Breaking Conditioning

Another journal that predates the beginning of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm, this time written on:

November 17, 2004

It’s been awhile since I last posted a journal entry, but I suppose that’s largely because time constraints and lessons learned have been at odds with each other. I suppose it’s safe to say that I find more joy in writing fiction than jotting down my thoughts in this season of life. Since I’ve been trying my best to get various writing projects edited and completed this past year, other projects, including my written lessons, have been taking a back seat. But today I feel like I’ve discovered something about myself that’s worth remembering for the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Who knows? Maybe I can look back on this some day and actually feel like I’ve grown an inch or two.

First of all, I know that patience has been an ongoing struggle with me. It really doesn’t matter what I have to wait for; I just hate waiting for it. I get antsy, I get nervous, and odds usually lean in the favor of me getting stressed. It’s just something I’ve dealt with my whole life, and I don’t suppose it will ever fully go away. But that issue seems to conflict with a lot of important things in my life.

I suppose the best thing to do here is to jump right into the lesson because realistically any aspect of my life can fit into this equation.

I recently started a job waiting tables, which I’ve been curious about for awhile, but never really had the option to try until now. That’s all fine and dandy, but on the surface that doesn’t really seem like anything relevant to remember. But today I discovered something about myself (or at least found refinement in a discovery I had made some time ago), to which I think reveals my difficulty in trusting the Lord.

I need to clarify that there are some underlying things that I don’t question. The Bible says it’s true; therefore I believe it. My salvation is the primary area of my life that I just don’t question. If the Bible says I’ve been saved through Christ, then I believe it. I know that I have no power over such things as saving souls, including my own, but I believe Christ does. Because that is such a massive thing to believe, and yet so simple if I just accept it, I find it odd that I have a hard time believing Christ to take care of the lesser things—the things that I have some ability to work with on my own.

Now to get back on track, something I’ve known about myself for a little while is that I’m a conditioned individual. And this is partly to do with what I had started talking about in regards to serving tables. Essentially, I develop a mindset of things according to what repetition teaches me. Today I found myself getting in over my head with things that should have been simple because some of my customers wanted variations to items and requests that most people accept as they are. In other words, people wanted changes made to certain meals, to which I found myself in a situation where I had to correct mistakes and ultimately slow down my service to other tables because I didn’t catch my bearings long enough to process the variations.

So far I’m still being a bit vague, so I’ll try to narrow it down further. On a given day, I serve my tables through a sequential process that involves drinks, then sides, then meals. Pretty straightforward. When the restaurant is slow, I find it easy to pace myself, and my mistakes are few. However, when business picks up, I find that my pace has to speed up as well, and thus my thought process moves into autopilot. Now, there’s nothing wrong with autopilot when a customer wants his or her order to conform to the standard that both the majority and the restaurant expects. I know my routine, and I know how to get through it as painless as possible. But once the first difference is expected, that autopilot can ultimately cause a lot of problems for me.

And that’s what had happened today. When I made the first mistake of the day, I had to go back and fix it, which slowed down my pace, which my mind and body turned to flight mode, which invariably created a chain reaction of further mistakes, which slowed my pace down even more, which eventually caused me to get so far in over my head that I ended up losing tables to another server just so I could get caught up. All this because I kept myself wrapped up in a conditioned state of mind. Despite what differences the customers ordered, I still brought things out the way I’m used to bringing them. And it messed up the course of my day.

Where this relates to my spiritual life is that my faith has been shaped by condition. I find it difficult to hope for certain prayers to be answered because I’ve conditioned myself to doubt them. If I’ve been disappointed 99 out of 100 times, what’s to stop my dreams from disappointing me again? Even when I ask in prayer for something important to me, or when I work hard to get it, I find myself struggling to find good fruit in the outcome because most of the time I expect to be disappointed. It’s a pattern that began long ago, and it seems that I’ve gotten myself in over my head in this sea of doubts.

I’m writing this down because I think the key to recovering my heart is to slow down and take a new approach. At work, the key to break the condition is to slow down long enough to think about what I’m doing. I take the notes I need, I decide on how I pace myself throughout the day; there really shouldn’t be any reason for me to make brainless mistakes. If I accept the fact that there is no set standard in waiting a table, then maybe I can adopt that to even greater things. Maybe I can somehow find a way to break the conditioning and no longer expect failure in my life.

That’s the base of what I’d learned today. Obviously there’s still room to grow, but it’s helpful to have an idea on from where to launch.

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