Tuesday’s Quotes – January 22, 2019: Thoughts on Forgiveness for the less-than-perfect

Reposted, almost intact, from January 2016’s #1000Speak post. Little has changed, except my lack of full-time employment & my spouse’s whereabouts – it even did snow this past Saturday.

“I’ve been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness”

Don Henley – “Heart Of The Matter “

Borrowing a bit from one of my favorite Don Henley songs, and taking it out of context (as inspirational quotes frequently are), because this month’s #1000Speak post is focused on forgiveness, and I’ve delayed and stalled long enough. I sort of had something in mind, I’ve written a bit about the subject previously and wanted to expand upon that piece with more post-holiday season focus on self-forgiveness – and it it really shouldn’t be that hard. But, well… sometimes I just think I may have adult ADD. Most times I realize that one of my less endearing qualities is that I am a poor planner and put things off until the last minute. The sad truth is that I never developed better habits because I usually pull off this last-minute seat-of-my-pants thing. And at this particular stage of my life, I’m okay with that. And that, of course, leads me right into my topic.

Okay, so I’ve managed smoother segues, too, but we got here after all.

When one has been wronged by someone else, forgiveness on the part of the wronged party is relatively easy to discuss (harder to apply). Forgiveness is actually about ‘me’, not about ‘you’. Forgetting is not possible, and is not necessary for forgiveness. Forgiving someone is letting go of the pain that they caused, and moving forward from there. It doesn’t mean trust has been restored. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a marriage can be saved, or a friendship recovered. But sometimes it does. Confusion over this point, I think, makes it harder for us to forgive – we don’t understand how to forgive because we think it means that everything can return to what it was. And we think that, somehow, we should be able to make that happen. The essence of magical thinking. And we think that we want things to be as they were. But what was is gone – and maybe wasn’t all that perfect to begin with. And part of what we have to do when letting go of the pain is decide what the new normal is. And no one on the outside can tell us what that choice should be – only we know what we need, and what makes sense for us. And we need to trust ourselves enough to make that call.

 “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

But what happens when we are the ones that we feel have failed? We humans often expect an awful lot from ourselves. Women, I think, are socially conditioned to expect more. Those of us post-feminist boomers perhaps even more. There was a theory, not a very sound one, that we could have it all, a career, a family, time with friends – and even if you wisely realized that you probably couldn’t have it all at the same time, you probably believed that you could be a truly dedicated parent and that your kids would be perfect, you could handle bake sales, scout troops, PTA meetings with grace. Kids with differing schedules, in different schools, with different interests, never crossed your mind until it was too late. I’m guessing here based on friends’ experiences. Me? I kept right on working because I have nary a trace of domesticity, and assumed that, ultimately, my daughters would be much better off because I kept on working. Perhaps they are – it will take a lifetime of theirs to be sure. But in any of those ‘perfect life’ scenarios, we do fail to be perfect primarily because our expectations were based on fairy tales – not on the hard reality of life with children, life with a career, or life in general.

We all prioritize the things in our lives. Sadly, we often make the mistake of prioritizing ourselves last. Our children come first, and everything else – marriage and health, included – fall somewhere after that. In tough economic times we may even need to place work ahead of children – without money, our problems grow. And taking work out of the equation does not help. It actually can magnify the problem of unrealistic expectations because then we think that we can do even more with all of that “free” time, while folks like me can at least blame work for not doing stuff. But then there’s the ‘if I really cared then I’d find a way to do it’ voice in our heads.

In fact, there seems to be some misfiring neurons in our brains (an overactive sense of self) that causes nearly all of us to feel inadequate a surprisingly large amount of the time. “Imposter Syndrome” infects us all at one time or another. To deal with that we have to be able to not just prioritize, but also recognize that it isn’t ‘making excuses’ when life gets in the way of our well-laid plans. And that sometimes it’s okay to just take break and walk away from the noncritical things. Does it, cosmically speaking, matter?

I ask myself that a lot. I also raised my daughters with the sage advice to ‘not sweat the small stuff’ (but no, it isn’t really all small stuff, either). And after riding out quite a few corporate staff reductions, I also learned that there is no value in obsessing over things that are outside my control. But within my sphere of control, I do still sometimes catch myself beating myself up over relatively small things. My opening paragraph is a live demonstration. The reality is that I have a relatively demanding full-time job, a teenager still in school, a spouse that is currently spending much-needed time with his nonagenarian parents, a dog, minor health issues, and a writing hobby that includes this blog. I failed to find the psychic energy, when I had the time, to get this post finished in time to make the link-up. I admit that I stressed myself about it earlier in the week, until I reminded myself that the only person I was letting down was me (& perhaps my most devoted readers). Once I got my perspective back, and perspective is a big part of forgiving ourselves for not being perfect, I realized that the best thing to do was just wait until the weekend to finish it up. And then, on Saturday, it snowed…

“We can never obtain peace with the outer world until we make peace with ourselves”

— Dalai Lama

 

 

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Sunday Rambling

For those keeping score, there was less snow (and more ice) than initially forecast, and now the temperatures, as predicted, are plummeting. Hopefully we’ll have clear enough skies tonight for the eclipse. Assuming we can stay awake. Most astronomical events lately have been ruined by the weather – hoping for a break tonight.

Something today reminded me of this quote by Albert Camus – it’s a useful thing to keep in mind, I think, on days like this when the dissonance outside is in conflict with the noise inside my head:

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

Very true.

I had a topic for today that I find I’m not quite in the proper frame of mind for – but I’ll get to it in a more comprehensive post later. As a start though, I’ll just make a couple of observations:

  1. President Trump’s “offer” yesterday was not one. He offered temporary concessions for a permanent, unpopular and unnecessary, expense. And when accused of offering amnesty by the more xenophobic segment of his base, he tweeted the alarming idea that “Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else”.  (yes, I’m on Twitter, too, sometimes). I keep wondering why my more conservative friends are not catching on to the fact that the border area’s congressional representatives – even the GOP one – are opposed to the wall. Many other things are needed & would make more sense. Nor are they recognizing that the Southern Border Sheriff’s & the Arizona state Sheriff’s organizations have issued statements opposing a wall in favor of technology, manpower, and infrastructure improvements. But obviously they know not of which they speak – or as a couple of people I know have said – “they’re delusional”. Gotta wonder who’s been drinking the kool-aid in this case (no, just kidding, I know, and it isn’t me).
  2. Our southern border is not being overrun by immigrants. And if it were, a multi-year infrastructure project would not normally be considered the solution to a “crisis”.
  3. Our immigration laws are confusing, and need reform, so it is not surprising that so few people understand them, but even within the “rule of law” that some are so fond of referencing, things are not always that clear. But being driven by the fear-mongering, and refusing to listen to other voices, is a conscious choice, and a poor one at that. We, as nation, are better than that. We have to be.

And, at the risk of continuing to traumatize those easily triggered Trump supporters in my life, I just want to point out that it was ludicrous for Vice-President Pence to use Martin Luther King Jr,’s “I Have a Dream” speech as a reference point for President Trump’s “offer” on the wall. Seriously? Equating Trump and King? Even Mike Pence can’t believe that.

And on that note, to my family and friends in the northeastern US – stay warm.

Pax

A cold & snowy weekend on the way

Oh joy…

Apparently a major storm is headed for us  tomorrow – well… we’re as ready as we can be. We even have plans for pizza & brownie making tomorrow night during what should be the worst of it. I have a surfeit of volunteer work to catch up on (the problem with volunteering to do something that has real deadlines). So staying in is better for me anyway, but it’s our daughter’s final couple of days before retuning to college and she’ll be stuck at home with us. Very cold weather is coming in behind the storm – now I remember why the southwestern US is our destination once the house is sold. Soon, soon.

Our potential buyers should have a couple of offers on their house shortly (so we hear). We’ve remediated the radon, but needed to have a bit more done – hopefully this test will be better than the last. Our buried oil tank comes out next week (assuming a large amount of snow doesn’t cause a delay).  The picture above of the familiar snowy view was taken this time last year – with disturbingly similar weather.  If I have to have snow, at least I have a good vantage point for pictures. But I’d much rather have desert sunsets than snow.

Around this time last year, I shared this quote from Ted Koppel that I’d found – given the ongoing state of incivility in our national discourse, I figured I’d share it again:

“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will ­ adjust your lives, not the standards.”
— Ted Koppel

Words to live by, I think.

Have a peaceful weekend.

Nothing at All

Repost from January 16, 2018

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”   — Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Weirdly enough, today, January 16th, is National Nothing Day – a holiday specifically designed to take a break from observing/celebrating anything & everything. I do appreciate irony. Apparently, the day has been ‘celebrated’ since 1973 – and somehow I did not know it. According to the web, it was initially proposed by Harold Pullman Coffin, a columnist, in 1972, and is sponsored by the Coffin National Nothing Foundation. Of course, I also think it is useful to periodically remind ourselves that, while we may know a bit more than nothing, we certainly do not know everything. So I guess I’ve found my own way to observe nothing.

Image of the vast nothingness of space courtesy of NASA.

Tuesday’s Quotes – January 15, 2019: Happy Birthday, Reverend King

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” Martin Luther King, Jr  –  Atlanta, GA 1967

The world is a troubled place, still, and the US still seems to be suffering an abundance of misplaced anger and unnecessary fear. So, in honor of today’s anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr, I’m just going to share some of my favorite quotes.

“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind”

“Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts”

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality. Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant”

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Image from the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial in Washington, DC

 

 

Sunday and Benjamin Franklin

Left this post too late today – busy weekend capped off by our annual post-holiday Christmas celebration with my brother and sister-in-law today. A very good day, but now it’s late and I’m pretty much out of time. But no worries, when all else fails turn to Ben Franklin for advice. And since the 17th marks the 313th anniversary of Franklin’s 1706 birth in Boston, it seemed worthwhile to unearth some of his best advice.

Benjamin Franklin, certainly the most famous Founding Father never to be President of the US, ran away and moved to Philadelphia, the city with which he is most closely associated, at 17. It is impossible to adequately describe Franklin in the limited time I have, but in addition to serving as minister to Sweden and France, he was the first US postmaster general, he was an inventor, a writer, a printer, diplomat, activist, philosopher, etc. There was truly very little that Franklin had not done. Courtesy primarily of “Poor Richard’s Almanac”, which was written under the pseudonym Richard Saunders, he provided us with many adages that survive to this day – such as the very true “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead”.

But my personal favorite is not among the simple one-liners, it is found in the Art of Virtue:

“We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.” — Benjamin Franklin

Choose wisely.

Image from http://www.notable-quotes.com/f/benjamin_franklin_quote.jpg