Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Things You Learn

I've noted here a few times that it felt as if my life were somehow on hold for a very long time.  I've been pondering this even more over the past few days, and while life will always be a work in progress, I do think I've come to a few conclusions about "stuff" that are probably worth sharing.

"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" 
(John Lennon, Beautiful Boy)
I think life requires an awful lot of work to pull off.  Think about it:  as you are trying to get through the daily stuff, you have to always have your eye the future.  If you are a parent, you are doing this for yourself and for your children.  It's not enough to be okay now...you have to be thinking about being okay 5-10-15 years into the future as well.  Now there have been times in my life when I really couldn't think about my life two weeks into the future, let alone years to come.  When you don't feel as if you have a future to even think about it's probably a sure sign that you are not in a healthy place.

As for me and as for now, I actually do have a future to think about.  In fact, it's this interesting mix of the known and the unknown.  More than anything else though, it's actually compelling to think about, as opposed to being something that I consciously try to avoid.


"Guilt:  The gift that keeps on giving"
(Erma Bombeck)
I am utterly convinced that guilt is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, right up there with gravity and inertia.  Well it especially is if you were raised Catholic or Jewish.  While I'm thinking that I've made a lot of personal progress over the past few months in re-orienting my life, this is one I still actively deal with on a daily basis.  It is almost as if I have been programmed to always put my own needs, wants and desires secondary to absolutely everyone else in the known universe.  How bad did it get?  Well I'll note that a medical professional told the me the following...

"You know Steve, adults have the right to be happy too..."

...and it nearly blew my socks off!  Think about it:  why in the hell would that ever be a shock, surprise, enlightenment for any functional adult human being?  Yet it was something like that for me.  I had this programming inside of me that said I always had to put myself second in every situation.  I've learned...and am learning...that this isn't the case, but it's still something I work on even now (and I probably will work on for a very long time).  I do put the needs of, for example, my children first in my life, but I don't feel guilty though that I can't (for example) by them all brand new cars.  I've learned that, being a decent human being kind of guy, I can do my best for them and not have to feel guilty about doing the impossible. 

Another important & related lesson: to be an effective parent it helps to be a healthy parent.  "Healthy" relates to the physical, the mental and the emotional.  As a parent I have to model behaviors to my children.  Being hypocritical by telling them one thing but doing the opposite isn't good for my children and it sure as hell isn't good for me. 

Back to guilt:  it has a place in life.  You should feel guilty if you knowingly, for example, do someone harm.  It shouldn't, however, be this default setting in life that is always on.  As a person I do my best to make good decisions based on what I know at the moment.  Sometimes I make good decisions, sometimes I've made really bad decisions.  Mostly though I've always tried to do my best.  That's a good thing.  When you try to do your best...and you can believe that...guilt ceases to be quite the corrosive force that it can be in some situations.  Sure, I will still second guess with the best of them when it comes to my own actions, but I'll do that with an eye towards learning and growing, not simply engaging in some mental flailing.

 

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