Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Round And Round

Life is hard. It really is - even for the people with the seemingly easiest of lives. Life on this side of heaven is . . . just . . . hard.

Add to this the fact that what is difficult for one person is not what is difficult for the next, which makes it all the more difficult for all of us to be understanding with those we interact with every day. We are dealing with our own circumstances, those around us are dealing with theirs, the world keeps spinning, and the price of gas keeps going up.

I honestly don't know how anyone keeps their wits about them. Which brings me to my next point.

Within all of this life going on every day fall each of our individual personalities and the tools and skills that God has given each of us - like monkey wrenches being thrown into the spokes of a very fast-moving bicycle.

Let me stop here and tell you about my experience with this.

One warm summer day when I was 11 or so, I was riding my bike home from softball practice with my mitt hanging on the handlebar. You remember, right, that the point of riding your bike, at the age of 11 or so, is to go as fast as you can, as recklessly as you can, without actually killing yourself in the process. Remember? That wasn't just me, was it?

I was flying along, sweating, happy, care-free, right up to the moment that my mitt slid - unnoticed - down the handlebar. It slipped cunningly between the frame of my bike and the wildly spinning front tire, acting as an instant brake that could surely stop a moving 18-wheeler. That front tire went from moving around something like 3,000 MPH to a dead stop while the rest of the bike and my entire body kept moving at the original speed - right over the front of the bike - like I was filming an episode of Jackass. Only there was no one around jumping up and down yelling, "DUDE! That was a-w-e-s-o-m-e!!"

It wasn't pretty; and neither is it sometimes when we are all moving around life like a bunch of tops spinning at all different speeds in all different directions and bump into one another. Sometimes the contact is positive and it makes us spin better, or we start spinning in the same direction and create positive momentum. Other times we make contact with others that sends us spinning out of control in the opposite direction, slamming into others who are then affected and sent spinning away from where they were content to be. At times the contact can cause us to stop spinning altogether, unable to get going again without help. This puts us in danger of being trampled by those who are still spinning. And the domino effect goes on and on, day in and day out.

We are all spinning within our own lives, within our own circumstances; but we are not living this life in a vacuum. What we do and do not do does affect other people whether we intend for it to or think it will or not. When we think we are being put upon, abused, or otherwise "victimized" with someone else's behavior, actions, or words, we need to remember that on the other side of that spinning top is the top that we ran into earlier and sent reeling. Did I intend to send someone else down a path of negative thinking, upset, or frustration? Probably not. So it may be very true that the person who is sending me spinning right now is not intending to, either.

Furthermore, on top of this is the fact that we are all equipped differently to deal with these issues. Some are strong, both mentally and emotionally. These people can analyze a situation rationally, see what really matters and what does not, make clear conclusions and decisions and move on from there. Others are ill-equipped emotionally to deal well with all the spinning and crashing and, therefore, are less able to cleanly and succinctly move through difficult situations. This makes for a lot of misunderstanding and a huge lack of empathy for others' abilities to deal or not deal well with life and everything it can throw at us.

This is what makes life so difficult much of the time. Beyond the illnesses, the parenting issues, the dirty house, the dirty boss, the job disappointments, the money worries . . . are simply our everyday interactions with those around us that can send us and our emotions - and other people and theirs - in 50 different directions in one day. 

So what can we do to make it all a bit easier? Heck if I know.

Okay, so here are a few things I have figured out but continue to need work on.

1. My way is not the only way. Life will not crumble into a million pieces if I sit back and shut UP when I really want to judge, scream, pout, or come undone about daily life not unfolding in the way I have it mapped out in my mind. God made me a certain way as well as he did the other people in my life. Who am I to have it in my head that the way I think this or that should be is the right way and everyone else must yield to that? And by the way, this does not mean shut up, but act like a mad, torqued-off jerk to make my point. This does nothing but make everyone around me miserable, which very much undoes the original sentiment of sitting back, shutting up, and recognizing the validity of someone else's way of thinking and doing things.

2. That being said, also be strong enough to assert when someone in your life is pushing you, emotionally, in a direction that is no longer positive for you. If you are bending so far to accommodate someone else and their way of doing things that you are no longer yourself, or that almost every interaction leaves you feeling worse than the last, then it's time to re-evaluate the relationship. Life is too short to spend it living within someone else's idea of what you should be instead of what you actually are. And if you are the one dictating who you think someone else should be and what they should be doing, see #1.

3. Act unconditionally. Whether you are someone who feels led to offer support to people financially, with your talent or skills, or with your time, do it unconditionally. Do not lend yourself with strings attached, because that is not authentic.

4. Quit making life more difficult for yourself by having unreasonable expectations - for yourself and for others. This can infect your life on so many levels and at the same time is something that we actually have control over and can change.

Life is hard. Remember the spinning tops.


  1. Amen! You always make me think about my own attitude when you write (which is a great thing, obviously). You're such a great writer.

  2. Wow - I needed to hear this words this morning more than I can tell you. Thanks for the reminder in every word type on this entry. How often we forget to take the intentions and past experiences into thought when around other people...

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