I’ve been thinking about something off and on, especially for the past few days. Yesterday, I had a long phone conversation with my best friend Laural. Laural and I grew up together. In the course of the conversation, she asked about my parents. I tried to put into words what I sense about both of my parents; that as they grew older, they became more negative and more resentful. They perceived slights where there were none. They saw the cup as more than half empty.
Hey, I know. Old age isn’t for sissies, to paraphrase Bette Davis. It’s tough. My dad is ninety and he has lots of aches and pains and often feels overwhelmed by tasks and chores that he would have sailed through a decade or two ago. My mom is in a sort of limbo, half in this world, half out of this world, confined to a bed in a nursing home. None of this is anything to celebrate and none of it is anything I would wish for them. In my ideal world, they would still be in their prime, happy and healthy. And I can’t even begin to say I understand what it must be like for them at this point in their lives.
Both of my parents are good, kind and loving people. I need to be clear on that before I write the rest of this post. They have been devoted parents to the four of us. I love them more than I can say.
I’m really not talking about this moment in time. I’m speaking to something that started creeping in years ago. As my mother grew older, a little sliver of negativity that had been there all along grew to something much bigger. It made her unhappy. It permeated her life. My father’s tendency to embroider the truth grew by leaps and bounds. Our phone conversations often consist of me reminding him of what actually happened because he sees things through the skewed lens of a ‘victim.’ His perceptions are often wildly off-base. He sees ‘others’ as being the source of his problems.
And I find myself on guard, ever-watchful for little hints of that sort of thing within myself. I don’t want to be that way. I can very easily fall into the fear and worry that are just on the other side of the cliff. I, like everyone else on earth, rely on my perceptions about people and events, so I do my best to shove them under the harsh glass of reality to make sure I am not falling into the trap of victimhood or resentment or jealousy. If I am, I do my best to release those misperceptions, to release any trace of ‘poor me.’
Because I don’t want to be that way and I know I could be – quite easily. Let’s be completely honest here, I’ve most definitely fallen into that trap in the past.
I’ve known other people who tended to see everything from a negative point of view, whose take on anything came from a place of fear, whose negative energy permeated the room. And others who always managed to weave the story of their life from a victim’s point of view, conveniently omitting their culpability in the matter. My ‘lost’ sister, L, is one of them. My father is another. If you tell a story often enough, you start to believe it. Therein lies the danger.
Resentment poisons you. As do jealousy and fear. As do unreasonable expectations of others to supply our happiness. There is no way anyone else can make you happy at the core of your being. That has to come from within.
I firmly believe that it all comes down to taking responsibility for your actions. For every perceived slight or hurt in my life, I’ve learned that there is more to the picture. I’ve had to face some unpleasant facts about my part in the whole thing. Shining the bright light of honesty and truth on the situation often helps me to come to terms with something. If I ignore it, I can definitely tell you that it will come back to haunt me, again and again, until I take responsibility and, ultimately, forgive.
I don’t want to see things through a glass that is half-empty. It’s all too easy to do that, especially in view of the current state of our world. It’s all too easy to let fear’s poison take over our daily lives. I want to fight to remain positive, hopeful and thankful. I want to be less judgmental. I refuse to be a victim, for if I am a victim, then it will always be somebody else’s fault.
I take responsibility for my life; the good, the (perceived) bad, the ups and downs. I’m writing this to put into words something that I am growing increasingly sure of. I want to shape the way I move forward in my life. I want to see the world and the people around me from a positive point of view. I want to see the glass as half-full or maybe even completely full. Wouldn’t that be nice?
It’s an ongoing challenge, believe me. I often fail. But hopefully, with each new challenge, I will become a bit better at the whole thing. I am not a victim. I am responsible for my thoughts and actions. I shape my life. And everything that happens is an opportunity to come from a place of love and peace.