Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Let Go and Go On

Sorry that last post wasn't very uplifting. Let's try this one:

In going through quotes by Andy Rooney for the last post, I came across this gem:

When you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

Wow. So true. For some people, bitterness is easier than happiness. To them, sadness and cynicism are the norm while happiness is a fleeting thing that comes and goes and can't be trusted to stick around for very long. When you're all filled up with one thing, you can't fit anything else in, even if it's better than what's already in there.

You know what odd image came into my head to illustrate this? A work refrigerator. Picture this: you come to work, you've made yourself a delicious lunch that you're looking forward to enjoying on your lunch break, you go to put it in the mini-fridge, but there's so much old, rotting, neglected food in there that you can't find a spot for your fresh, new, nutritious food. And you can't take anything out because it doesn't belong to you. You're stuck standing there, knowing what you want to do, knowing that what you want is better than what's already there, but there's nothing you can do about it.

Now look into your own heart. Is it filled with old, nasty, rotten, unhealthy things put there by someone else? If so, then like that old food, they do not belong to you. Luckily in this case, you own the fridge and you can take out or put in whatever you want. This makes you free at this very moment to clear it all out and start anew. Remove all of the old stuff that has "gone bad," give the inside a good scrubbing, and resolve to only fill yourself with clean, fresh, new attitudes and outlooks, about your life and everything that comes with it.

Easier said than done you say. Well, that's true. So try this quote on for size:

Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Original author unknown, but he or she was really on to something.

Not so odd anaolgy #2 - Remember the play/movie Amadeus? The composer Salieri spends his adult life hating Mozart and being angry at God for giving Mozart the talent instead of him. When Mozart dies, Salieri finally feels vindicated, like all of his anger and resentment have finally paid off and now he is going to be the famous and revered composer he has always dreamed of being. What actually happens? Mozart's music is loved around the world for centuries and (until the play was written) very few people knew that Salieri even existed.

So what did all of his years of anger and resentment do for him? Absolutely nothing, except give him a thoroughly miserable life. His perceived betrayal and unforgiveness left him empty and broken, and in his mind, with nothing to show for it. I wonder (metaphorically) what music he could have created had he not been obsessed with darkness and malice? Could his music have been as beautiful and magical as Mozart's? No one will ever know. But what we DO know is that when you look at your life through the lens of anger and cynicism, you are unable to reach your full potential. In everything. Gorgeous paintings go unpainted, amazing sports records aren't broken, engineering theories remain undiscovered..and the world is left with far less excellence and brilliance than it could have had.

One more, I believe this is a Buddhist saying:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

So true again. It's so easy to hang on to being angry and upset with someone, and so very difficult to forgive them and move on. I'm not sure why that is, but I think it's one of the most difficult intellectual things we try to do as human beings.

So in that same vein, yet another odd analogy. Remember the bad guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark who grabs the hot medallion and has the image seared onto his palm? That's anger. It's something that you believe you deserve and so you take it. Then, when you have it, it hurts like hell and leaves a horrible, blistering scar. In the movie, the bad guy at first is okay with what happened because he thinks that his scar will lead him to the right place. As it turns out, it doesn't. It ultimately sends him digging in the wrong place.

See, it works, doesn't it? Like him, we think we deserve to be angry at someone for what they have done to us. We also think that by holding onto the anger it's the right thing to do. That person wronged us, and by remaining angry we are saying to the world, "That wasn't right! They had no right to do that to me!" Well, that may be true...but do you know where that leaves us? Living in the wrong place.

I know letting go of bitterness, resentment and anger is hard. Especially if you have been hanging on to them for dear life for a long time. But if you don't let go of them, you're only hurting yourself. Isn't that what the mean people had in mind in the first place?

Don't let them win. Let go and go on.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tribute to Andy Rooney

Well, it's not really a tribute, but I did want to start this one by saying, "Have you ever noticed that...."

Have you ever noticed that it's very difficult to find people who are genuinely happy for you when something good happens? And even more difficult to find people who actually want you to succeed and be happy in the first place?

After living for more than two decades, and living for long periods of time in very different parts of the U.S., I have found that not only are most people happy when you fail, but a lot of them will deliberately put obstacles in your way to ensure that you will fail, or at least have a much harder time succeeding. These can take the form of discouraging put-down remarks, or spreading false rumors, and sabotaging work that you have put your heart and soul into. Other ways they can try to facilitate your demise is by gaining your trust and then using what you say against you, or by maliciously respresenting themselves at first as people who support you and want the best for you. We usually find out the hard way that first impressions can be deceiving.

Why does this happen? Why do people who claim to care about you want so desperately for you to fail? Or more accurately, to not be as successful as they believe they are?

I've come up with a few reasons that I've experienced in my life. One huge and obvious reason is jealousy. No matter what good things these people have in their lives, someone else always has it better. They focus on what they don't have, instead of seeing all of the miracles and blessings that are so plentiful in their own lives. When that happens, everyone around them is a threat to their happiness, and even the smallest or simplest of successes of others are met with disdain or indifference.

Another reason, of course, is their beliefs in their own shortcomings. They feel so rotten about themselves, often to their very core, and are unable to detach themselves from those feelings of inadequacy to experience anything joyful or congratulatory for or with someone else. I have seen that if someone feels that they don't measure up, then anyone who measures higher just reinforces their sense of inequality and debasement.

Two additional reasons I have personally experienced: self-centeredness and narrow vision. Some people, make that a LOT of people, are honestly incapable of focusing their full attention on anything but themselves. They perpetually live inside their own heads and are disconnected from reality most of the time. We all know many people like this. At best, all they can ever do is half-listen or half-participate in what is going on around them. They are so caught up in their own imagined drama that they are unable to deal with anything else. In some cases they may genuinely want to. But they don't know how to break the chains that enslave them to their own narcissism and delusions.

But really, no matter what the reason is, no matter what the situations were that caused these people to be like this, they ARE like this, even though we wish they weren't. Often times we resign ourselves to have to put up with these people, to the detriment of our own souls and spirits.

Unfortunately, in my life and in my travels, I have known exponentially more negative and unsupportive people than upbeat, encouraging ones. I have come across many more people who go into relationships with an agenda, which is never in the other person's favor. Quite frankly, I've known more mean people than nice ones, I've met more vindictive people than trustworthy ones, and I've known more selfish people than generous ones. In every place I've lived.

To be honest, I have spent a lot of time labeling these people as jerks, and blaming them for their inconsideration and often nasty attitudes. But do you know who I should have been blaming all this time? Myself. For allowing myself to form allegiances and friendships with these people. For not having enough inner strength and confidence to insist that I not be treated this way. For actually thinking those people were going to be there for me, help me, and celebrate my successes with me, when time and again they were incapable of doing so.

Well, all I can say is, NO. MORE. I heard someone say recently that if a person doesn't lift you up they don't belong in your life. I would add to that, if a person not only doesn't lift you up but takes pride in pushing you down, they don't belong anywhere even near your life! I would rather have very few friends, who believe in me, support me, and stay true to their word than lots of "friends" who take delight in my failures. Or who sabotage my work. Or who pull the rug of trust out from under me on a regular basis. Enough is enough.

For those of you who have already learned this lesson, I applaud you and admire you. For those of you who haven't yet, I encourage you to get on it! Life is too short to settle for anything less than you deserve, especially from people who claim to care about you. You deserve to be treated like the beautiful, special, unique, fascinating, successful miracle of life that you are, and nothing less. Absolutely nothing less.

To quote the late Andy Rooney: "I'm always on the lookout for the good in people. Often months go by." Well sir, I hope you are finding lots of good in the people around you now. Rest in peace.