The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best
I learned about the Four Agreements one summer while working in the Berkshires from my friend Tom. A Toltec Shaman named Don Miguel Ruiz published them in a book in 1997. Tom would often climb a nearby mountain and play a flute.
This was the same summer my best friend’s stepfather was hit by lightning in his canoe, along with his nephew, both killed, and drug to the bottom of a lake in Ocala by alligators, only to later be identified by dental records. This was the same Summer I once again gave servitude to a company I worked for, as, starstruck I listened to it’s elders for guidance, hoping that they would give me wisdom on how to grow up. I just wanted someone to tell me things like, “Don’t do drugs.” or ask if I knew where babies came from. No dice. I learned much about being a teacher, figuring things out on my own, and how to allow heroes to step off of the pedestal every once in a while to give them a break. Heroism was as exhausting for them as my need for a hero was for me.
This is the same Summer I slept only hours a night, seeking solace in the people who lived most extremely. Everything was liberally done. Including damage. Facebook reminded me of this Summer today.
Facebook loves to remind you of things, and also today it reminded me that three years ago today I was in the Giants stadium in San Francisco. I took a job with a theatre company out there, being hired with stars in my eyes by a beautiful, charismatic, brilliant leader.
I will remember a few things about that place:
Mount Tamalpais : I climbed and climbed and climbed. I was searching so desperately for some warmth in this place I had come for work. I mean, there was no way for it to live up to expectations, and the self loathing, reinforced by leaders, was verbose. Mount Tam was a metaphor for the EXTREME sadness I was feeling, the worthlessness I had assigned myself. I was trying to get up and out, trying to see the world more clearly.
The Pacific: Never have I walked so much on a beach. Never have I thrown so many questions to a body of water. And never have I considered pulling a Jeff Buckley more than in these weeks.
Fort Point : The production I worked on took place here, and inside the walls you could find the signatures of all the men who were at the ready in the 1800’s for a war that never came. I learned every curve, every stone, every ghost.
Golden Boy Pizza, John, and Jamie: I knew already that I loved one of these yahoos, and the Jamie came later, brilliant, with a madman’s eyes, a poet’s heart, and a sailor’s soul. These two gentlemen, the patterns of good men, unknowingly kept me alive these months.
The Giants : By God, they might be the most disappointing team in MLB right now, but they were a glorious constant then. There was nothing like sitting against a redwood in a forest with a game being funneled into my ears. There was something to root for. There was a home team. Watching a no-hitter in that stadium was the highlight of my Summer.
Facebook also reminded me:
Nine years ago today Michael Jackson died.
One year ago I was on Peak’s Island saying poetry to a new crowd.
Seven years ago, I was getting ready to perform at the Eno River Festival in North Carolina with Rebecca, still eating fire, still being a Carolinian and a Nickel Shakespeare Girl. Still loving and being in love with one of the best friends I ever had, and ever will have in this life or any after.
Four years ago I was cooking for a family in the Berkshires for side money alongside one of the dearest, most rock-hard strong women I have ever known.
They became dear to me -to us- this family, and we became family to them. Sadly less than a year later, the patriarch took his own life, just like his father before.
One year ago my friend John was playing Lear in our show Dark Rooms. He knew he was dying, even then. A few weeks later, he was gone, and we were rehearsing a play he financed-literally his dying wish- about the first poet and the first prophetess. We spoke his name every day, and did our very, very best every moment. People came. People fell back in love. People fell in love for the first time. People grieved.
I am grateful for all of this, painful, joyful, wince-worthy, and formative. I hope I’m getting better at the four agreements. Thank God there won’t be a test.
“The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.”
― Seneca, Natural Questions