Friday, March 23, 2012

the path (x)

If I had to describe myself, I'd say that I'm someone who wants to be patient. I realize that everyone of us is on a journey and I have no idea what kind of obstacles are (or have been) in someone else's way. As such, I try to give people a lot of latitude and try to forgive. Most of all, I really do want to slow down and enjoy the moment, because they go by so startlingly fast.

If I had to describe myself, I'd say that I'm someone who wants to listen more than I talk.

OK, so I fail at that, a lot.

But I do try.

My mother always told me, and I've discovered it to be fact, that people need to be heard and acknowledged. And while I do love to tell a good story, I also love to hear a good story and don't want to top it with my own. It's tough because it seems I can always segue in to something and I've really had a lot of amazing things happen in my life. Then again, we all have. I try to remember that.

If I had to describe myself, I'd say that I'm someone who wants to be the kindest and most generous person I know. Not because of any attention that it would bring to me, but because of the greater sense of purpose I believe it would bring to my life. I want to write letters to people, out of the blue, just to let them know that I'm thinking of them. I want to help our neighbor with the broken arm carry in his groceries, or better yet - go shopping for him. I want to coordinate meals for Henry's classmate, whose two-year-old sister was recently diagnosed with leukemia. I want to bring flowers from our garden, once a week, to the recently widowed woman down the street who lost her husband of 52-years.

But first, I want to have a garden.

Although it sounds trite, I want to make people's days a little bit brighter because it inevitably makes my day a little brighter, too. Yes. I'm selfishly motivated. But to be a genuinely good person is my dream. The reality right now … well, it's somewhat different.

When we moved to this area, within a stone's throw of the Nation's Capital, one of the first things that struck me is how fast the pace is. The people at the stores, the co-workers in my office, the parents in the schools, the cars on the road. I think a good pulse on a temperament of the society is the way people behave while driving. And around here, the traffic is intense. The drivers are even more so. Not a single day goes past, on my eight-mile drive to work along surface streets, that I don't witness some kind of road rage. People are honking their horns and angrily flipping each other off and last week during my 8:30 AM drive in, I saw someone start to climb out of their car to … what on God's green earth are they doing … fighting?

In the middle of the road?

Now that I've lived here for a while, I can so easily see how people get pulled in to the literal madness. It rubs off on you, when you're in it all the time. It's like trying to roll around in flour and come out without a speck on you.

On Christmas Eve, our family went shopping at one of the local malls to pick up a few last minute items. It was a wonderful, memorable day, until we were driving home. As I was in a lane, preparing to turn right on a red light, I hesitated for a moment because I didn't feel entirely confident that I could make the turn safely. And considering I've got four children in the car, I'm not going to make any sudden traffic moves unless I know, without question, that our car (and the people inside) won't be totaled. So I waited as a car sped through the intersection and the Santa-hat-wearing man in the car behind me went ballistic. Completely insane. He was honking his horn and screaming. Waving his arms and making obscene gestures and wow, you'd think someone just stripped him of his civil liberties.

I'm at a red light.

On Christmas Eve.

So what if it takes you a minute longer or even five to get somewhere?

A hundred years ago, most people were still getting around on horseback. And 2,011 years ago on this very day, the Son of God was purportedly born.


You Santa-hat-wearing lunatic?

When it was safe to turn (a whopping five seconds later), I did so and crazy man whipped around the corner right behind us and pulled up next to our car screaming. He could see that there were children in the backseat. He could see that they were also wearing Santa hats and had on festive clothes. I could see his esophagus as he continued yelling and kept his middle finger raised as he drove past. 

Oh, the nerve of me to delay his arrival by ten seconds.

I was so proud of myself that I didn't follow him home and light his house on fire. Because that thought did cross my mind. But I thought I recognized him from somewhere, maybe one of the churches that we'd visited? So I clenched the wheel, bit my tongue and prayed for him and for me

Like most adult humans I know, I've got a rage just below the surface. I've charted these rages and I can tell that flares occur when I'm stressed and overwhelmed. They are even worse when I have no time for myself and (figuratively) lose track of "due north" on my spiritual compass.

When he glared at me, with his arm outstretched and his finger firmly in the air, I looked back at him and shook my head.

That poor man. He is someone's son. Surely, people in the world love that man and care about his welfare. And here is he is, so busy and so strapped in his life that the frustration overwhelms him.

The kind of behavior that he is demonstrating? It goes against our most fundamental human principles. Consider, our species, homo sapiens, are credited for having a higher-level thought process that allows for us to be self-aware, rational and possess sapience.

Sapience is wisdom, or the ability to act with appropriate judgement.

And it's my personal opinion that flipping off a complete stranger because they didn't turn right on red, fast enough, is not demonstrating appropriate judgement. It's also doing a number on your blood pressure. 
I can guarantee that.

Sometimes, I fear that this kind of attitude, which seems so prevalent in today's world, is the future of humanity. As an increasing number of people occupy our beautiful planet and spaces become more and more dense, we become the antithesis of what I believe we should be.

As a collective whole, it's my opinion, that we're losing some of the virtues of our species. The ability to connect and communicate and care for each other. Take for example the caring. We usually can't (or don't) do that - we hire others to do it, whether for our children or for our aging parents ... or even for ourselves and our homes.  
We're too busy and have to keep working to make a living and support this lifestyle that we've created and now, must maintain. Because that's what you do when you're "advanced." 

When we connect, we 
often do it by sitting before computers (sometimes for the bulk of the day), communicating through a machine.

Look at me! I'm doing it now!

Hypocrisy runs wild.

Us, in the modern world, we've got more on our advanced plates than we can handle. All around, people are rushing from Point A to Point B, checking their e-mails while stuck in traffic, setting up meetings, and are seemingly have to fight with everything they've got to stay ahead of the curve.

And this "grooming" for success starts so young.

I watch the parents around us who have their children in karate classes five days a week. They also take piano and alternate soccer and swim team. They're in scouts. And then there's the tutoring. Because the children must not only excel at everything athletically and socially, but academically, too.  What overwhelms me is how many people feel like all of this "extra curricular" stuff is something that they must do. Heck, we've succumbed to it, too. After a full seven-hour day in school, we've got our children in karate and scouts and Spanish lessons. Because that's what we do with children, we have to keep them busy and engaged and involved with their peers. We had also started to discuss bringing in tutors when it struck me. They're seven.

We need to REMOVE some of the pressure.

We need to let the kids come home and run and play and explore and BE KIDS. Let them get their homework done in ample time without staying up - way past their bedtime - just to get things finished because they had extra curricular activities that kept them busy for two plus hours after school. They eat meals (that are less thought out and planned) late, they go to bed late, they wake up late and tired and they're grumpy as we rush-rush-rush in to our day as the cycle starts all over again, anew.

I take full responsibility for whatever frustrations I've expressed since we've lived here. I know it's not this "area" (which really is beautiful and offers so much), as much as it is me. I know that I'm being critically overworked and it's difficult because I haven't felt I've had any options to make a change. For the first year, I had a commitment to work or else owe a large sum in relocation expenses, back to my company. And for the second year, I was saddled with the obligation to pay back debts that were accrued the first year. It's a terrible position to feel like you're trapped.

Understandably, then, my frustration  has been flaring with greater frequency since we've moved and I've been in my current "role."  
According to Charlie, he can set his watch by my outbursts and every so often, will look at me and say, "Where's my Jenny? What's happened to her?"

Alas, I feel so grateful because I know the person that I want and am meant to be. And recently, for the first time in what feels like a long, long time, I realized that I actually am in control. I never lost it, it was just buried beneath a lot of fears and fatigue. But I've got a road map now.

So, what if it's in Japanese and I don't read Japanese?

Once I figure out what the legend means, I'll be on my way.