Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Things I've Learned - Lesson 1

In 163 days - 5 months and 10 days - I will celebrate my 60th birthday - and I do mean CELEBRATE. I am a very lucky person and have a rich full life. This wasn't always the case. It took years of experience and hard learned lessons to reach this state of bliss. So, I thought I would start sharing some of the things I've learned with you.

Lesson 1 - You Can Change

The majority of people in this world have everything in common. We have two arms, two legs, two eyes, one nose, ten fingers, and ten toes on two feet and we all poop and pee. We have basic needs – food, water, shelter and air. If you put all of us in one spot naked with no make-up or any other accessories, aside from differences in body mass, varying shades of flesh color, and the size of different body parts we would be similar. If no one had money, prestige, fame or any other symbol of wealth and power, we would be equal.

That’s how we start and that’s how we end. What we do in between defines us as individuals. What keeps the playing field from being level is not what we are but what happens once we arrive in this world – it’s who we are.

Children born in abject poverty have different experiences from those born to wealth. Children born in countries where there is war and upheaval have different experiences from those born in politically and economically stable countries. Children born into loving, happy and nurturing families have different experiences from those born into angry, unhappy and neglectful families. Children born into love have different experiences than those born into fear.

As children we’re at the mercy of our environment. We don’t know better yet. We haven’t developed the skills and instincts to move us beyond our circumstances. We rely on adults to set an example for us and show us the way. We trust them to teach us how to successfully navigate the road of life. Our choices later in life can be permanently affected by the actions of those into whose charge we have been placed.

While we’re children and still trying to develop our skills and instincts, we have every right to blame those on whom we’re relying for help if they don’t provide it. We have every right to call them to task for not fulfilling their responsibilities or for not finding someone else who could discharge those responsibilities and help us realize our potential.

When we become adults and start taking responsibility for ourselves, live on our own, make our own money, and create our own reality and families, the time for blame and finger pointing has ended. Once we enter the world on our own or with our mates we have choices. We can choose to be perpetual victims – to wallow in our shame, sorrow and issues, live in turmoil, repeat the past and create bleak and unsatisfying lives for ourselves and those around us. We can act as if someone is pointing a gun towards our head and forcing us to be miserable. We can be willing participants in our own despair. But we don’t have to.

If the news media covered positive and enlightening stories, every day you could read about those who have decided not to be victims of their circumstances. You could hear and read about people rising above their situations and creating their own success. You would learn of the courage and fortitude of some amazing people who overcame what seemed to be insurmountable odds. These are people who made their own happiness and refused to allow their past or their circumstances to prevent them from achieving their goals.

The point is, once we’re adults we’re no longer victims of our circumstances and environment. We’re victims of our own thoughts and actions – or lack of actions. We’re as good or as bad as we think we are. We’re as happy or as miserable as we believe. We’re a success or a failure depending on our own perception of success.

I’ve read countless books and articles on abandonment issues, intimacy issues, emotional abuse, addiction and whatever else you want to blame your life on. To some extent, they all fit the way I lived my life. I can see myself in every scenario. I was a victim of my circumstances because I chose to be. Choosing to be a victim was extremely painful. When the pain became unbearable I took the steps necessary to find another way - to choose again.

I learned life is a series of choices. Unhappiness and misery are a choice and that’s the choice I made for years. I deserve all the misery I experienced because I chose it. I also deserve all the good and happiness because that was also my choice. I no longer feel sorry for people who have the intellectual capacity but aren’t being proactive in their own situations. I can certainly empathize with them but I don’t sympathize with them.

I could say I wish I’d chosen a different path when I first left home but that would be bullshit. I have no regrets. I did what I did. I am who I am. What I did has made me who I am and I think I’m a good person who is worth knowing – issues and all.

Sometimes we just need a kick in the pants to get us started on the right path. When I was at my lowest point, I called an old friend for sympathy. For a while she listened to my litany of excuses for being miserable, and then she interrupted me and said, “If you’re so unhappy, do something about it. You can change."


cindy said...

yay on a wonderful birthday in the rat year of abundance! =D i certainly do hope you celebrate!!

and those are great insights, AW.

Stephen Parrish said...

You've learned what might be the most important lesson of all. The more we blame our circumstances on others, the more we doom ourselves to suffer them.

The Anti-Wife said...

Rats Rock!

Absolute truth!

Demon Hunter said...

You'll be 60? Let me tell you, you look great! :*)

As for the post, you're correct, but unfortunately everyone is not a strong person. You obviously are and I know I am, but some people will feel weak and powerless all their lives, and that's very unfortunate.

Hopefully they will eventually recognize it and get some therapy if that's what needed. I agree with you. :*)

Most often times, the "person" that made you miserable is off somewhere having a blast, while you're at home crying. Enough already.

ChrisEldin said...

I agree with everything you said. But also, I think everyone needs at least one person, one sympathetic shoulder during the low points to help get you on the path you want to be on. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to start that journey entirely on your own.

Happy upcoming birthday!
And I agree --You look fabulous!!!!

Mary Witzl said...

Wow -- congratulations, and make sure to wear something red! (It is a Japanese tradition to wear red on your 60th -- I intend to do this if I make it...)

When all is said and done, God really does bless the child who has her own. There are people who cannot seem to see how fortunate they are; who will always find someone to blame for their misery or lack of success -- or circumstances to account for their own failures.

When your friend told you that you could change, you were receptive to her advice. I have been receptive to those who have pointed me in the right direction too. Nothing is more valuable than having the capacity to accept that we can change our own lives.

The people I truly pity are those who cannot see this. It has nothing to do with intelligence, either. I often wish there were some way of reaching these people, but I have come to feel that there is not. It still doesn't stop me trying...

The Anti-Wife said...

The "person" who made you miserable is always staring at you in the mirror. Misery is a choice.

Friends are great, but not always available or reliable. Strength comes from within. While we need people to assist us along the way sometimes, we have to be able to do it on our own.

Should I wear red, or purple?

Too many people are waiting for someone else to come and rescue them. They don't seem to understand how much they're missing out on by waiting and not doing.

alex keto said...

out of curiosity, what did you do to change? Maybe a follow up post?

wordtryst said...

Hallelujah. I've been saying this to a few people who constantly irritate me with their whining and blaming. One is in her seventies and goes on and on about her mother abandoning her in infancy. From what I know about her mother, the lady did her a favour. But she refuses to see it that way.

At least I know enough now to take full responsibility for any misery I inflict on myself. Amazing how some people hang on to their misery for dear life, blaming everyone but themselves. There's one guy I know who argues so hard for his misery that I often wonder what miracles he could perform if he argued that hard for his happiness.

Mary Witliz just raised my pores with this: God really does bless the child who has her own. I remember playing the Billie Holiday version of this over and over one Christmas a few years ago when I was feeling really blue. It's now one of my mantras.

Like demon hunter said, you look terrific! I would never have guessed your age.