It’s that time of the year again. Time to look ahead in anticipation of what is not yet. We are in a state of becoming. Everything has been made new.
It’s also a time to say goodbye. Gone are those opportunities, those days and days of petty complaints and problems that seem now, now that time has gone, to hold little lasting meaning. What has been done has been done and it’s already slipping into our long-term trashcan in our memory. Time is moving so very fast.
I’m not the guy I was a year ago. I have felt change this past year and am moving towards that day when I will know myself fully and accept myself completely. Life is good, in spite of its constant inconveniences. I am seeing some successes, even if they aren’t financial. There are people in my life who love me and I am in love with my family.
In spite of the relentless passing of time it is important to live a life of gratitude. There are many things, so many things, to complain about. So many reasons to be bitter.
I have found that as people age they tend to become a caricature of themselves. The happy people become radiant old gentlemen and ladies. The negative people spend their days telling others like themselves their litany of physical aches and pains while discussing how this world is “going to hell in a handbag”. They are miserable and want you to know all about it.
There are two roads that diverge in this world, and you know what I’m talking about. We all know where we are aiming on that road, as much as a few of us hate to admit it. It’s not too late.
Listen to people talk about their problems long enough and you begin to realize that there isn’t very much we can do about some situations. Take for example the person who comes to talk to me, complaining that their spouse drinks too much, is too insensitive, is unappreciative, too angry, (insert complaint here). Most are hoping that somehow, things will change. I tend to disappoint people…
Live long enough and you begin to realize that it’s very difficult to change anyone else. Sure if you whine enough, or threaten enough some things can change, though usually temporarily. If you are talking about a major character flaw or mental health issue, however, the likelihood that you can remonstrate enough to create real change is slim to none. Very few of us are willing to make and maintain major life change because someone bitches continually.
Unfortunately we know that the only person we can really change is… me.
I am not very good at marriage counseling. I tend to want to focus on personal change when many couples are there because they want to air their dirty laundry. How can they move on, they allege, until these issues are dealt with?
Ever try to “deal with” twenty years of broken trust or hurt? The word ‘impossible’ comes to mind. Couples who want to get over all that historic hurt usually end up in divorce court. Sorry but it’s true. Some of that stuff simply does not get fixed by talking and pleading and begging for forgiveness. How long does it take, you might ask, to restore trust when the other person is barely capable of understanding how you really feel (especially if that other person is from the other sex)? Brokenness breeds mistrust faster than most people can get over their problems.
Hoping my spouse will decide to make radical change is also a trap. To be honest, most people don’t change. I often point out here that counseling rarely works because often the cost of changing is too high. The time it takes to work through decades of abuse and pain is extremely difficult and it is probably unreasonable to expect someone else to go through years (ya that’s not a typo) of counseling, introspection, prayer, accountability and humility that is necessary for fundamental psychological and emotional change (wow, now that’s a run-on sentence…).
Knowing now what I didn’t know then I have come to realize that the only person I can count on to do all that work is me. I can dedicate myself to working on myself, whatever the cost. I can invest hours and dollars and effort to become something I never realized I could be – whole.
I am finding, to whatever degree I am growing, that the more I am ok with me and the more I am complete in myself the less I need someone else to fill those holes in my heart. As I mature I am able to better maintain my center, even if the world around is crazy. Working on me may, in point of fact, be even more important than working on “us”.
I am trying to get to the place, as I often tell people, where I no longer need my wife. No longer need her to feel good about myself. No longer need her to complete me, or fix me, or even approve of me. I am endeavouring, with varied success, to come to the place where I no longer need my wife, though I really want her. I can’t help but think that if I can be that guy then maybe, just maybe, I will be a better husband and a better man.
It’s Christmas time. If you don’t believe me just turn on the television.
There were years, many years, when as a single parent who wasn’t interested in dating I felt the sting of all the Christmas ‘perfect family’ tv shows. One year, while watching the newer version of Miracle on 34th Street I suddenly realized that at the end of the movie they shared a Christmas miracle that I could not. They found love, she got pregnant, and they got given a two million dollar house complete with Christmas cheer. Christmas in rich, white America.
For some of us being alone at Christmas is just a temporary bump in the road. We are between relationships, so to speak. For others, however, there is the terrible realization that we may never fit in, that we are… misfits.
You know who you are. You are the misfit toys.
For years I worked in a profession that was noticeable because of it’s homogeneity. It tended to attract the same temperaments – outgoing but controlled, opinionated but politically correct, dead smack in the middle of the introvert/extrovert scale. And passive-aggression, so many passive-aggressive leaders. It was a sub-culture, though a comfortable one for many.
I never really fit in. Don’t get me wrong, I really tried. I am, for lack of a clearer definition, a weirdo. I don’t necessarily play well with others. I enjoy being controversial, much to my own demise. I have written earlier about the well-known local personality who wrote to tell me that my biggest problem in life was my personality. That is still hard to digest some days.
I have changed a lot in the past couple years, or so I have been told. I have apparently grown-up some and learned about myself. Working as a counselor full-time has radically changed who I am. I get paid to perform self-analysis and it has been a very important ride.
I still have difficulty fitting in. I care about this less than I once did, but sometimes I cannot help wondering what life would have been like if I would have been less extroverted, or opinionated, or susceptible to such creative fits of passion. Don’t get me wrong, I have made peace with “me”. Unfortunately it has come at a price.
One of the things that helped me was to come to grips with the fact that I am not unique. Many of us, many, many of us, struggle with feelings of inadequacy or “less”. Even those of us with more acceptable temperaments worry that we will be misunderstood or rejected. Most of us can supply ample evidence to support that feeling. We have felt the sting of judgment, often over and over again.
You think you are all alone until one day you hear the bay of another dragon.
So here’s to you – you weirdos, you misfits, freaks, and artists. Merry Christmas Rudolf. You are fine just the way you are. If I have learned anything it is that I can never measure up to the expectations of my detractors; so I have stopped trying to impress. I am learning that the more I work on becoming a better me, weird or not, the healthier my life is and the lives of those I influence. I don’t really need to work on my marriage and relationships as much as I need to work on this guy. The healthier I get the more I can handle. The more complete I am the better I can be at reacting to stress and conflict, hardship and life.
You are amazing just the way you are.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have things to work on, but then again we all do. The more you are ok with you, the happier you will be. The happier we all will be.
It’s Christmas time. Drink some eggnog even though it has a million calories. It’s not like you will become addicted, it’s only available for a month or so. Put it in your cereal and your coffee. Splash it on some rum. Smile, laugh, and if you do nothing else, watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. We can all choose to be happy, if only for a few moments.