Sunday, November 27, 2016

Container Check

Yesterday as I was wrapping up the remains of our Thanksgiving feast I was bemoaning the lack of leftovers containers in the mountain condo where we're staying.  We had to get creative with aluminum foil and forcing multiple side dishes to share occupancy in the few pans and containers we had brought with us. (Note to self: next time, bring Tupperware!)

But that got me thinking about an experience I had nearly 10 years ago when I was emotionally broken inside as a result of a betrayal and ultimate loss of a very close friend.  I remember talking to someone else about it, in-between sobs, bemoaning the fact that for the umpteenth time I had trusted her to be there for me and once again she let me fall onto the concrete, shattering my fragile heart and head that I was sure I had mended once and for all.  Here's what this person said back to me:

"Her container isn't big enough for you."

I had to let that one sink in for a while.  It completely made sense and it created such a perfect picture of the situation.  There I was, overflowing with all of my stuff - happy, sad, confused, contented, worried, stressed, joyful, etc. etc. - and I wanted to share all of that with her, but, the same as we found out with the extra gravy last night, her container simply wasn't big enough to hold all of what I was offering.

That got me thinking about my own container, and the containers of the people that I have in my life right now.  It also got me thinking about people's containers in general, and how they can shift in size and space depending on what's going on with themselves and their lives at any given time.  For example, I know someone who is usually thoughtful, kind, generous, and goes above and beyond to make sure that people are being taken care of. She's currently in the middle of a difficult health problem, and therefore isn't as attentive to others as possible. Her container is filled up with her own stuff, and she doesn't have any room for anyone else's stuff right now.  Which of course is completely understandable and necessary, and puts the responsibility of those of us who have room in our containers to try to add some joy and thoughtfulness and love into her container, so that she can draw on those when her own reserves run low.

Then there are people whose containers seem bottomless.  No matter how many times you go to them, their arms are always opened wide, they always have time to listen, and their generosity knows no bounds.  These containers also seem lidless - the good stuff just keeps getting generated and shared with no bottom or top to them at all.  These containers seem to be the most rare in the world.

Then there are the people whose containers are always full. Full of their accomplishments, their problems, their stresses, their unfulfilled dreams, their unbreakable opinions, their steadfast mindsets, their prejudices, their annoyances, their superior attitudes, and their staggering volume of low self-esteem and self-questionable self-worth. I know A LOT of people with these kinds of containers. So full there's no room for joy or acceptance or anyone else whose viewpoints don't match the ones in their container.  There's no mixing of leftovers in these people's Tupperwares - it's white meat turkey only in there - and don't let the dark meat even touch it.

(Yes, I'm aware that was quite an on-the-nose metaphor, but fears and tempers are still running high 16 days after the 2016 election.)

This also got me thinking, is the size of each of our containers genetically determined, like the color of our eyes? After giving it some thought, I'm going to answer that with a "no." I believe that our containers are determined by our experiences in our lives and that although each one of us is born with a container, it can stretch or shrink at any time based on a plethora of factors.

Question: If someone has a particularly small container, does that make them selfish? Answer: Depends on the situation.  10 years ago I would have said, "Yes! If someone's container isn't big enough for me, or other people, then they are selfish and should be condemned for it!" Now, I'm not so sure.  I know that my container's space priority, at this point in my life, is reserved for my husband and my children first.  If one of them is going through something that needs my time and attention, it takes up more room in my container, which leaves less room for other people at that time. It's not going to be that way forever, it's just while we're going through this container-space-occupying thing.  Does that make me selfish? I don't think so. But I wonder if people are considered selfish because they are not effectively communicating what their container is currently focused on/filled with?

(Let's face it though, there are people in the world who are just 100% selfish, whose containers are full of themselves and permanently closed to anyone else.  My advice? Stay away from these people, their containers are like the Tupperware that's permanently stained from the spaghetti sauce - throw it away and find another one.)

Here's another thought: if someone's container is filled with things like happiness, grace, generosity, and love, these are "light" things. They don't weigh down a container, and they are easily shared because of their buoyancy.  Picture a child blowing bubbles - little hands try to catch them as they fly past and there are always more shiny, transparent, rainbow-streaked orbs floating by.   It seems that the lighter someone's container is, the more room there is in it.  Makes sense from a physics standpoint, don't you think? Easier to carry around, easier to share from, and easier to fill when necessary.

Conversely, if a person's container is filled with things like worry, stress, darkness, depression, self-absorption, anger, self-doubt, and hatred, that makes for a very heavy container.  That kind is difficult to lug around, and there's certainly not much room in there for anyone else's stuff, even if the stuff that's trying to get in is happiness and love.  So often I think we try to lighten the load of these people's containers but there's not much we can do if they are filled to the brim and sealed shut.

So while I don't want to reduce the emotional capacity of any human being to a plastic, predetermined sized, "Why can't I ever find the lid to this one?" receptacle, I think it's a good metaphor when dealing with other people in our lives whom we may be depending on to be there for us, in good times and in bad.  We can ask ourselves, "Is their container big enough for me at the moment?" And then make healthy decisions based on what we feel is the answer to that question.

Even better, let's take a look at our own containers. Are they tiny, with no room for anything else? Closed up to receiving anything from anyone else? Filled with so much of our own stuff that we don't have room for anyone else's? Maybe it's good to do a "container check" once in a while on ourselves, to see what we have room for, and what might be holding something old and festering in the back of the fridge that needs to be tossed out once and for all.

Personally, I hope to keep my container filled up enough for myself, but with enough room for anyone else who might need the space.  I would encourage you to regularly check your own container: How big is it? Are you hoarding anything unnecessary in there? Is that taking up room that could be used more efficiently for someone else's stuff?

The container store boasts more than 10,000 items to help you organize and contain yourself.  But there's only one container you really need to worry about every day. Yours. I hope it's big enough for you and for whoever may need some space in it at any given time.  I also hope you'll take the lid off once in a while and share the goodness inside your container with others.  That's really what we're here for.

Friday, November 18, 2016


"The sun'll come your bottom dollar that tomorrow...there'll be sun..."

Anyone remember this song? From the musical Annie, where Little Orphan Annie tries to always be an optimistic force in her own dark and difficult young life by reminding us that there is always tomorrow to look forward to.

The song itself was my go-to belt out song when I was 8, as it was for all of us young aspiring singers who finally had a glorious and sweeping show tune that was (somewhat) in our own range, written for someone of our (somewhat) age to sing.

While as a kid I sang this song constantly (around the house, in the car along with the 8-track tape, and at a school concert), I'll be honest, I've never actually paid much attention to the words.

They became very clear to me last night.

Last night my husband was on a work phone call to India.  He got on the call at 9 pm MST, while it was simultaneously 8:30 a.m. the following morning for the people he was talking to.

For some reason, this made my brain fizz over just a little bit.

Now I'm well aware of the Earth's rotation and time zones (although for the life of me I cannot figure out why this part of India is 11.5 hours ahead, not simply 11 or 12) and I completely understand the concept of the International Date Line and all of that.  But as he was physically talking to people who were already well into the next day that we couldn't even imagine, those lyrics started going through my head...

"The sun'll come out..tomorrow..."

For them, the sun had already come out.  For us, it had just set.  And combining this extremely simplistic, yet also mind-blowing concept with what I've been going through for the past few months (and especially week) made an idea strike me with the great force of a lightning bolt...although I had known it all along.

Never give up. 

No matter what.

There will always be tomorrow, which means there will always be a possibility of your current situation improving.  As long as the Earth is turning (and the scientists say that this should continue for several million more years), there is always tomorrow.

I don't mean that we should wish our lives away and keep looking toward the future with no concern for what's going on TODAY,  in the present moment.  But when you've been worn down and despondent and you can't seem to find the hope you stashed away for when you needed it most, it helps to remember that no matter how bad things were today, or yesterday, or for the past week, there is always tomorrow.

This doesn't mean that your problems will magically disappear with the rising of the next sun.  But it does mean that there's a chance that tomorrow will be better than today was.  Yes, there's also a chance that it could be worse, but it COULD be better.  People in their deepest, darkest moments of despair leap from bridges or take a mountain of sleeping pills because they can't see a way out of their hopelessness and anguish for one more moment.  They are stuck in their heads and are unable to see the big picture of concepts like tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or the possibility that they will be anywhere other than where they are right now at that horrible destructive all-consuming moment.

Please don't let that happen to you.  Yes, we all go through challenges in life, but it's up to us to not allow ourselves to get mired down in them.  Life is filled with ups and downs and sometimes we get hit by more downs than ups.  It happens. But the ups will still be there - in fact, they are just waiting for us to get through with the downs to provide a springboard toward the next ones.  When do those happen?


Or if not tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow. Or the day after that day.  But please always always remember that no matter how bleak or dismal or hopeless today seems, the sun will rise tomorrow, and in fact, depending on where you live, it's already up and people have already lived a whole half of one of their days on Earth.  Be encouraged.  Have faith.  Don't give up.

The sun'll come out tomorrow.

Friday, November 11, 2016


A little poem I wrote that pretty much sums up the past week:


Why must people hurt each other?

Why do people lie?

Why do people cheat one another?

Why does hope shrivel and die?

Why can’t every person see

That I am you and you are me?

Why don’t people have a clue,

When one person hurts,

We all do. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A lesson in perspective...and hope.

Hopefully.  It is the morning after the mind-blowing, staggeringly shocking results of the November 2016 election.  The candidate that I, and all of the people that I knew personally and peripherally, voted for, did not win.  Ordinarily this would be one of those situations where we'd all simply shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, someone has to win and someone has to lose, we're moving on."  But in this case, the people in my beloved homeland, the United States of America, had become angrily divisive and issues like blatant racism, sexism, and prejudice had reared their tremendously ugly heads and permeated our collective consciousness.

The person spearheading these assumed conquered ideas of discrimination and intolerance was the one who took the electoral votes (but not the popular vote, which I think is worth mentioning).  The wake the following morning is one of fear, anger, disappointment, and sadness.  The party who lost is being encouraged to have hope for the future, but right now all we can see is the hope we had, and clung to happily, fatally crushed in one moment by our objectors. It can make people want to give up on hoping for what we dream of, and give up on hope altogether.

Time heals all wounds - this I know is true.  But until we have that gift of time to do its work what can we do so we don't lose that precious, gracious, beautiful, uplifted-ness that hope provides?

Well the first thing I think we need to do is to administer ourselves a nice healthy dose of perspective.  On a personal front - are our loved ones still alive, healthy, and happy?  Are we ourselves still feeling good and able to do what we like: walk, talk, breathe, see the sun rise, etc.?  Do we still have a roof over our heads and food to eat? Are we being actively persecuted for any reason?

If all of the answers to these are "yes," (except for the last one which is hopefully "no,") then we shouldn't get mired down in the stress and worry about what did happen and/or what could possibly happen.

Secondly, when trying to gain perspective about what will happen to our country, our world, the Earth, politics as we know it, etc. I think we need to remember these fundamental truths:

1. We are still living in the United States of America, which is run by a democracy, where women can vote, where we are not forced to live according to the whims of a mentally unstable dictator. People of all races and religions still have the right to practice and worship as they please without fear of being imprisoned or killed.  The U.S. still has a strong economy and although it's not always easy to get the job you're dreaming of, there are attainable jobs out there and health insurance exists for the vast majority of us.

2. This is one election in a stream of many.  Many of the presidents who came before this one contributed little to the betterment of the country.  Some have started wars, some have joined into wars already happening, some have caused the stock market to tank, and some have been assassinated before they could do all of the good they wanted to. We don't know what's going to happen with this president but we do know that there's not much he can do, for better or for worse, over the span of 4 short years while the system of governmental checks and balances is still in place.

3. This outcome is not like 9/11, nor it is anywhere even close to Hitler.  (people are comparing this win to both of those)  Thousands of innocent civilians did not die from a surprise attack from evil, ardent zealots.  Millions of people were not tortured, humiliated, tortured some more, and then executed simply because they were born.  True, this person has made some racist and prejudicial remarks, which are disgusting and not to be excused.  But it is not possible, in this day and age, for one person to attempt to wipe out an entire race because the world is very different now than it was in 1938.  Maybe I'm wrong about that, but that's what I see both in America and across the world.  There's much less tolerance for hate and bigotry. (It's there, but it seems that fewer people are jumping on that particular bandwagon.)

4. People are afraid because they weren't aware of how much racism still exists in our country.  While this can be a scary thing, I'm choosing to look at learning this reality as a good thing.  Isn't it good to know how our neighbors actually think so we can have proper knowledge of them before we let them into our homes and our lives?  Isn't it a good thing that this dark part of our country has been brought out into the light so it can be dealt with (again) and hopefully have it be eradicated forever? You can't conquer something if you don't know it's even there.

5. Our country is only 238 years old.  Compared to other countries and especially compared to the Earth itself, that is infantile. We are bound to make mistakes and have some ups and downs as we figure out how to become a strong and resilient country overall.  We've had amazing growth and innovation in those 200+ years and the next 4 will no doubt be ones of rebuilding and setbacks as they all are.  But we need to remember that as a country we are still young and learning and aspiring to continue to be a truly great nation.

All of us have faced disappointments before and what have we done? We've picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, hopefully learned the lesson, and moved on with our lives; usually stronger and wiser as a result of the disappointment.  Some disappointments take longer to heal from than others - that's fine - see "time heals all wounds" above.  But here's what's really important:

Us getting upset/nauseated/worried sick about what has happened or what's going to happen does not and will not make any difference as to what is going to actually happen. It doesn't do anything except make us sick and ruin our own happiness.  And while yes, it's fine and usually healthy to grieve and mourn for something we've lost, continuing to sit in that grief and let it drown you doesn't do anything except make you miserable and lose out on moments of potential happiness in your life.  Being sad and wanting to throw up all day will not change the outcome of the election.  Nor will it bring back the love you lost, nor save the business that failed, nor turn back time so your best friend doesn't actually betray you.  These horrible things happen, but it's up to each of us as to how we choose to handle them.  

No matter what happens from here on out, we cannot lose hope.  In the words of someone who knows a thing or two about defeat: "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."  -Martin Luther King, Jr.  We have to keep hoping, keep fighting, and keep our eyes on the good things that can and WILL happen next.  The past cannot be changed.  We can dwell on that, or we can be grateful for the blessings of the present, and look forward to the gift of the future.

This could end up being a great thing for our country or a catastrophic thing for our country - we don't know.  But what we do know is that it is up to each one of us to create the best, most optimistic, healthiest, most expectant, and hopeful life that we can for ourselves every single day.  No matter what the election results say, no matter what personal disappointments and struggles we face, and especially no matter what may or may not happen tomorrow.

God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.