Words in My Head

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Tag: rant

Shallow waters and ripples

At what point did I, as a youth, pull my head out of my ass and actually take a look at the world? I have to wonder now, as I approach 50, and marvel at how some folks seem to see things these days.

The world does not owe us anything. Neither do the people in it. We get what we get and try to make the best of it. If we don’t like it, we do our best to change what we can and move on. That’s it. End of story.

Maybe I’m jaded, but I don’t expect others to do shit for me these days. In fact, I hardly ask anybody for anything any more. Why be disappointed when it doesn’t happen? Or if it does happen, why be disappointed by the way in which it’s executed if it’s not up to our high standards?

I used to expect things of people. In fact, I thought the Golden Rule was meant to convey that if I treated people the way I wanted to be treated, I’d be treated better. Turns out that’s a fallacy. It’s bullshit. You treat people the best you can because that’s what decent people do — and you don’t expect anything in return. You just hope they’re decent people too.

Now I won’t say this attitude isn’t a new thing for me, since I often sound like a broken record when dealing with my daughters; telling them “You can only control one thing in the world — you.” I think it’s just taken this long to finally sink into my own thick head.

I recently read somewhere that instead of railing against the world and how it is constantly acting against you that you should simply say “yes” and roll with events as best you can. That one little piece of advice has changed my point of view greatly.

Ask my family — I have always been hung up on my preconceived notions of how events should play out. So far as I can tell, nothing ever goes according to plan and never works out the way it does in my head. The disconnect between those two things has always been a problem for me. I have alternated between angry, depressed, or sad when that happens — not that it changed anything.

Now I still get a little hung up these days, but not nearly as badly. As my sister might say, I “pulled the stick out of my ass.” And it’s about time.

So when I see some of the folks I know and love get pissed off at the world or the people in it because they didn’t get something they wanted or someone else didn’t get what they wanted or even that someone they don’t feel is deserving of something gets something good… it gets under my skin a little. I know how it feels to not have things go according to plan. But I think to myself that they better get used to it. The world isn’t going to bow down and give them everything they think they deserve unless they’re very very lucky.

I don’t know anybody that lucky. Everything has a cost.

What really ticks me off is that I hear some of these folks badmouth people whose decisions they don’t agree with. I’m not saying you can’t disagree with others, but unless they’re really pushovers, your opinion isn’t going to mean much. And why should it? They have exerted the power in their lives to make decisions. After all, that’s all they can really do as individuals, isn’t it?

As a result, we are left with ripples on the pond we all float on. We can choose to fight the ripples and ultimately rock the boat, but all we’re really doing is getting ourselves wet in the process and maybe splashing them with some inconvenience. Or we can ride the wave and see where it takes us. If it’s not in the right direction and we have the power to change paths, we can do so. If not, all we can do is roll with it until it ends.

And who are we to second guess some of the folks who make the decisions we are not in control of? They have their own lives and bodies of experience to pull from and I bet they’re making the best decision they can with the information they have at their disposal, both from past life experience and whatever just happened today. Who says your decision would be better than theirs, knowing what they know?

So to those people rankled by the decisions of others, I wish you luck fighting the waves. If you can’t go with the flow, do your best to change boats or ride it out until the next opportunity for change presents itself. To change, you have to put an oar in the water and that causes its own ripples. Just keep in mind that your ripples may affect others just like the ones that affect you.

For now I’m going to choose to go with the flow on this one. It’s the only logical choice I can make. After all, I don’t have any control over anyone else’s behavior but mine anyway.

Gratitude is More Than Lip Service

I’ve had enough self entitlement for a while. And though I was once a teenager, I hope to hell I didn’t have my head as firmly implanted up my ass as some folks do at the moment. So I’m going to clear the air with a bit of a rant by expressing three ideas as clearly as I can.

One: Be Grateful for the People Who Help You, Because They Don’t Have To

First, let’s talk about the things that people do for you out of the kindness of their hearts. As a parent, I feel responsible for my children’s well being. And I’d like to see them happy, but usually that’s beyond my control so I focus on the things that I can do.

I promise to put a roof over their head, make sure they have clothes to wear, and food to eat. I promise to make sure that they are afforded both a good education and health care as long as I am able. And to the best of my ability I will try to support their hopes and dreams by providing support and advice whenever I can.

That’s it.

I don’t feel that I’m here to support their social lives and drive them around town to parties with their friends. I don’t feel like I’m here to ensure that they get the latest X or Y because everybody else has one. I’m not always going to say “YES.”  And I’m not going to give them spending money unless I feel they’ve earned it in some way.

They get my love and attention, room and board, clothing, health care, and as much education as we can afford. That’s a pretty good deal.

In addition, when I am able, I try to support their extra-curricular habits. In my house the list of extra-curricular activities starts with soccer, but varies wildly after that. Drama. Choir. Art. Cooking. It gets insane. But there’s a point of no return here. If you push your luck, the next time I will likely be less inclined to help you in your mission of the moment.

I’m not saying that I won’t take them to the occasional party, practice, or shopping spree, but I am saying that I’m not made of time, patience, or money and there are limits to all three.

Two: Gratitude is More Than Lip Service

Second, if you’re in my house, you’re pretty spoiled whether you have two feet or four. We spend way too much money on things we don’t need. We go out to eat too frequently. And we’ve even gone on trips to the other side of the world from time to time. So… spoiled and you have it pretty good.

What I expect in return is that you participate in the household experience, show respect towards family members (both immediate and in our crazy extended family), and express gratitude towards those people who help you out. Otherwise, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

This means that you need to take a good look around you every now and then and examine life beyond your own little world. Help with the dishes. Cook a meal. Clean up a room. Take care of the animals. Offer to do something nice for a change.

But it goes beyond muttering the words “thank you” or “love you” every now and then and trying to isolate yourself more and more. Actions speak louder than words. We do a lot for you without you having to ask us and we would like to think you would do the same.

That hasn’t always been the case. And it wears thin. So refill the gratitude bucket now and then without us badgering us to do so.

Three: Pay it Forward

Lastly, be sure to pay it forward. I’ll explain this with a quote. Babylon-5 was a TV show well ahead of its time. And it had many quotable moments, but one of my favorites was when G’Kar (a warrior and a politician) gave some advice to another character… “The universe is run by the interweaving of three elements: Energy, matter, and enlightened self-interest.” This quote is never far from my mind.

What do I mean by that? Karma is a bitch. If you take the folks for granted who help you daily, it’s going to bite you in the butt eventually. If you are mean, cruel, or rude to them, the payback is that much quicker. The principle of enlightened self-interest is best expressed through the Golden Rule… ” do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matt. 7:12)

Unless you want to be treated like crap, try to treat those around you with kindness, love, and respect at all times. Maybe they don’t deserve it. Maybe you don’t feel like giving it. Doing the right thing is rarely easy all the time. But doing so is in your best interests.

You have been treated kindly by the universe so far. Pay it forward. The universe may not respond in kind immediately, but I bet eventually your kindness will come back to you in spades. It’s a good feedback loop to try and keep going.


Rant over.

 

Stop means stop

There are only a few things these days that really get my blood boiling. I’ve mellowed with age. And though I still have some pet peeves, I try not to let them out into the world much. Most of them are idiot things that are more about how I’m reacting (poorly) to something someone else is doing, so I’m attempting to let them go as much as possible. After all, I can’t control them. I can only control me. So letting that go makes a lot of sense.

One of the things that I can’t let go is not stopping at stop signs. It drives me batty.

We have an elementary school not two blocks from my house. It has stop signs all over and I watch people do everything BUT stop. I’ve seen them:

  • slow down but never actually stop
  • slow down, tap their brake pedal for a second, and keep on going
  • roll on through without even looking

Um. It’s not there as a decoration. And they do it everywhere, not just the school zone near my house. Parking lots. Stoplights where they’re turning right. Anywhere they just don’t want to be bothered.

I’ve told my daughters that if I catch them not stopping at stop signs when they drive, that they won’t be driving long.

The purpose of these signs is to make us stop, usually for a good reason. School zones are one. People in parking lots are another. And residential areas in general is a third. People speed through our neighborhood all the time and it bugs the heck out of me.

In an age when distracted driving is at an all time high with cell phones, dancing to the radio, being overstressed and overtired, it’s amazing that more people aren’t in accidents every day. If we stop, look around, and take a breath to make sure there are no people, cars, animals, or kids in the way, does it really slow us down all that much?

No.

The answer is no, it doesn’t.

So please stop at stop signs and pay attention to what’s going on around you. They’re there for a reason.

And it might just save a life. Yours. A neighbor. A complete stranger. Who knows?

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