My niece, Susannah, found an archived Decatur, Illinois newspaper article about an accident my mother was in at the age of 22. The name of the driver was a man my mother would marry the following year. Another article revealed that man drowned in Vegas at the age of forty-eight. My brother was sixteen when this stranger died. He wouldn’t know the man was his father until years later.
The info triggered an uncomfortable realization; I didn’t give my mother enough credit for her difficult life.
Or, my brother for his disjointed life.
Or, so many others for the painfully broken roads they have traveled.
Maybe the realization will help me be nicer to my fellow screwed-up traveling partners.
How calloused of me to expect human beings to be “normal” when most of us have gone through debilitating pain.
How naïve of me to expect people to be “mature” when most of us were raised by flawed and confused adults.
How short-sighted of me to be intolerant of people who are trying their hardest to make sense of their own crazy circumstances.
“If change doesn’t feel uncomfortable, it probably isn’t really change.” – John Maxwell
I had the unfortunate habit of challenging and resisting anyone who even hinted that I might need to change something. It was so insulting and painful. Maxwell suggests that the best way to avoid this discomfort is to repeat the following mantra:
- Change is personal: I need to change.
- Change is positive: I’m able to change.
- Change is profitable: I will be rewarded by change.
These words have changed the way I think about the pain associated with change.
And thinking differently is always the first step to relief.
It took me decades to forgive myself for not being perfect.
During those decades, I rode a roller-coaster operated by conditional self-love: plunging to painfully low lows when I didn’t approve of myself, then, climbing to unsustainably high highs when I did.
Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements reminded me to “be impeccable with my word.” But, it wasn’t until recently that I applied that to the words I spoke to myself, understanding that talking badly about myself, to myself, was an act of self-betrayal.
The image below has inspired me to sit still long enough each day to find the unconditional love necessary for staying off of a “roller-coaster life.”
Happy Friday the 13th.
No fear. You are in control of the ride.
Yesterday, I sent a document of critical importance for next-day delivery, guaranteed to arrive before 10:30 AM.
After multiple calls and promises, the package has yet to arrive, inconveniencing many people and drastically disappointing the recipient.
At one point, the dispatcher said it was impossible for the package to be delivered before 5:30 PM because the driver was on the other side of town.
Which translated to…
Of course, UPS could get it there if we deviated from our efficient plan, made a special effort, and used more of our resources, but, frankly
- our promise to you is relative in importance;
- we have bigger fish to fry;
- things go wrong and you just have to live with our failures (even if it is painful).
The whole experience reminded me of my own failures to deliver what I have promised for the above reasons.
Most of us have promised something that seemed easy to deliver at the time, but became an “expensive” choice later. You may have discovered, as I have, that the most expensive choice was choosing not to have enough integrity to do what we said we’d do.
Today, a women working in a bakery saw me. She saw me as a valuable being and not just another customer in a long line of customers, or another obligation in a long line of obligations. It was a rare and special treat…sweeter than the cake she helped prepare.
There are a few things in life that refresh our souls in a manner that nothing else can. I had two of them today: the first crisp and cloudless day of Autumn, and an encounter with a remarkable human being in an unremarkable place.
Which is worse:
- Getting a divorce or secretly wishing your spouse would die?
- Leaving a boss that really needs you or incessantly talking bad behind that boss’s back?
- Telling the truth or leading someone to believe you love them when you don’t?
- Disappointing someone by not following their advice or secretly hating them for ruining your life?
Sometimes, we lie to ourselves and to others to protect what is un-protectable. Sometimes our fear of violating mores prevents us from seeing the forest for the trees. Sometimes our judgment has been seriously compromised and we don’t know it. Sometimes we have valued appearances more than real wisdom.
When our lives feel too complicated, they usually are. Changing the question from what looks right to what is right is the first step to simplicity.
And, sometimes, changing the question yields a third, and better, option.
Things that I’d rather not be honest about but when I am, it makes me less judgmental and easier to be around:
I am disgusting sometimes too. It’s not just the people I criticize.
I have lied and manipulated facts when I was scared of getting in trouble.
I have made myself look better than I actually was.
I have feared rejection and looking unworthy to others.
I have sometimes done things to get attention.
Sometimes, I have even wished awful things upon cable and mobile phone companies (whom I perceived to be arrogant).
I have screamed at family members like a crazy woman and would have killed my sister if I could have gotten away with it.
We may not have killed people, but most of us have thought about it.
That makes me more prone to forgive people who actually fall off the edge.
Listening to the Beatles yesterday took me back to my first dance. I was 11. I stood against the wall most of the night wanting someone to ask me to dance.
This song started to play and a boy asked me to dance. I was euphoric, but, I spent the entire dance worrying about how I was dancing and what he thought of me. After the dance, my new friend vanished.
How much easier my life would have been at that sock-hop had I just accepted myself and noticed people more! But, alas, all my energy was tied up in a desperate attempt to justify my existence.
In the end, the biggest revelation for most of us will be…life was a lot less complicated than we thought.
I could have been “standing there” with joy.
A disgruntled employee told me she could write a book about the dysfunctional communication in her company. After finally accepting some of the responsibility for the dysfunction, she is now sending me copies of praise emails she is sending and receiving from her team. The latest ended with this exclamation:
“…tears of joy! How can you not feel positive when you’re making other people feel good?! Thanks for having such a positive impact on my life – work and personal.”
There is only one big obstacle (ourselves)
Separating us from this joy (ourselves)
But, when scaled
Leaves us with more
Than we ever
Dared to dream
The fast train to better, sweeter, and richer communication…