The challenge isn’t having the backs of those with whom we agree. The real challenge is stepping back and trying to apply our kindness, forgiveness and non-judging feelings to those we do NOT care for, or those with whom we disagree. When we feel angry or frustrated or upset, that is when the real test of our values begins.
I like to sit back and observe. It’s amazing, the things we can learn if we just watch and listen. I have noticed a strange phenomenon; there seems to be more than a few people who actively promote things like kindness and love and not being judgmental, but then in the next breath they will lash out at those who they don’t like. They don’t necessarily do this to people they actually know, but rather to celebrities, lawyers and doctors, ‘those people’ or especially politicians from the party they revile. The non-human segment of society, I suppose. While it could be a passive aggressive way of dealing with their friends with whom they disagree, I see it more as a lack of self-awareness; of a disconnect between what they are saying and who is listening to their words. Social media has really shown an incredibly bright light on this, for me anyway. “Share” posts promoting love and kindness and prayer for goodness, followed by attacks and accusations and name-calling, especially fascinate me. Recently, my jaw dropped to the floor when someone spoke about how they are “old school respectful” and then the very next day they went on an incredibly vile tirade, complete with false accusations and childish name-calling. This wasn’t an example of respectful disagreement; this was an example of rudeness to the extreme, complete with Hitler mustache. WWJD? Probably not that, I’m guessing.
I feel we can always learn from what initially upsets us, but to do so we must not take things personally. We must detach and observe and think. Most of all, we need to make sure we see our own behavior with the same clarity with which we are able to see others.
(photo Lorie Sheffer’s family: That’s Lorie at the North Pole (NY) in July 1960-something. A Llama ate her matching hat. True story.)
This week I had 4 phone conversations with 4 different friends. Same subject: “I’ll Be SO Glad When Christmas is OVER!”
You MUST have a tree. You MUST bake cookies. You MUST decorate. You MUST host the family gathering and you MUST make sure EVERYONE has a wonderful, magical, joyous time. Each thoughtfully chosen gift MUST be wrapped beautifully. (Remember the year people knocked one another down over those MUST HAVE Cabbage Patch Dolls? How about Teddy Ruxpin?) You MUST send out cards, and they better not have an offensive greeting like, “Happy Holidays” nor may they be TOO religious. Too bad we can’t suit everyone with a card depicting the Baby Jesus making a snowman.
A few years ago my son, who was home on college break, went with me on my last minute grocery store run. The store was jam packed and I could not for the life of me seem to find the French’s French Fried Onions that MUST be the topping for the obligatory green bean casserole. I had just spent three days making an entire buffet meal from scratch, and yet I was hyperventilating over those disgusting onions.
“I didn’t just drive 500 miles so you could RUIN my entire holiday! You damned well better find those onion rings, so you just keep LOOKING!” Other shoppers stopped dead in their tracks, mouths open in disbelief. And then I started to laugh. I laughed so hard I could barely see. He just shook his head and said, “Seriously, Mom? THIS is the kind of stuff you stress over? Does anybody even like that green bean stuff?”
And that was it. That was the moment the light went off in my head. That was the defining moment when I realized we don’t HAVE to do anything. We don’t have to fulfill anyone’s expectations of what the holiday “should” be. There is no right or wrong. I have a friend who decorated 8 trees throughout her home because that is what makes her happy. Another friend plans to leave town for a few days and avoid all things Christmas because that is how she is choosing to get through the season. As for me, we don’t have a tree. We don’t feel like dealing with it this year, but we may want one next year. My husband loves outdoor decorations, and so he has the lights up and enjoys flipping the switch every evening at dusk. I like to bake cookies but I scratched sending cards. I’m not allowing people who I won’t even be spending time with to dictate to me what “the reason for the season” is. To me, the reason is to spend time with the people I love. We have lost loved ones and we have come close to losing others. If that offends anyone, oh well. I refuse to allow preconceived ideas of what I “should” do take away even one second of joy. In doing so, I enjoy Christmas again.