Little kids struggle to know what makes them important and valuable to society. It almost seems as if the last act of bravado, or time of model behavior defines the image that they have of themselves which is in turn based on the reaction anticipate from the adults in their lives. As time progresses one often assumes that this is a “stage” in life that one will grow from. I can easily see how the criteria changes however the fundamental need to determine self esteem by anticipate and measure one’s standing with the people remains. If there is any doubt, just observe writers, actors, politicians, business leaders, or even spouses who choose to work at home.
Rain in England is more common than one realizes. Rain comes and goes, often as moments caught in the multiple seasons between the light and dark. At times it seems as if the rain has gone on a walk-about but then the realization of the moss growing on the bricks in the driveway sinks home. There is little one can do to escape the reality of what it means to live in a land where children see wet glistening slate roofs as normal.
I grew up an England eternally wrapped in gray skies. I have come to realize that this is actually quite accurate with one exception. I assumed that the gray was due to the smoke and ash from the fires of those trying to get warm. I have come to find that open fires have faced extinction in the cities for decades due to this fact, yet the gray remains. Something to do with the rain I believe.
The process should have been simple. I knew exactly what I wanted to buy. The person on the other end of the phone was knowledgeable, experienced, helpful, fun to talk with, and committed. In the end that wasn’t enough; my order did not get placed correctly and even with extraordinary efforts to rectify the problem the final order still wasn’t what I thought I had asked for. The question I was left with was simple and direct; do I solve yesterday’s problem or move into tomorrow?
The manuals were detailed beyond comprehension. Each component was talking to each other. Everything that needed to be here was. Yet nothing was talking with each other in a way that accomplished the goal, an integrated network. I made sure I was following the right sequential steps. I sweated through each mistake and miscalculation and began fresh again. Eight plus hours into the conundrum I was left with a simple question; do I continue to try and solve the problem at hand or do I seek help from someone with more experience and knowledge?
The call was supposed to be a fun, happy, and merry exchange of season’s greetings between old friends who are physically a long way away from each other. The story that began to unfold disturbs all of us in ways that will take a long time to unfold because it is not over. Without going into the specifics the highlights include the following.
A person we had all met in the hallways of an apartment building as he went out to walk his dog is dead under questionable circumstances. He was young, full of life, and often living on the edge.
I am a fan of the writer P.G. Woodhouse and the character in his books known as Jeeves. For anyone who has not met Jeeves there is a paradox that always travels with him, in fact permeates everything he does. You see Jeeves is the quintessential English butler. He is smarter, wiser, more street smart than the blue blood society member that he works for but that never seems to change the relationship between the two characters. One serves, the other plays, while both care deeply about each in their own way. In the end I remembered far less about the person Jeeves works for than Jeeves himself.
The clich?s that unfold when people are caught on camera unawares are funny, even when one finds that it is your self on the screen. We have no idea how we act, behave, or even what we communicate! Sure we remember, but we always remember through the haze of intent, motive, and the web of our minds. Reality usually escapes even the most reflective and self critical.
Being candid is a hard thing to do. Looking back on oneself is always problematic so the real solution appears to be learning from the mistakes of others. There are plenty of examples. “Observe the people who always talk before they think—even simpletons are better off than they are.” (Proverbs 29.20) The question that often remains is our own state. Are we learning or merely having a laugh at their expense? Do the lessons of today change the shape of tomorrow? Do we have an anchor of self esteem founded on something greater than we do so we can continually rebuild the entity we call our souls?
Certain times of the year bring out the best and worst in people, often in the same space of time. I wish I could say, or even suggest, that I was above it all, that somehow I was so in control of my emotions and energy level that I responded to life in an smooth, grace calculated way. If I ever had any illusions of this dream state my reactions in the recent past to those I hold dearest to my heart has quick cleared the fog! It is ironic how the very things that seem important are not and the things that we pay the least attention to really are!
Certain holidays automatically trigger reflection. I find myself slowing down, pausing from the to-do items of the moment, and appreciating everything that has happened that led to this moment and situation. It isn’t that I ignore that painful moments of the past, rather I focus on the miracles, moments of unexpected happiness, and sheer joy of living that permeates everyone’s life to some degree. Each time I take the time to do this I wonder why I do not do it more often; there is much in my life for which I am thankful.
There are some jobs in life – making a phone call to deliver bad news, giving a bad performance review to someone you like, and disciplining kids are good example – that are difficult, even on a good day. As a child I always wondered what the real story was when I innocently got a bad review or was disciplined for something that I had nothing to do with; it muddied the water that was clear during the frequent well deserved sessions related to willful disobedience.
Now that I am presented with the disciplining and review challenge on a regular basis I have nothing but compassion and sympathy for those who had to deal with me in my younger days! How does one convey love and concern in the midst of something that is only negative? Yes, there is a redemptive part to the conversation, or at least there should be, but the listener has often completely shut down by this time. Does the end result alone give one the strength to carry on? Is the role that we find ourselves in reflective of the level of commitment required?
The world can be a pretty ugly place. Abuse of the environment, exploitation of people under the control of certain powers, and the blatant disrespect for the sanctity of life are part of the day in the life of almost everyone I know. Nobody is immune! Everyone is a victim of one or more of the negative currents that we have come to accept as normal. Part of the reason I rarely read newspapers when I am at home is just because of that reason – I cannot take any more bad news! It is too easy to play the role of a victim, why help the process along?