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Letter on the Kitchen Table

--by John Ptacek (Jul 16, 2012)


Dear Ego,

I’m breaking up with you. No more circular discussions, no more eleventh hour recriminations. We’re through.

This is not an emotional decision. Actually, it doesn’t feel like a decision at all. We’ve been drifting apart for some time now, and more than anything I’m just acknowledging the distance between us. Whatever kept us together just isn’t there anymore.

It won’t do you any good to turn on the charm. Don’t bother trying to fill my head with thoughts about how great we are together or how lost I’ll be without you. You no longer have that kind of power over me. I see right through you now. I look, and there’s nothing there.

It took me a long time to figure you out. Like so many unhappy couples I know, we drifted into our own little world and for the longest time I mistook it for reality. If you asked me to pinpoint the day this shift occurred, I couldn’t, because it happened so long ago. But I vaguely remember what life was like before I met you. Actually, it’s more a feeling than a memory, a feeling of freedom. Not an “I-have-a-whole-weekend-in-front-of-me-with-no-plans” kind of freedom, but something different altogether. It’s more a sense of spaciousness, the kind children must feel before their heads become filled with worldly nonsense, before their sense of wonder contracts, before they begin to imitate the behavior of the troubled souls around them.

I can feel that sense of spaciousness right now when I close my eyes and forget that I have a body. It’s like I’m not even a person anymore, I’m just this space that goes on forever.

I don’t expect any of this makes sense to you. It never has before. You always have to define things, slot them into categories. But this isn’t something that is easily explained. It’s beyond words– I know, I know, you hate it when I talk like this, when I challenge your rigid view of things. You slip into this really pouty silence.

In the old days I misinterpreted that silence. I felt wrong, even a little crazy, for expressing myself. Now that silence tells me something totally different. It tells me that I threaten you. And it tells me something else, something really important. It tells me that I’m capable of living on my own. When your voice dies away, my voice appears. It’s just there. It’s probably been there the whole the time, but you were always drowning it out. It’s a clear voice. And strong. I’m going to be just fine without you.

My friends think I’m crazy. They wonder what I’m going to do without you. They’ve seen what happens when we’re together, the crazy highs and lows, the bizarre behavior, but they still question my decision. This really throws me until I remind myself what it was like to live in an unhealthy relationship. The worst part is you don’t think it’s unhealthy. You’re convinced that it’s perfectly okay to be miserable all the time. Month after month, year after year, you think – it’ll get better. We’ll work this out. But it doesn’t get better. It can’t. Sick relationships like ours don’t get better, they just get sicker.

It’s a small world and no doubt we’ll be running into each other a bunch. I guess it’s more like “see you around” than it is “goodbye”. As long as we maintain a proper distance, we’ll be fine. I need to be far enough away from you to hear my own voice. I actually wouldn’t mind your company once in a while, like when I’m fixing the sink or packing for a trip. We’ve always gotten along pretty well in those situations. But this time around, you’ll need an invitation. You can’t just come barging in. You don’t live here anymore.

Please pack up your stuff and leave your key on the table. When I come home later, all I want to hear is the sound of you being gone. I’m going to lose myself in the spacious silence, forget where I begin and end. You said something to me once. You said I’d be nothing without you. Remember? Well, I want to end this on a positive note by telling you that you were right. Without you, I am nothing. Nothing at all. If it weren’t for all the hell I went through because of you, I’d have never arrived at that momentous conclusion. So thank you, even if you have no clue about what I just said.

Love always,

John Ptacek


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28 Previous Reflections:

 
On Jul 28, 2012 varsha wrote:
 wow this is just so well written!! n so true!! our egos just dont let us be light n have fun in relationships. it just makes them so heavy n conditional. but when we let go...we realize its easier to live w/o an ego than with it coz it always makes us  wanna expect something from someone. n when people dont live upto our expectations we r dejected, disappointed n so miserbale!!! Goodbye ego :)


On Jul 25, 2012 sarah m wrote:
 what a fun piece of writing, loaded with Truth, and presented in terms that were familiar to me. thank you for sharing it with me. i am grateful :-)


On Jul 25, 2012 Adrianna wrote:
 I cry, reading this. A very good sign that it touches me deeply and I deeply resonate with these words. I have been reading Steven Harrison, whom I highly recommend. Thank you to whomever made this available, I have passed it to our sangha. (Meeting once a week to sit with the words of Eckhart, Adyashanti, Gangaji, Mooji and our own reflections.) Adrianna

On Jul 22, 2012 DEBA wrote:
is ego a human being or what it literally means?

On Jul 21, 2012 Neerav wrote:

Brilliant! That is what I am talking about! Bada-bing!!! Bada-bang!!! Bada-boom!!! For those on the spiritual path back Home to God, leave the ego, which is the cause of pain, suffering and sorrow to not only yourself, but to both others and the world, with THIS note. Put the ego on notice. No more games!!!



On Jul 21, 2012 luv4all wrote:
When I see a determined attitude, I observe an ego today. Even when I am able to do something or give up something by self- control and determination an ego comes into picture. Realised this now, this article has enabled this new vision. 

On Jul 21, 2012 P.J. Rao wrote:
 It is not easy to get rid-off ego so soon and so easily.  It comes back in many ways without ones knowing, and it is very subtle.  Constant watch on mind, talk and ones working is required to prevent it from entering.  Great sages of India struggled to eliminate ego.  We have to be in constant watch.

On Jul 20, 2012 skd wrote:
Just briliant! Loved the article

On Jul 18, 2012 bkjyothi wrote:
This is very important for every soul i have realised what ego is i have realised that i have leave it on the table after i come back and see its gone its wonderfull i have realised it how this worked beautifuly pharesed. 

On Jul 18, 2012 luv4all wrote:
I could see the ego in thoughts multiple times today. This post was helpful. 

On Jul 18, 2012 Sateen Sheth wrote:
Clever piece, loved it!  Makes me think of all the suffering, conflict and wasted time/energy that goes into protecting and boosting our self-created sense of identity, which is probably why we want to hold on to that connection to ego, we'd think we were "nothing" without it. But by becoming "nothing" we don't realize that we are able to actually become everything and not be limited by the walls and limitations that our ego puts on our true selves.

On Jul 18, 2012 Narendra wrote:
 John Ptacek’s article is excellent so are the question about it !
 
What does telling your ego that it can only be in your life by invitation mean to you?
*******We invite good-ego for survival, excitement and happiness however it can easily lead us to self-centered obsession - the bad-ego.

Can you share an experience where you were aware of your ego coming in uninvited and were able to ask it to stand down?
*******Every time we loose our patience and get defensive, the self-centered, bad-ego is in- charge. We need to watch our emotions to get a handle on bad-ego.

How can we cultivate ourselves to be able to see ourselves separately from our ego
*******We can see the self-centered ego from compassion in the heart, when we shift our awareness from mind to heart through meditation on the heart. 

On Jul 17, 2012 Alan wrote:
What a delightful letter!  Great work, John.  In reading the reflections by others, an image of the ego that comes to mind is similar to the character in ‚ÄčLord of the Rings‚Äč - little Gollum, who is both cloying and conniving in its determination to get its way.  

Now that the universe has alerted me to you, I'm looking forward to reading more of your work at 'On Second Thought.'  Thanks for being there!

On Jul 17, 2012 BCKMishra wrote:
To shed ego is a difficult task as it is a natural and subtle ingredient of every one's personality.It requires incessant effort and undying will with conscious denials as written by John. Ego comes and hits you time and again and you will not even come to know about it.

On Jul 17, 2012 Lee wrote:
 Just yesterday after leading a yoga session with 2 friends, we paid attention to how "neutral" we felt after our practice, how untethered we were to thoughts and accompanying emotions. Free. Complete. We use our practice to remind us what the stillpoint feels like so that the moment we're not there, the moment we are aware we are reacting to life as opposed to responding, we'll at least breathe and pay attention. A lovely letter to help us continue to seek awareness.

On Jul 17, 2012 Trish wrote:
 I am aware of my ego sneaking in while creating artwork. I'll be in a zone and then I notice a thought coming in......."sweet, this is awesome" .. "yes! I'm in flow".....or.... " I can't do this right now. I feel so clumsy". My ego wants to hold onto these thoughts and then in the next moment beat myself up for  giving them value by pulling myself out of the task at hand to have an "ego trip". The ego is just so damn seductive. I've learned to notice the thought, breathe, and let it float on by.

On Jul 17, 2012 Shrinivas wrote:
I think we should try to be an observer, observing thoughts as they come and go. Only in that observation can we discover the real self, no more analysing, judging or measuring. Just be in the moment, wholly and attentively.

On Jul 17, 2012 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
 Ego goes when I become aware of it and let it go. It shows up in many faces in different guises , in  different contexts and at different times. It  goes away when I take a walk by myself in my garden, when I watch the clear sky. I used to experience the ego-less state when I would put my head in my mother's lap. It happens when I hold a crying child in my arms comforting him.it happens when a song comes to me and I sing it for singing with no one present around me. These are precious moments. They come without making any effort. It happens when I do not make it;when I let it be. Jagdish P Dave

On Jul 17, 2012 Michael wrote:
 " No matter where you go, there you are." I've always loved this simple statement, because for me it speaks both to the ego always hanging around, and our transcendence of it at the same time. I don't  know that we can ever leave our egos completely but we can get more awareness around it by watching our thoughts and questioning them. By understanding that we are not our thoughts, we are not the sum of what we tell ourselves about who we are. In the act of self inquiry  into these ideas about "who we are", we break free if only for a moment and have an experience of the authenticity of ourselves, the " Now" of this moment. And that's a place the ego just can't go.

On Jul 17, 2012 Noreen wrote:
 Wonderful reflection for this morning, John.  Thank you!  The dance is getting easier and easier for me as I boldly stretch myself.  I really is an inside job.

On Jul 17, 2012 Megha wrote:
 I am still learning about my hateful beloved :) . I am still learning about her resistance and her fear,her anxiety and her insecurity. I have learnt many of her stories and yet I am trying at each step to love her. I find that the more I embrace her,the more her vice-like grip loosens,the more I seek her camaraderie,the more the distances between us dissolve,the more calm listening I do to this little devil,the less fearful she appears,the more I woo this dark intruder,the smaller she becomes in the space of my soul.  

On Jul 17, 2012 Monica wrote:
 I wish it were that simple for me. I have asking her to leave, over and over my uninvited guest comes back. I am grateful for my awareness about our destructive relationship, that I know I shall ask Ms Ego for leave me be. All I can do at this point is keep on asking.

On Jul 17, 2012 patricia wrote:
 Poignant.  How I wish it were that simple to ask someone to leave your life.  My experience has been a violent struggle for autonomy; a person who turns into a brutal adversary who will keep you by any means.  The letter is so sweet.

On Jul 15, 2012 madhur wrote:
Wonderful, I am with you completely.
Ego would not go away so soon, it would keep coming back and there may be times it is able to make a fool of us. Yeah but as soon as the realization comes, saying a good bye, again and again would do the trick!
Good luck!

On Jul 14, 2012 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
 John Ptacek is outstanding. Unfortunately I am not aware of my ego coming in uninvited when I was able to ask it to stand down.  After meditating for a number of years,  this awareness comes more quickly after my ego, which is almost always an "automatic," greatly increases my impatience and anger.  I've been telling myself to get my ego off automatic for years, and I now have the sense that this article, and my writing a reaction to it, will help me better notice, at times, that I am on automatic ego before I become impatient or angry.  This is exactly the article I needed at this time. Thank you very much Somik and service space. org.  Warm and kind regards to everyone.
 

On Jul 14, 2012 Chris Wheaton wrote:
My ego is my "childish thing" that constantly needs to be "put away". She developed around the age of 8 and has the attitude of 'I want what I want and I want it now!"  I decided that I was somehow deprived and deserved to have my own way in everything....this however, hasn't served me very well and when I am CONSCIOUS of the brat in my head, I can laugh at her and gently replace her with childlike wonder and awe at my world and a true sense of gratitude for my life.  At 62 it has taken me a lifetime of learning and relearning to hone my consciousness so that I can live more in spirit than in ego.  I expect it will continue and hopefully I will transition with a smile on my face! 

On Jul 13, 2012 Amit wrote:
 So many times I have broken up with ego like our friend John here, but every time I do, I feel insecure and I "miss her" and end up getting back together. And what exactly am I missing? A false sense of security? See the thing is, i've been with my ego for so long that the weight and imprisonment seems normal and makes feel uneasy, not normal, to let it go. That is the power and seduction of ego, it makes you think you need her because without her you are nobody. John hit the nail on the head, we are nobody and that is ok, in fact that is perfect. If we all realize we are just a bunch of no-bodies then we stop identifying with this body, and recognize we are all the same, all one underneath the covers. Its our ego that says, no no, you must be unique. Well ego, you are right, you are as unique as a snowflake...just like all the other snowflakes out there. Ha ha. Good bye Ego. Hope to "i" never have to see You and "I" together again!  

On Jul 13, 2012 david doane wrote:

 I like the redirection of your questions in response to this piece.  Thank you.  There was a time, really not very long ago, that I wasn't aware that my ego was separate from me or at least wasn't all of me and wasn't the best of me.  Now I am very aware often that my ego is not all of me and it is the driver in my life mostly when I let it.  That's growth for me, and it feels good.  In some situations, like when I'm caught up in trying to impress someone, ego seems to take over before I know what's happening, and as I do become aware I can step in front of it and take the lead which to me means being genuine and non goal directed, but sometimes it's difficult.  It feels to me to be much more of an act of assertion of my real self rather than asking my ego to stand down -- when I'm in good shape, I don't ask it, I simply take internal action and take over.  I'm in charge, not it.  We cultivate ourselv  See full.

 I like the redirection of your questions in response to this piece.  Thank you.  There was a time, really not very long ago, that I wasn't aware that my ego was separate from me or at least wasn't all of me and wasn't the best of me.  Now I am very aware often that my ego is not all of me and it is the driver in my life mostly when I let it.  That's growth for me, and it feels good.  In some situations, like when I'm caught up in trying to impress someone, ego seems to take over before I know what's happening, and as I do become aware I can step in front of it and take the lead which to me means being genuine and non goal directed, but sometimes it's difficult.  It feels to me to be much more of an act of assertion of my real self rather than asking my ego to stand down -- when I'm in good shape, I don't ask it, I simply take internal action and take over.  I'm in charge, not it.  We cultivate ourselves to be able to see ourselves separately from our ego by reflection and practice.  

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