Most of us spend so much time noticing when other people look pathetic that we don’t notice when we look pathetic.
We appear the most pathetic when we are unwilling to listen to, adjust to, or solicit advice. This behavior causes us to be stuck in serious ruts that derail or block our progress.
The most common offenders are clinging to illusions about…
- our appearance: Thinking something ridiculous looks attractive, i.e. toupees, comb-overs, clothes that are too young or too tight on us, too much hair color, make up, jewelry, etc.
- our generation: Thinking the olden days were the golden days and criticizing modernization or, on the other side, underappreciating history.
- our opinions: Thinking we are always right, superior, or profound.
- our importance: Thinking that we are more important than any other human being.
The Thanksgiving episode of This Is Us is a good example why the new US television series has been successful. This Is Us is us, down to the stinking sibling rivalry, parenting screw-ups, and the long-term effects of home-bred insecurities (unsavory stuff that most of us deny or cover up until home-for-the-holidays becomes a full-scale excavation site).
The episode reminded me of arriving at the in-laws one year and turning to ask the kids to be on their best behavior.
Hoping they would remember that their grandfather had been recently ill, I asked, “Why do you think being on your best behavior would be important?” My son responded quickly, “Because Mamma and Grandad won’t like us if they know who we really are.”
An honest response that revealed the deeper, and darker, state of things.
Often when the weight of tomorrow is too heavy
When I cannot find justification for my efforts
Because the trouble ahead appears to far exceed my strength
Multiplying instead of dividing
Challenge upon challenge
Task upon task
And fear upon fear
The problem is that I am expecting
Tomorrow’s solutions to be drawn from resources I possess today
What I haven’t calculated within this equation
Are the new mercies of friends and fate
Or tricks of destiny that will appear on a single date
Somehow equaling the demand of this day’s needs
With just enough carry over for slipping soundly to sleep
Into a better tomorrow
One day at a time.
I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what happened at Pearl Harbor until I was confronted with the stories of a family who never received the remains of their son, missing in action from the USS Oklahoma, and from survivors who were stuck in the upturned hull of the USS Arizona for thirty hours, watching hundreds of their shipmates drown while desperately waiting for rescue.
As in this sad case, I have often assumed I knew more than I did, and so offended those who really knew.
When I reach for a broader knowledge of things I have not experienced (instead of assuming I understand), I honor the suffering of those who really know. When the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor comes on Dec 7th, I’ll be prepared to learn.
How can I make the best of it?
Wherever I find myself
In whatever circumstances
It is this question
That makes me a hero and a joy
One who thrives
And one who makes it better for the rest
When I have decided not to say, “There’s no way.”
Or ask, “Why me?”
Or “What if?”
But, “How can I make the best of it?” instead
That is when pain and sorrow have a fighting chance
To become more than a burden
That is when I give life permission
To make sense
I don’t know very many families without dysfunction of some type, or without multiple varieties of dysfunction, yet, so many who suffer with difficult family relationships, to their detriment, go on believing…
- they are alone in their suffering
- their pain is worse than that of others
- they have been cheated out of the family they need and deserve
Peace came for me when I scanned ancient and recent world history enough to be convinced that…
- families have always been a breeding ground for ego, jealousy, unrealistic expectations, and selfishness
- those who escape the “smallness,” train, and gain wisdom on the family battleground, will be useful for many generations to come
- accepting what is, instead of arguing with this reality, is the first step to freedom
10. Complain about the holidays.
9. Go on and on about what you can’t eat or shouldn’t have eaten.
8. Get mad about black Friday.
7. Get drunk.
6. Talk behind relatives’ backs.
5. Pretend to be interested.
4. Be self-absorbed, competitive, or talk about yourself all day.
3. Ignore or judge people as unworthy of your time.
2. Be depressed about not having relatives to be with or about having relatives to be with (instead of finding a way to make a difference for someone).
1. Feel entitled.
Entitlement is so obnoxious when someone else struts it around, wearing their sense of importance like a cape.
But, sometimes I fail to recognize my own entitlement with subtle opinions such as “I earned or deserved this,” or “I did this all by myself.”
The haunting words from a recent dream, “Pam, you can never do enough to be entitled, because you owe so much” came to me this morning as I stepped out of the shower I didn’t invent or design, reached for a towel I didn’t weave, stepped onto the floor I didn’t construct, with feet I didn’t create, to prepare for a day that might never have come.
It put Thanksgiving in a whole new light.
I have so much to do.
I have just enough to do.
I heard myself playing the “so much to do” sound track as soon as I woke up this morning. After quickly changing the verbiage to “just enough to do,” I felt lighter, stronger, and in control.
The “I’ve got so much to do” mantra is dangerous because it subtly tells my brain…
- “Oh no, I am in over my head.”
- “Poor me.”
- “This won’t be any fun.”
- “It’s not fair.”
- “My life is a load of trouble.”
- “Work is not a privilege.”
Many of us are so used to this too-busy mindset, that we spend the whole holiday season complaining about having to go to parties, buy gifts, or prepare meals: all privileges that half of the world doesn’t have.
One of the easiest things for us to do is to shrink smaller and smaller into our own concerns. If we want to take charge of bad days and have more good days, seeing a larger world is the first step to taking ourselves less seriously.
10. If you can’t remember or have never experienced it, Google poverty
9. Visit residents in a nursing facility
8. Read the obituaries
7. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or children’s hospital
6. Ask a Cambodia, Syrian, Vietnamese, or Armenian refugee to tell you their story
5. Turn off the TV and notice how many of your neighbors are hurting inside
4. Talk to an Iraq or Afghanistan vet
3. See and appreciate the journeys of physically and mentally challenged adults
2. Join a group that helps prisoners
1. Read blogs and watch YouTube and TED videos about everyday heroes who refused to live small lives!