Day 66 of Gratitude – My bowl-shaped life

I’m not an environmentalist, feminist, humanist, capitalist or much of any kind of “-ist.” I believe in some of the principles at the core of some of the -ists listed above, but if called on to shout or crash cymbals or wave banners in the faces of others, I shy away. I’ve thought that meant I lacked conviction – that I was weak. But it actually reflects something very different – it reflects a basic outlook and attitude toward other people.

Everyone sees themselves at the center of the disk of their personal universe – we lack the omniscience to avoid that. The contours of that disk vary, however, from person to person. I came to realize this through a friend who sees life as a constant battle. His disk rises up to form a pinnacle on which he stands, using words, actions, and any tool at his disposal to fight off those who grab at him from below. On his disk, those people are evil or misguided, trying to defeat his superior path of truth. He fights the noble fight and hopes it will lead to others seeing his truth and joining him. This view, I suspect, is typical of an -ist. But the shape of that disk is very different from my own.

My disk is shaped like a bowl. The center forms a base. Not only is the base accessible from the entire bowl, it supports it.  The base doesn’t fight the sides, but rather accepts whatever they bring into the bowl and remains unchanged. That is closer to my approach to life. I accept others as they are rather than demanding they become something else. For me, it doesn’t weaken my beliefs, but it often strengthens them. And I share my beliefs with them in quiet conversation of mutual listening.

Neither approach is right or wrong and neither indicates a greater or lesser commitment to a belief. Rather, they are simply different approaches to others. I don’t lack conviction in my beliefs, but rather my nature drives me to express them in a manner different from that of  an -ist. This understanding allows me to enjoy the benefits of being a bowl.




Day 61 of Gratitude – Silliness

Some people approach life as a battle. They trudge along with every thought and action weighed down by the seriousness of the consequences to themselves and others. This is an outlook I’ve learned as an adult and employ it too often. In fact, I find myself coming out of a long period where I couldn’t find my way back to the joy of life. But now I have and there is one key – silliness.

20140302_124455Silliness isn’t a sign of immaturity or irresponsibility. Rather, it is a celebration of the gifts we’ve been given and a recognition of the impermanence of this life. Troubles will pass, regardless of whether I bury myself in their weight or rejoice in laughter. I choose the grin when I see ridiculous six-foot fake fish hanging across the room, the warmth of the sun I drew on the wall when I hadn’t seen the real one in days, and the squealing fits of uncontrollable giggles when my husband tickles me. Silliness is good.

Day 59 of Gratitude – Back to writing

Today I executed an evil man and did it slowly, relishing every moment of his terror.

Today, I met an important person disguised as a bum caught in the freezing weather.

Today, I discovered that dreams of belonging somewhere and of being someone important do not die easily.

Today, I got back to writing. And that is where I belong.

Day 47 of Gratitude – The Existence of Kryptonite

While I would never have said it this directly, I’ve always thought of myself as invincible. Not as in dodging bullets or stopping speeding trains, but I thought there was nothing in normal life that could harm me. I believed there were no obstacles to my personal well-being I couldn’t overcome by sheer force of will. I was wrong.

For the past six months, I have struggled in my relationship with a friend. Our interactions left me feeling bad about myself. But he wasn’t trying to do this and so I thought I simply needed to control my reaction and asked that he alter how he spoke to me. Neither worked, of course. Kryptonite cannot stop being kryptonite any more than Superman can stop being vulnerable to it. And that is the realization for which I am grateful today.

Kryptonite exists and I cannot will myself to survive it. Sometimes the only solution is to walk away. And so, my friend and I no longer speak. I wish it were different, but it isn’t and I have to accept that. Having been away from my Kryptonite for a few weeks now, the joy is returning to my writing – and laughter will soon follow. Sometimes the only way to win the battle is not to fight it, and I am grateful for having learned this lesson before it destroyed me.

Day 41 of Gratitude – A Brain

Recently, someone told me I think too much and  should stop. I’m not able to do that, but even if I could, I wouldn’t because of a conversation I had during my senior year in college.

I was at a professor’s house with an incredibly intelligent fellow senior. She and I were speculating on how much easier life would be if we were dumb and didn’t think so much. The professor, Ron Santoni, promptly chastised us on both intellectual and spiritual levels. For all our claimed intellectual prowess, he told us, we failed to see that the issues others face each day were at least as difficult for and important to them as the ones we considered were for us. His spiritual argument was a bit more forceful – essentially, “How dare we scoff at the gift God has given us.” He was right to correct us.

I doubt I will ever understand why I am compelled to examine human behavior for what makes individuals tick. I admit the constant search is not always pleasurable, particularly at those times when I’m isolated and turn the analysis inward on myself. But at the same time, I believe it is important to understand people and how their needs and fears show through whatever role they are playing. I have been blessed with a brain that seems particularly suited for those thoughts, analyses, and observations.

Ron Santoni was right – it is a wonderful gift that should not be wished away.+96+———–

Day 18 of Gratitude – Money

I despise money. It ties my head in knots when I even think about the stuff.  Despite that, I had a conversation with some non-writer friends this week that made me realize just how grateful I am for the stuff.

The premise of the conversation was that, as a society, we use money to evaluate a person’s worth. Being a relatively new and unknown author, not only don’t I make a lot of money, but the temporal and causal disconnect between the act of writing and receiving money is huge. And so, when I look at my writing, I have to find other measures of value for the endeavor to feel worthwhile. One person in the conversation agreed that money isn’t an accurate reflection of value, while the other suggested I look into various paying part-time positions so that I would feel worthwhile. For her, money was a reflection of value. And as it turns out, all of us were right.

Money is what we use to obtain those things that are necessary for life and comfort. Money procures housing, heat, clean water, electricity, internet, electronic communication tools, food, etc. – the necessities of modern life. Money is very important to us for that reason. If you are doing an activity that neither directly provides for your family nor is paying money with which to support your family, then what good are you? As long as your family is in need of money for the necessities, money DOES reflect the value of your activity.

But what about when you aren’t in need of money for the necessities? I live a modest life and am by no means rich. A house burglar would find nothing to fence but a couple of aging computers. But we have enough to provide for our necessities for the foreseeable future. When we reached that point, money became meaningless to me. I couldn’t stand the thought of working harder and harder at a job I didn’t enjoy in order to keep making more and more money that I could get by without. And so I left my illustrious career as a health care lawyer in order to write full-time – to pursue value that was not measured in money.

Some say that I earned this opportunity because I worked hard and saved money, but I know it was chance as much as anything else. I am fortunate to pursue my passion rather than pursuing money, but it is only because of money that I am here. And so to that money – stuff providing the necessities – I am very grateful.