Monday, September 16, 2013

More North

A woman in Hawaii has an extremely long last name. 35 letters. It is a name that she got when she married her now deceased husband. There was an issue when she was stopped by a cop because her ID did not have all the letters. Apparently the police officer so casually suggested that she could change her name back to her maiden name.

It may never have occurred to her to do that, given the significance of the name. Even if she knew it was in the realm of practical possibility, it does not mean it was in the realm of her personal possibility. 

It made me think about the times people offer me "solutions" to problems that are relatively obvious. And yet they think I have somehow missed it. However if I hadn't done it, there is likely a reason. If I don't see things that way, then there is probably something the person can't see, or hasn't considered.

I know often we want to be helpful in the things we say, but I wonder how often we say things that, while well intentioned, actually have quite the opposite effect. For me it sometimes is a painful reminder of what isn't, or of what I can't do. 

Growing up I had a hard time with the kids in school. I would often be told, "Sticks and stones..." It never helped. What I did not understand at the time was that it wasn't the words that hurt, but rather what they meant to me. They meant I was ugly, fat, did not fit in, was unacceptable in some way. THAT is what hurt, not the words themselves.

While understanding the distinction has been helpful on more than one occassion, it doesn't always help. There are times the sting remains because the meaning is where the charge is. Knowing that an electrical outlet carries a current doesn't prevent one from being hurt if they interact with it in a way that the charge can be felt. If only understanding something was enough to discharge its power over us. Sometimes it is the one thing that can help significantly. Other times? Not so much.

I share this as a way of bringing attention to something some people may not have considered. Since I have realized the things I am sharing, I am a lot less likely to offer anyone anything. There are times I still do, but I will think twice about it before I do. One day fairly recently, I shared what I thought, only to have the person come back and tell me why it was not good for her.

I suppose an argument can be made for the idea that someone doesn't know something unless someone else somehow conveys it to them. But what makes us think we should be that person? 

There have been times I know I have been spontaneously helpful. Sometimes we don't know what we don't know so a person would not know to ask about the thing I know. I suspect there is an invisible guidepost that tells us whether we are doing what we are doing to benefit another or whether we are just trying to make ourselves feel good or appear knowledgable or important in the sharing. My guess would be that the more obvious our solution to another's situation, the more likely what we are about to say is more about us than the other person. 

Am I saying we should not share our thoughts? No. But odds are pretty good that most anything that could be shared, probably has already been shared and/or even considered.

I have often thought that if we could live more intuitively in the world we would make better choices, and would be less likely to be manipulated by another. I suspect we might also keep our mouths shut more, and open them at more "appropriate" times, and in more "appropriate" ways. But to do that, it takes being willing to step back and pausing before acting, or being so in tune, you know that what you are doing is right for the situation that the "right" action just flows.

If we were "perfect" would we be here? Maybe we learn by what we do and what happens to us. And if something did not upset or annoy us, we probably would be less likely to give it any attention. Maybe it is good that the things that upset us draw our energy and attention as it forces us to look at it and interact with it. Ultimately it seems like those are the places we can grow the most.

I don't know about you, but I think I am definitely having a case of "growth-fatigue." My life has been challenging from the beginning. Things have never been "typical" or "easy" for me. I have often felt like the outsider, and rarely ever felt like I fit anywhere. I have often been alone at crucial junctures in my life, and have had more difficult choices to make than many I have known.

As a kid I used to have a hard time with it. As a young adult I wondered if I would ever have a "normal" life. How things were used to bother me a lot, and I would spend time feeling trapped and wishing things were some other way.

I don't do that any more. Somewhere along the line I accepted that my life was never going to be "typical," and that became a good thing. I felt OK being different, even while it was lonely. Even if I am OK with the way my life is, and I no longer wish for something else, it doesn't mean that I am happy with how things are. But maybe we are mistaken if we think the purpose of living life is to "be happy."

But then...what is the purpose? And why is so much of what we do pointed in that direction? Maybe "happy" is intended to be a compass direction and not a destination. For many NYC is a great place. It is north of where I am now. But NYC does not define north. Maybe circumstances in our lives do not define happy, either, but perhaps when we experience them, we are headed in that general direction.

A compass only states what already exists. We only need to shift ourselves to be facing a different direction. It does not make the other directions go away. I could be headed to NYC, but stop somewhere along the way that is a bit east. In the same way we could always be headed toward happiness, even when we seem to have gone in a different direction.

If you think about how the earth is shaped, even if you are headed south, eventually the path you are on will take you north.

As usual, I am thinking out loud. I am very tired, and laying in bed as I type. I really just want to go to sleep, but I am also kind of desperate to "figure" things out, to find answers. I can't help but feel like things are headed south, and I am grasping for something that makes any sort of sense.

I am scared. I told someone yesterday that when the time comes I don't want my obituary to read, "she fought cancer," "or after an x long battle with cancer..." I don't want the few words that will be spoken at the end to be focused on what seemed to cause my death. 

I have often said while this blog talks about cancer, it is more about living and life. 

I don't want those who didn't take the opportunity to interact with me now to talk about missing me when I am gone. I want them to interact with me while I am here.

And more north would be good, too.

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