Whatever happened or whatever the instance was that changed us, the truth is there’s another side to everyone. There is something below the layers upon layers of added life. There’s another side to me and to you as well. There is however the world in front of us.
There are the people we know and the people we meet. There’s the news on television, which of course, is not the most helpful. There’s always something going on in this world. Isn’t there?
There’s always some kind of fight or finger pointing. There’s always someone looking to push the blame. Then there’s the bills we pay. There’s the work we do and the life we live. And then there’s something like the traffic on the Cross-Bronx, the Belt Parkway or the Long Island Expressway, which is enough to make anyone crazy. As for me, I’m on a different side of the bridges now. My stressors are on the FDR and the Harlem River Drive to merge onto and cross over the George Washington Bridge.
I have other stressors though. I have more than my frustrations behind the wheel. I have different connections that link my thoughts to different events. I have insecurities that derail my hopes and challenge my dreams. I swear, the most truthful and brilliant statement I’ve ever heard is when I heard about our ability to think ourselves sick.
This is true. This is true in so many different ways. We can think ourselves sick and we can drive ourselves crazy. We can literally worry ourselves to death with questions and self-defeating ideas that do nothing else but ruin our worth or value.
We can make ourselves believe that we are unworthy, that somehow, there is something about us; as if we are flawed or somehow tainted or that something is wrong with us, and meanwhile, none of this is true.
We can think ourselves into becoming furious with expectations and assumptions that something will go wrong. We can talk ourselves into arguments and create wars that might not have happened.
So many of us have given in to ourselves. We give into our thoughts, which grow legs and run all over the place. And then we try to figure out why. We want to understand.
We want to find accountability to make sense of what goes on. We want to understand why things happen. Was it me? Was it you? Who else can we blame if not ourselves? At least this way we can make sense. We can assign fault to someone or something (even if its us) and then we can understand why something happened. Even if we are wrong, at least we can make sense of things.
Meanwhile, life doesn’t make sense. Nothing does.
How is it possible that anything that happened throughout the last year could make any sense? Even if there was a reason why the entire world shutdown, which there was; and even if there was a person twisting their mustache in a laboratory to create a virus. Still, nothing about this past year could make sense. Nothing about the cruelty or untimely deaths, the fears, the choices we faced, the virus, the total separation between people, the isolation and the depression thereafter. Nothing about the political upheavals, the racial tensions, the changes in our society, our relationships and nothing about our life as we know it could make sense right now. Everything we are living through at this moment is in defiance of our normal social order.
I heard a word last night. The word itself is simple and yet, the meanings behind this word are deep. I heard the word “Family.”
I was reminded of one of my empowerment classes. I asked people to define what this word means to them. I heard different answers. I heard the “Best foot forward” answers and all the positive answers until finally, someone gave an honest answer.
From the back of the classroom, I heard someone quietly say “Broken promises,” because to him, this is what came to mind when he heard the word “Family.”
For some, when they hear the word “Family,” they think about abuse. Some think about betrayal. Some think about abandonment or shame. But wait, is this what family is supposed to mean? This is certainly different from the common commercialized version we see on television (except in soap operas, of course).
Is family supposed to be abusive? Aren’t we taught that families are supposed to stick together, that Moms have a job and Dads have theirs, or wait, what about our brothers or sisters or cousins? Aren’t we taught what they are supposed to be and yet, we often find that not everyone behaves the way they are supposed to.
I used to blame myself for much of my relationships that went astray or ended poorly. I blamed myself or my personality. I lived with shame based thinking. I had to blame someone, right?
At least if there was blame, I could make sense of why things happened to me.
Why do people leave or why do people say mean things?
Or better yet, why do I say things to try and salvage myself?
Why do I act the way I do or say what I say?
There were times when I would be speaking and midway through, I wondered, “Why the hell am I saying any of this?”
I admit (at least to me) how raw this truly is. I admit to my involvement in thinking myself sick or thinking as if I was always the one to blame, — even if it wasn’t my fault. Still, I would take the blame because at least this way, life’s problems could make sense.
Clearly, this was me. This was my way of thinking; and clearly this does not relate to everyone. However, the need to find accountability remains true. The need to focus or point fingers or have someone to blame is a common program that we run. The mind does not like unsettlement. We do not like the vulnerability of suspected ignorance. No one wants to “Seem” or believe they are stupid or uninformed.
But wait . . . The truth is there is no sense in what has happened over the last year. There is no sense in what went on between us all. There is no way to make sense of unexpected tragedies. Even before the pandemic, life did not always make sense or coincide with the way we want things to be.
Unfortunately, sometimes things break apart. Sometimes people get sick. Sometimes the common lessons we learn and the commonplace ideas are not so common anymore. Life’s so-called norms are defined by the unexpected. And then what?
Sometimes; all we can do is surrender to the life beyond our control.
I see no reason to pretend that life is easy. Life does not come without struggles. We see things. We live. We hurt. We experience something we never want to think about or feel again. We want to protect ourselves. We want to escape pain and disappointment but yet, life comes with an abundance of both.
No one escapes pain or disappointment. No matter how we try, everyone will experience rejection. We all go through this. Yet, for too long, far too many of us accepted this as if it were us; as if it were our fault; as if we were somehow tainted or wrong.
None of this is true.
There comes a point when acceptance is all we have. This is not to say that we accept pain or rejection. Instead, this is to accept that not all things fall into place. Rather than accept blame or fault, there comes a point where we accept our position. We do this to improve. We do this so we can grow. More importantly, we do this because otherwise, we remain handicapped by our thinking. Therefore, we surrender to win.
It is true. We can think ourselves sick.
We can think ourselves into being healthy too. We can be our own hero. We can pick and choose. We can create a new life. We can be our own best friend and our biggest supporter. All of this can happen once we shed the layers of our unwanted self. We can let go of what was before. We can embrace ourselves and allow us the opportunity to move, grow, do, be, build, create and move onward. We can build a new life because finally, we chose to leave the past behind. This way we can improve our future and live our life to its fullest potential.
“Give yourself a break, kid. You deserve it.”
Of all the advice I’ve been given, this is the best.