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When the Chips Are Down, That's When You Know
Finding Out Who I Really Am
By Carol James

I have long thought that when the chips are down and things are not going my way is the perfect time to see who I really am. Recently, I had an incredible opportunity to find that out and to take a huge leap in evolution at the same time.

I completed a project, for which I was partially paid, and for which I was expecting a large payment in a matter of days. But the check didn�t arrive and the contractor began to avoid contact with me by not returning my calls or emails and having his kids tell me he wasn�t home when I called. After two weeks, I finally tricked him with a phone call by telling his daughter that I was someone else. Gosh, I never knew I had a sly side!) He gave me his song and dance, explaining that the balloon payment on his house had come due and the refinance had fallen through. So instead of sending the money to me, he had paid his balloon payment.

"What about me? How am I going to meet my obligations?" I fumed. He promised that he would work things out soon (when?) and pay me in a week or so. After his maneuvers of the previous weeks, I found it difficult to trust his promises. To make matters worse, someone informed me that this contractor was having severe financial problems. As I sat with the situation and considered all the possible outcomes, I traversed a broad range of perspectives and feelings. I hopped from, "Oh no, what if he files bankruptcy!" to "What if I only get small monthly payments?" I struggled to focus on the outcome that offered the most relief (that payment would be forthcoming), because that one took more trust than I could muster.

This episode carried on for a few weeks, reeking havoc on my energy and plaguing me with negative thoughts. For example, I would catch myself having conversations in my head in which I told him off for spending my money. Of course, because I was focusing in a negative direction, my thoughts would then flow to the possibility that he might stiff me for the money he owed me. I was angry that he was controlling my finances, or, more precisely, that I was feeling out of control. The funny thing is a few months earlier I had told him that I had stopped doing business with a mutual acquaintance because of her borderline ethics. In my mind he was doing the same thing to me now. Had I subconsciously planted the seed for this to happen? Negative thoughts kept intruding into my sense of well-being and escalating my fears:

"What he has done is illegal. He embezzled funds from me. The client paid him for work I did under subcontract to him, and he spent it without thinking about how it would affect my financial situation. What a %@$#!!!"

Day after day I caught myself mulling over the situation, feeling upset at him for not being more responsible and even more upset with myself for getting into this mess. Above all, I felt fearful that he wouldn�t pay me, which would mean that I wouldn�t be able to pay my debts and my creditors would think that I was a flake, just as they did when I went bankrupt many years ago. I knew that the energy in those thoughts packed enough wallop to become my reality, unless I diffused it.

I tried to shift my thoughts to more optimistic ones by using affirmations, but fear-based thoughts kept popping back in because I didn�t really believe that all was well and that everything would turn out for my highest good, as the affirmations insisted. Even though I sensed that he would eventually pay me, I wanted to know when and how. If the money didn�t arrive by a certain date - the "deadline" - I would need to borrow money from my mom, which evoked concern that she would think I was a failure.

With the intention of transforming my perspective, I became inspired to ask myself, "How can I respond to this situation in a way that uplifts him?"

Immediately a little voice inside me said, "What? Uplift him? He�s the bad guy here; why should I make him feel better?" The answer was obvious: "He�s probably feeling worse than you are, and he doesn�t even realize how he got himself into this mess. If you uplift him, you will be the person you keep saying you want to be: An uplifter."

Geez! That was a tough argument to counter; after all, I did want to be an uplifter. So I set upon the task of finding other ways to view this situation. Here�s what I discovered: As long as I held fear and resentment about not being in control, fear-based thoughts about losing control popped up automatically. It wasn�t a conscious thing. I didn�t think, "Gee, now I think I�ll think about not getting paid by him. Gosh, then I�ll think about all the disastrous consequences that will ensue."

First I became aware that I was tense, and then I became aware of what I was last thinking. Sometimes the connection between what I was thinking and what I was feeling was obvious. For instance, in a particularly tense moment, I caught myself thinking about needing to approach my mom for money. (Whoa, that thought caused tension!). But I could tell that it was not the core source of the tension. The core was my discomfort in feeling at the mercy (and whim) of others.

I wanted to be in control of what happened in my life, to control the circumstances and situations that I experience. When I saw events coming toward me that I wanted, it was easy to maintain my sense of well-being - to think, speak and act in harmony with knowing that all was well. But when I noticed events coming toward me that potentially spelled disaster, I immediately assumed the worst and felt out of control. Coming from that negative perspective - he was not going to pay me in the way I was expecting it - was guaranteed to keep me in a state of stress.

As soon as I realized that I was caught in a spiral of negative thoughts, I deliberately decided to think instead about how he might have gotten himself into this mess. This thought led me to remember my own bankruptcy and how desperation provoked me to take odd actions. Suddenly I found myself understanding how he had gotten into this predicament, and my anxiety and fears melted into compassion.

I realized that I was looking at the situation only from the perspective of how I was affected by what he did. I hadn't stopped to think about him and the stress he was probably suffering, and it suddenly occurred to me that this would be a good opportunity for me to uplift him and help him gain something positive from this experience.

As I pondered this new perspective, my feelings suddenly transformed, and I knew that regardless of the outcome I would be taken care of. If I never got the money from him, it would come from another source. If it came in tiny payments, it would still be spendable and I could still do what I had planned, perhaps just a bit slower. Or, perhaps he had found another company to refinance his house, and a big check was already on its way to me.

Whichever way it turned out would be okay with me. Three days after I changed my perspective, I received a big fat check from him with a note dripping with apology. Now I know that the trick is not to eliminate everything that stands in my way, but rather to stop perceiving things as standing in my way. I realize that maintaining effectiveness and a sense of well-being involves keeping my focus on the outcome I want regardless of what circumstances present themselves to me. Holding my tone that all is well may be easy when life is easy, but holding my tone that all is well when life is difficult causes life to stop being difficult.

What a grand year this has become.

Carol James is a visionary, author, teacher, coach and founder of Inspired Living, which empowers people to live an inspired life through a chat list, educational programs and an extensive library of inspiring and motivating articles, stories and more. She publishes the Inspired Lifestyles Newsletter and co-authored the book, Transformative Thinking: a Course in Spiritual Empowerment.

Carol James