Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Journey To Me-dom

There is so much to talk about and yet I still don’t know quite where to start.  I haven’t made my regular Tuesday post in weeks and life has changed so much in that time that I don’t know how to catch up other than to start at the beginning.

A few weeks ago I sat down to begin writing what was supposed to be the post that we shall now refer to as the “first post gone missing” and it began something like this, “I have been sitting here thinking and thinking and thinking about what to write...” and it never really went any farther than that.  I just could not come up with a challenge for myself or inspiration or even a single idea to get my creative juices flowing whether it would have even ultimately been the idea that I went with or not.  I’ve always been a much better writer when it is off the cuff and when the inspiration just hits.  I was never one who could easily come up with a story when forced even dating back to those stories you used to have to write in elementary school for reading and spelling lessons.  It isn’t that I’m not creative because I am, and it isn’t that I couldn’t pull it off because I always did.  It is simply that writing for me has always been a chore unless the inspiration was just already there.  That is where I found myself a few weeks ago.  I was up against that uninspired, unnatural wall that a writer like myself hits sometimes where I just had to decide “do I just write something because I feel like I have to or is it ok if I only write when I feel inspired and it comes naturally?”    Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to that question.  Technically there is no one paying me to write a weekly column that I owe anything to and since my Tuesday posts are about my real life it would be easy to say that they are about me, for me, and that unless someone has hired me to write them I really should only do them when I feel inspired to do them.  On the other hand, I do have a few subscribers that have given me the courtesy of subscribing to my blog, (and I do not take that lightly.  I appreciate each and every one of them even though the number is a very small one.) and there is something to be said for pushing yourself to be consistent.  The question that leaves me with is if I feel responsible for posting whether I feel inspired to or not can I live with myself knowing that there ultimately would have to be times when I feel like I haven’t given you my best work just in the simple fact that I posted because I had to rather than because I felt inspired to.

The following week I still didn’t post.  Leading up to what we shall now call the “second post gone missing” I knew my topic was going to be about reliability.  I already knew the topic and had words flowing through my head and still didn’t post.  It was a combination of life becoming hectic (the holidays are upon us and I had just learned I was a finalist in a national competition and had work to do regarding it that would turn out to be time consuming and at times a bit overwhelming) and of me knowing that once I challenged myself with the task of reliability I then would have committed myself to the responsibility of posting whether I felt good about it or not, whether I felt it was writing worth making public or not.  I found myself hung up on the question of am I a good enough writer to pull that off?  Is my journey something other people can even relate to?  If I publish challenges because I feel like I should versus feeling inspired to would that make me even less relatable?  Before I knew it Tuesday was over and another week had passed with no post.

I have obviously spent many hours thinking about this and pondering “should I finish the sentence I started a few weeks ago and begin with the concept of me thinking and thinking and thinking about what to write? Or should I just start fresh?”  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for this week and then something happened.  On Friday December 14, 2012 20 children (and a few undeserving adults) were slaughtered by a young man with hatred in his heart and our lives were changed yet again for the worse.   It was then that I knew what I needed to share.  This week I need to talk about empathy.

For years I have been asking myself “What in the heck is wrong with the world today?  Where are all of these crazy people coming from?  How has everything in life gotten so complicated?  Why in the world can no one be trusted these days?”  On Friday December 14, 2012 I was finally able to answer my own questions.  The reason the world is on a downward spiral is the basic lack of empathy in generations today, mine included.  We spend our time trying to act the toughest, the smartest, the richest, the baddest, the prettiest, the most successful.  We have taught all the lessons about how to get ahead and stay ahead, how to win, how to desensitize, how to get the most chicks, how to keep a small core of quality people around you and forget about everyone else, how to be disposable human beings, how to take advantage, focus on money, get the biggest things, to not trust or be trustworthy because being vulnerable makes you weak, and that boys still don’t cry.  When did we teach empathy?  When did we teach to feel each other’s pain?  When did we teach how to understand what the walk in another person’s shoes is like?  When did we teach how to identify yourself in another human being?

The difference between a “crazy” person and a “normal” person is empathy, and how much empathy you have directly determines where you fall on the “normal scale” and just being normal does not make you sane.  I have often said that if you can watch a movie in a room with a group of people and the majority of them cry at some point, but you are one of the few that doesn’t then you need to re-evaluate if you are the type of person you would want your children to become because for some reason you are not relating to or empathizing with the characters on the screen like everyone else in the room is.  Now, I understand that movies aren’t real and that is the first argument that someone might make against this example, but the point is that some part of you has been shut down, turned off, and it is the part that allows you to feel what it would be like if you were in the position of the person on the screen and to empathize with their pain or the situation they are in.  Feeling someone else’s pain and being able to identify with them does not make you weak.  In fact, many would argue that it makes you stronger, smarter, friendlier, more likable, and even more capable of functioning successfully in this world.    Had that young man had a heart filled with empathy, compassion, understanding, sympathy, or relatability he would never be able to look a small child in the eyes and shoot them in some cases as many as 10 or 11 times.  Now, I understand that the world is a complicated place and that some people will argue there were mental disabilities and other life occurrences involved that turned him into the savage that he died as, but I will argue that if empathy and I mean true honest empathy is learned strongly and at its core at a very young age it will overcome the hardships life brings us.  The lesson of empathy is the basis of the lessons of love, compassion, forgiveness, happiness, positivity, and most of all the lesson of the value of human life. 

So what does all of this mean?  It means that for this week and every week moving forward you teach your children what the word empathy means and you practice feeling and showing empathy towards others with them and even without them for your own sake.  It means you share the lesson with the adults you know and the 20-somethings who have missed it.  It means you make choices based on how your decision will affect others rather than on how it might benefit you.  It means you teach your sons to cry at movies when something sad or upsetting happens.  It means you have less to prove and more to love and you pass that lesson on to everyone around you.  It means you lead by example.  It means you value life.  Most importantly it means when you meet that person who is on the brink, and we all know at least one of those people who has always been “just a little bit off”, you begin the lesson with them and reach out to fill the gap in their hearts and you be the angel that intervened just in time to keep a tragedy like December 14, 2012 from ever happening again.  Sometimes the only way to know that you have made a difference is in the mere fact that you never had to live through a day like December 14, 2012.  Sometimes you change the world by ultimately making it a quiet and uneventful place to be.  This is the journey we all take together.

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