Life, at least for me, is a balancing act between what I want to do and what I have to do. Too much at one end and you feel entitled. You get to the point where any limitation feels illegitimate and a personal attack. Think Donald Trump.
Too much at the other end and you feel chronically deprived. You feel overwhelmed by the demands on you and in the end nothing seems to make much of a difference. One option is to get angry and attack everything with anger and bitterness. You do feel the victim of life and it seems so unfair that so much seems harder for you than other people.
Life can sometimes just become about feeling better. And doing anything to feel better becomes the focus of daily life and there is never a problem with coming up with reasons or justifications to do what you feel like doing regardless of the consequences for you and others. We may not have good reasons for what we do but we never have a problem finding something to justify it. Many of us know what it it’s like to have the short term solution to a problem become a long term problem.
And perhaps at some level of deprivation you just don’t want to feel anything at all. Feeling good lacks long term impact and life sucks. It is not just a matter of any specific struggle on specific day but the constant, chronic struggling that life seems to demand. It is not so much that you want or expect to win. You want to stop fighting. You just want something to be easy. You want to turn the page in a book whose pages seem never to turn.
Life in some sense is a contest between what you look forward to and what you feel like you have to put up with and when you feel like there is little to look forward to and much to put up with it just doesn’t go very well.
I think life works best when there is a balance. Life has it’s necessities but it also has it’s gifts. Days work better when there is something that matters to look forward to. What we look forward to helps us to survive what we must put up with. I think maybe strength is the ability to let neither deprivation or opportunity to trap us in a path that leads us being unable to live the life we would like to live.
It makes a difference to have a sense of purpose. We can be extremely resilient in the most difficult of circumstances in the service of something that matters. I know it has made a major difference in my life.
In the last 3 or 4 years I have had to fight to find that balance and purpose and sometimes I don’t think I have it. Too much is attack. Too much is threat and life just seems perpetually dangerous. I have known times of rage. I have known times when the only thing that matters is feeling better whatever it takes. And I have known times when I am just sick to death of fighting and I just want something to be easier.
But I have also known times of perspective and gratitude. I have known that although much is hard not everything is. I have known that although it feels like things last forever they dont. And I have learned that hard times are not proof of my failings or measure of my worth.
It is not a matter of trying harder or getting a better attitude although both may help. Some times deprivation is very real and it is not a matter of how you see things as much as it is making the things you see different. Justice matters, not just on a social level, but on a personal level.
Someone once described it to me in four statements :
Build the things you want to build. Become more capable in life.
Solve the problems you can solve.
Cope with the problems you can’t solve.
Survive what you can’t cope with.
I think in one sense you can compare life to the weather. Although there is no guarantee the things that are most likely to happen tend to happen. Life is a process and the momentum of that process matters.
One thing I have started to do is to try and consider what might make a good day more likely. Trying to have something I look forward to each day, contact with other people, food, sleep all make a difference. Trying to do things that make me more capable in life matters. Anticipating problems and having a plan matters. Being grateful in all things matter. Laughing and having fun helps. Having a routine that makes some good things automatic helps. If everything is heavy lifting I tend to avoid lifting anything at all. Trying to have a purpose, having something I am trying to live up to sometimes helps. Know you and know what helps.
As much as anything being kind to yourself matters. Being a human being is not a crime so don’t convict yourself of it. None of us can do better than the best we can do.
There are givens in my life that are terrible and if I let them they will define my days. I will be no less poor tomorrow. I will not have a car. My wife and I will be separated and to preserve her access to medical care we will probably never live together again. All of us have givens in life we hate and sometimes the most we can do is try to define what they mean, try as hard as we can not to let them mean everything and rob life of hope and joy and meaning. Some days for me that is easier said than done.
I mess up a lot. Sometimes being an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances is torture. I wish everyday things were easier. Give yourself grace. Be kind to yourself. You are worth the effort.
You matter. I matter. And we spend so much time trying to prove the truth of what is already true. Take good care of yourself.
I don’t know how much sense any of this makes. Perhaps I have rambled too much.
Again take good care and thanks for your time.