29 November 2006

The Only Thing I Can Control

"To hold the same views at forty as we held at twenty is to have been stupefied for a score of years, and take rank, not as a prophet, but as an unteachable brat, well birched and none the wiser." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

I'm not the person I expected to be. When I was a younger woman, in my twenties and thirties, I lived on the dark edge of disaster. I was despondent more often that not. I didn't have much confidence that I'd choose to be around long enough to make it to this age. I was angry. Actually, angry doesn't begin to describe it. I was enraged...at men, at a society that holds men as inherently more valuable than women. I was clear about the hypocrisy that seemed endemic to this culture. I could never understand how people could get up every day and choose to not confront the despair that seems to settle around us like a fog. Wake up and smell the fucking coffee, people. Stop sedating yourselves with the notion that Jesus will fix everything if we have faith. Stop sedating yourself with your drug of choice, whether it be superficial religiosity or a new car or something equally ridiculous. I can't tell you how tired I got of adults telling me that my life with my parents would improve if I would only turn to Jesus. It seemed to me to be an absurd misunderstanding of reality. Or my reality, anyway.

Much to my surprise, I turned out to be one of those people who constantly looks for something positive. In the worst possible circumstances, I'm looking hard to find something good. Sometimes I don't find it, but mostly I do. I still get angry. Sometimes I'm enraged, but I'm generally just amused. I don't allow people close enough to make me angry. The minute I meet someone, I'm sizing them up to determine how dangerous it might be to let them see whom I truly am. I'm very good at it. Once I establish the benchmark, we're good to go. I let you see just as much as I think you're capable of handling.

I'm surrounded by so much negativity in my work place that I've started to think of myself as Little Mary Sunshine. I can't begin to tell you how shocking that is. In my youth, when I came across people who were small-minded, vicious and perpetually angry (like at least one of my current co-workers), I could be a dangerous adversary. One of the advantages that comes with survivng a difficult childhood (don't you love it that I always use that word, "difficult" to desribe it?) is a keen eye for people's soft underbellies. I know immediately where to go to hurt you the most. When I was a young woman, I used that knowledge ruthlessly.

Now I just make a joke and then make an exit. I certainly could cut people down to size, but I choose to allow them to wallow around in their own negativity. Whatever makes you happy. You won't be doing it with me, though. Every day, we all have a choice. We can choose to focus on things that make us angry and unhappy or we can focus on things that make us smile. Personally, I've had more than my share of sorrow. Why anyone would choose to issue a permanent open invitation to misery is a mystery to me.

This 20 year old who lives inside me somewhere would have me believe I'm glossing over the suffering of the world. She's wrong. And let me just say that she does not cotton to being told she's wrong. Nonetheless, here we are. I see the suffering around me. I can embrace that suffering, but it does no one any good to take up residence there. I do what I can to make things better and try to maintain a positive state of mind.

Maybe it would be better to go back to the old days when I enthusiastically entered fully into the sufferings of others, verballly ripped fools to shreds, or dispensed with people altogether. That doesn't seem like a good place to be. Fools will be fools, no matter how many times you point it out to them. The same thing holds true for assholes. And to be honest, I've been a fool many times. I can't begin to number the many times I've behaved like an asshole. So, you know. Who am I to take people down a couple of notches? From time to time, I still choose to dispense with people, though. There's a point at which anyone can become more trouble than they're worth. When that time comes, I move on. And I don't come back.

The twenty year old curls her lip in derision. She thinks "don't worry, be happy" is a stupid way to live. Of course, back then I believed that most things in life were under my control. Or at least they would be when I left my parental home. There's actually very little in my life that I can control. I can choose an attitude towards the things that come my way. I choose to find the good things.

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