We all know that we meet the same end but we usually don’t know when or why. Most of us avoid spending much time at all thinking about our mortality. It is almost taboo to think about our own expiration date. We stay focused on the moments at hand and feel like our future is open-ended. Why does it take a crisis for us to appreciate the tenuousness of our time here on earth and the true importance of our close relationships? It is a shame we can’t be in this mindspace more often – maybe it would make us all slightly better people. The truth is that we are all living on borrowed time and how we spend that time matters. I heard a speaker comment recently that in every interaction we are either giving life or taking it away. I liked it when he said it then and like it even more now.
In my line of work you know you have tapped into a serious problem when you encounter disproportionate emotion. There have been many times where I have sat across from someone and literally watched them break down. I learned a long time ago to let the other individual have their moment and not try to downplay or negate their emotion. You don’t make someone feel better by making them feel embarrassed or disappointed about how they feel. All of us hit an emotional “brick wall” at times and become frustrated/upset with the rigors of life and work. We all need people we can turn to let us be our authentic selves, even when this isn’t pretty or easy to watch.
Most of us walk around with weights and burdens that don’t serve us well in life. It’s important to learn from your experiences, but once the lesson is learned, let it go. No one is perfect. In fact, we are all flawed. It may seem like other people live a charmed life, however I’ve live long enough to fully appreciate that things aren’t always what they seem. How else can you explain someone as talented, beautiful and wealthy as Whitney Houston ending her life in such a tragic way or someone as successful, funny and famous as Owen Wilson attempting to take his own life?
Sometimes life is heavy. There is just no way around it. We lose people we love; our own bodies break down; and other personal or professional challenges appear unexpectedly. When this happens it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the adversity of the moment(s) and wallow in despair. You can sometimes feel like the famous statue of Atlas who carries around the weight of the world on his shoulders. When this happens you need to count your many blessings and seek out opportunities for joy, love and support.
As a boy growing up pretty much all my public role models were the strong silent types. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen were all men of few words but vigorous action. Men didn’t show their feelings; they just dealt with whatever came their way in the most expeditious fashion. Problems were meant to be solved not fretted over. Real men weren’t vulnerable. They were strong for all of those around them and kept their feelings to themselves. My dad very much lived up to this expectation. I can’t remember even one example of him telling me how he “felt” about something. He just did what he was supposed to do and that was that.
2009-2011 has been a difficult period for many people I know and care about. It’s almost as if the heavens opened up and terrible storm decided to descend on a vast number of unsuspecting people. In many cases, the signs may have been there, but none of us expected the difficulty it to be so prolonged and discouraging. They say “what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.” I’m not sure I agree with this point of view. Not every challenge leads to strength; sometimes it just forces us to alter our perspective. Change doesn’t always mean growth or better, it often just means different. In addition, certain wounds don’t always heal as we would like them to, but they heal nonetheless – time will see to this.
While personal independence and self-reliance is a good thing, we live in a society that requires interdependency and cooperation. Children and the elderly are dependent based on the very nature of their situation. Physical and emotional vulnerability is a reality that confronts us all at the beginning and end of our lives. In addition, many close adult and professional relationships are co-dependent because we need other people to both experience life fully and get things done. You can’t just flip a switch and expect it to be there.