I often speak about personal sovereignty, the concept and practice of being entirely responsible for all we do along with the intended and unintended consequences of such. Anyone can talk the walk; it’s another thing entirely too actually walk the walk. That’s usually where concept and reality sharply diverge and in ways we might not think would be a test of our ‘practice’.
In fact, I had one the other day you might be interested in hearing about.
We live at the end of a dirt road, off a dirt road, off a paved road out in the middle of nowhere. Or at least it feels like nowhere when it’s an hour in any direction to find a store with more square footage than our house. That mile ride to the paved road passes a few homes and several absentee landowners, some of whom I do work for to help maintain their land and property.
One in particular engages my services on a continuing basis, which means invoices for services rendered are constantly produced and paid. The other day this person, my friend, asked if I could retrieve an old invoice from many moons ago. They were compiling some paperwork for legal work and couldn’t locate that particular one.
A search of my memory (epic fail) and my computer (slightly better results once the memory came back) soon turned up the missing item and I quickly forwarded it on. The bill showed the total netted out with some personal property I took in trade for fiat, leaving a rather substantial sum remaining to be paid. I didn’t think twice about it, other than to remember the property gained.
Nothing to see here, move along was my internal response. I was just glad I still had a copy to help out my friend.
A few days later while checking my phone I discovered my friend had emailed me back. Because I was busy with chores and projects, I initially left it unopened with the assumption I would deal with that night. But something about the odd subject line compelled me to open it immediately. Inside it said, “I can find no record of paying you for this.” Attached was the invoice I had sent him a few days previously.
My first reaction was one of egoic disbelief. There was simply no way I could have forgotten I was owed this large a sum of money. Pushing aside the impossible as not worthy of my attention, I finished my day’s chores and, after dinner, settled in front of my computer.
After reviewing the rest of that day’s emails, I decided I should at least search the electronic check registers for evidence of the deposit I was certain was there. It was not. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe I deposited it in another account not normally used for day to day transactions.
Nope, not there as well!
Very interesting! However, I was still not entertaining the possibility the payment had never been received. It MUST be somewhere. I pulled up the email threads from that period of time between my friend and I. Maybe we deferred the transaction until later or netted the rest of the outstanding balance some other way?
Once again, the answer came back in the negative.
But this simply could not be. Was my memory that bad? How could I let that large a sum fall off the internal radar? It’s not like we’re rolling in fiat. We are living on a relatively small monthly sum scratched together from over half a dozen sources. Many streams of income is how we get by. Once again my ego refused to accept reality, so I emailed my friend back assuring him the payment would eventually turn up.
Quite simply, I was smug in the knowledge I simply could not be that fallible.
He, on the other hand, persisted in the matter because of his legal requirements. He needed to show documentation of payment made since he had claimed he had done so.
Several days later he texted me, informing me he had found no evidence of payment made and would be sending me a check immediately. He then apologized for being so tardy. I was stunned and quite frankly reluctant to accept his check since I was still fairly certain I had already received remuneration in some form or another.
And yet this man, my friend, clearly believed he had not paid and was preparing to do precisely that. Again, this was not a small sum on money, though not large enough to break the bank. But I would not cut a check for this amount without first exhaustively assuring myself it had not already been paid.
And then an interesting thing happened inside my diseased brain. For just a moment I started to get pissed. How dare he fail to pay me for such a long time? This was simply outrageous. My righteous indignation quickly bubbled over and gushed all over the place as I waded around in my own pity party.
Thankfully I quickly righted my rapidly sinking cognitive ship and remembered I am a sovereign being and entirely responsible for all my actions. Including those actions I fail to act upon or follow up on. This was obviously a matter both of us failed to follow through on. But considering I am the payee, ultimately I am responsible for making sure I am paid.
My friend always promptly pays my invoices. For whatever reason, this one was sidetracked and wound up dead ended. A scan of my emails for months after I invoiced him shows no distress on my part about not being paid. I dropped the ball and he, being a busy professional and not the laid back mountain man I am, forgot as well.
Worse, when I retrieved the old invoice at his request I was once again presented with the opportunity to right a wrong I failed to previously correct. And did I?
And the primary reason was my big fat ego, which refused to believe I could make a mistake of such magnitude. It must be a bookkeeping error because it certainly couldn’t be me. Then, when facing clear evidence of my own epic failure, what do I do? To hide from my own shame and embarrassment, I became angry with the person who found my error and persisted in insisting he owed me.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if I would have done the same thing. And I suspect that is the root source of my egoic response to avoid responsibility and shift blame.
I am of the opinion that it’s the examination of relatively small things like this that is the way forward in becoming the sovereign individual I truly wish to be. We are not perfect and never will be. The key to progress is to recognize there is no perfection, but never allowing that acknowledgement from stopping us from trying. And that requires rigorous honesty, especially when that’s the last thing we want to be.
No one said walking the walk was going to be easy, particularly when it’s hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. But this is precisely when we must practice our professed ‘belief’; before, during and after we stumble. If we are unwilling to confront ourselves when alone and no one is watching, thereby only accountable to ourselves, then we are categorically incapable of being fundamentally honest with ourselves and therefore unable to be personally sovereign. It all begins within.
Another lesson relearned.