wife called out, “Buy something red for the turtle.”

“Really,” I thought, “for the turtle!” It didn’t make sense. Then I realized she wanted me to get Celine some thing red to eat. I imagined strawberries and thought, “I’m not wasting our money on strawberries for a turtle.”

Then it occurred to me that the turtle might be hungry and really enjoy some red, juicy watermelon, and watermelon is cheap, and so I dropped the stinginess in my heart and went out gladly, questing for the good of the turtle. I came home with a small watermelon.

I sensed no gratitude on the part of the turtle and was tempted to eat most of it myself.

I’m naturally like this, begrudgingly generous, with turtles. I’m working on it.

I have, in a reformative spirit, taken to refusing money — sometimes. I used to charge for the public speaking skills I brought to weddings and funerals. I don’t anymore. I no longer have a stomach for profiting from other people’s grief — or joy. As a result, my rhetoric has improved. Since no one is paying, I only aim to please myself with my remarks, and as a result, I am more pleased. My not-for-sale humor makes me laugh, and my nonprofit pathos keeps me emotionally congruent. I like myself better — serving others — for free.

This is needed. My first instincts have almost always been greedy. I’m learning to go more now with my second and third instincts. Recently I paid people more than they asked for to do work on my house. I knew them. I didn’t want them to think I was cheap, and I truly wanted to benefit them.

I’m no saint. My motives about all kinds of things fluctuate from benevolent to self-interested, and everything in between. I am, like most of us, complex, bi-motivated, tri-motived, quadra-inspired. Even when I do something good, there is often, lurking just on the other side of love — which is the best motive in the universe — a less noble instigator. I am motivated by love, but also by others’ expectations, by their appreciation, by guilt, obligation and gain.

What I am learning is that my motives warrant examination. Why do I do what I do? What is in my heart? I want to know. I want to be more honest about this. Because if I can at least name these co-conspirators, then I can put them to the side, mitigate them, even refuse their influence. What I can name I can defeat.

I can defeat selfishness. I can choose to be generous. I can choose to not use people for my gain. I can choose to say no, or yes or later or never or, “I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” with no praise, profit or power-grubbing motive dragging along like dead and dying weight behind us.

I can choose, to buy the turtle something red, and not eat it myself.

  1. Marilynn Calderon says:

    Love it. Sometimes I feel like I have layers of motives to sift through. It helps to know I am not alone in that. Marilynn

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