Saturday, September 26, 2015

Treating mean people with grace...most of the time.

I was exuberantly happy last night.  It was Homecoming night at my kids' high school.  My son was starting on the Varsity football team, my daughter was performing at half time with the marching band, the Denver Broncos had chosen the game as their "Game of the Week" so there were professional cheerleaders, the mascot, and championship trophies to take photos with.  It was an incredibly exciting evening for my family and me and I guess my unabashed and overflowing joy showed to those around me.

It was on this night, last night, once before the game and once after (which we won, 45-0 by the way - WHO-HOOOO!!!) that two different people chose to insult me directly to my face.  Both of these women are fellow band parents, both of these women are known as unhappy, miserable people whom everyone dislikes, and both of these women are people whom I normally would avoid at all costs.  Alas, I had to deal with them, both were extremely unkind to me and while I honestly tried to let it roll off of my back, this morning I woke up still thinking about it.

Now I know that there are many reasons why I should not let the careless words of 2 people insignificant to my life affect me whatsoever.  I am frequently counseling my kids on these kinds of situations, reminding them that these people have their own issues they are dealing with and their "stuff" has NOTHING to do with them (my kids).  Or saying things like, "Don't let it ruin your day, don't let their misery change you, just let it go, what do you care what these people have to say?" etc.

I am realizing today, that this is easier said than done.  Not that this is news - plenty of people have been unkind to me in my life, and I used to really let it affect me.  But as I've grown older I've realized how unhealthy and frankly, stupid it is to let other people have such power and control over my thoughts and well-being.

But blame the PMS, blame my back injury flaring up, blame whatever, today I'm having trouble taking my own advice.

So what do we do when mean people affect us, even when we know full well that they shouldn't?

Well, one thing I do is, I give them nicknames.  I have done this for many years.  I find that it helps to cut them down a peg or two in my mind and makes my mind turn to laughter instead of anger when having to deal with them.  Plus, if I need to vent about them, I can do so anonymously!

I have had nicknames for bosses, for acquaintances, for co-workers, for my husband's co-workers, and for people whom I had originally believed were my friends.  Sometimes it's a variation on a person's name, (Cindy becomes "Sin City") sometimes it's something colorful like "Tri-Dub" (for the Wicked Witch of the West), ands sometimes it's just blunt and to the point like "Cujo." The nickname either comes in a moment or it doesn't, and once it's there it sticks forever and cannot be changed.  That's usually how nicknames work and these are no exception.

Because I have to deal with these two particular joy suckers for the next five weeks they are joining my illustrious group of nicknamed ones. (otherwise I wouldn't bother - not worth the brain power) Woman #1 is now Nellie Oleson.  Remember the bully girl in the Little House on the Prairie books, who is mean and rude and hated by everyone? Perfect. Woman #2 is now The Troll.  It just fits her in every way.

Now some people would say that I shouldn't even be taking the time to speak about these people and that they're not worth the breath it takes to even talk about them.  That alone is giving them power over me and my life.  While that may be true, because I am in a situation where I'm going to have to interact with them, and where I'm most likely going to be insulted again multiple times, I have to do what I can to deal with it.

At these times I also think about Jackie Robinson.  While I realize that my situation is .0001% like his, I can take the lessons of his actions when dealing with mean, spiteful, truly hateful people.  He always held his head high and kept his eyes focused on his goals, regardless of the verbal assaults, the spitting on him, the refusals of service, and the staggering amounts of attempts to denigrate his personal character. He didn't ever let the bullies win, not even once.

There is an all-day band competition today which I'm chaperoning, which means that I will be in contact with these women for a good 15 hours or so. I have a choice - I can choose to hold on to what they said to me yesterday, carry it around in my heart, and be grumpy and bitter at what should be a fun and exciting experience with my daughter, OR, I can blow their words away from me like dandelion seeds and not even let them touch me.  I can let them carry hate alone in their heavy laden hearts instead of me taking it up with them.  Which is, I think, their main objective anyway.  When they see happiness they have to squelch it because they have no room for that in their lives.

I suppose I should feel sorry for them. But I don't. Why? Because no matter what is going on in your life you have the choice every day to spread kindness or spread cruelty.  You can wake up every morning grateful to be alive or disdainful to have to slog through another day.  Each one of us has that choice no matter what happened to us the day before or what is going to happen tomorrow.  Because, after all, life is short. (See previous post.)

I am making the choice today to not let the disparaging words of 2 people whom I barely know affect how I am going to live my life. I'm choosing light over darkness, forgiveness over anger, joy over sadness, and love over hate.  Easy to do? Not really. But getting easier every moment.

Nellie Oleson isn't going to win today. She didn't end up winning in the books either. What goes around most certainly comes around.  What you put out comes back to you according to the laws of the universe and I'm not interested in anything coming back to me that isn't positive or encouraging or loving at this point, thank you very much.

So what will YOU put out today?  One request - please don't put anything out there that might incline someone to give you a nickname...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Life Is Short

My brother-in-law lost his best friend Milo yesterday.  Suddenly and unexpectedly in a plane crash.  Milo was the pilot, and sitting next to him was his grandfather Hal, so somewhere out there is a man who lost both his son and his father in the same moment.  The son was 35, an honest, friendly, married businessman who played in his church band every Sunday morning. His grandfather was the owner of the plane, an 83-year-old distinguished Air Force veteran, and loving husband, father, and grandfather.

I knew the son only a bit - he played bass at one of my concerts in Oregon. I knew his father some, who played the piano at my husband's and my additional wedding ceremony also in Oregon.  The family was close with my husband's family and this is truly a devastating loss to an entire community.

Even though I did not know these men well, this seemingly senseless surprise is hitting me strongly.  Over the summer two friends of ours lost dear friends unexpectedly, and over the past year, two other friends lost parents suddenly and without warning.  While at times this type of thing is often preferable to pre-death sickness, suffering, and pain, the jarring nature of it leaves the surviving loved ones in shock and disbelief, often without the comforting closure of a goodbye. No matter how you look at it though, it throws into sharp relief a very simple and true concept:

Life is short.

No matter when a person dies, to that person, it's too soon. There are always more things to be done, more experiences to have, more breaths to breathe.  We always think that there will be more time to accomplish those goals or have our dreams realized, but we also always know that the day will come when, quite simply, there isn't.

I would encourage you, and all of us, to pursue those dreams, those goals, and those wishes, before it is too late.  However you can.  Stop waiting for the right time or the right moment and stop making excuses for why you can't. If you're an accountant but you've always wanted to spend your time throwing pots, sign up for a class and DO IT!  You may not be able to support yourself at first, but why not take the first steps toward doing what you love?  If your dream is to be a veterinarian but can't afford the tuition or the time, volunteer at an animal shelter to fuel that passion for working with animals while you save up and fill out scholarship applications.  If you want to get married or have a serious relationship, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE! Yes, you risk getting your heart broken, but you also risk falling in love and finding the partner you've always yearned for.  Make the time to do the things you love and stop wasting time wishing your life away.

The people who are no longer walking the Earth had more dreams to pursue. Every single one of them. But they ran out of time, way before they were planning to.

In the words of Steve Jobs, who died at 56, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." It doesn't matter what was expected of you or if you follow some plan that someone else laid out for you long ago.   Your life is your own and it is UP TO YOU to make the absolute most of it you can. You cannot blame anyone else for the reasons why you haven't made your life the wonderful, spectacular, tremendous, and fulfilling one that you want it to be. And the time to do it is NOW.

Every morning when we wake up we have a choice.  We can make it a good day, or we can make it a bad day.  Or we can make it a mediocre day.  Our attitudes and our thoughts make up our reality, and no matter what outside forces act upon us at any given time, we always have the choice to control how we think about them.

This morning when I tore off yesterday's page of my desk calendar this phrase was staring at me:

"Don't ever save anything for a special occasion.  Being alive is the special occasion."


Life is short.  So go and live it while you can.