One of the biggest challenges in my life for the past several years has been to replace anger with understanding and empathy. As I’ve begun to carve my path in life in my early thirties, I have realized the world can be an extremely overwhelming place. I’ve learned that sometimes things will happen to me that seem unfair and undeserved. Rather than harvesting anger and resentment like I had in the past, I’ve been learning that my ability to forgive and be unconditionally compassionate towards others are the only two things I will ever have control of.
Gaining this type of understanding and insight on life is fairly common as we enter our late twenties and early thirties. Suddenly, the cheesy quotes and clichés we’ve heard a million times all seem to make sense to us, and we are able to make a little bit more sense of how we fit into the world, and how our state of mind controls our destiny. We learn to appreciate what we have, because nothing in life is permanent. We learn to speak words that are kind and true, because they could be the last words someone hears from us. We learn to love, even when someone has hurt us, because the people who hurt us often need to be loved the most. We learn to be gentle and understand someone’s intentions before we assume their intent was to hurt or harm us, because underneath most people’s actions is a deeper need to feel loved, accepted, and understood. We learn to be patient, because sometimes others aren’t as strong or capable. We learn to put our pride aside and apologize, because being right isn’t nearly as important as seeking understanding and moving forward.
The little pieces of wisdom we acquire throughout our lives help guide us on a journey to discovering inner peace. Some people get to this place more quickly than others, and some never get there at all. In my experience, the people who have endured the most pain, heartache, and cruelty are the ones who seem to be the strongest and most compassionate…or the most angry. I fell into the second category for quite a long time, because I was placing value on things that really didn’t matter, like my need to be right or the pride I felt in having nice things.
The past few years of my life have brought on a set of challenges that I never thought I would be able to endure or recover from. I was in an abusive relationship with someone who terrorized me relentlessly, stole all of my belongings, and killed my pet. A few months ago, I emailed my mom and asked her for advice on how to find inner peace. I did not want to hate anyone, regardless of how they had treated me. I did not want to lie awake at night plotting revenge in my head, or blaming myself for what had happened. I wanted to learn how my mom possessed the incredible power to forgive and love others unconditionally. My mom is a retired special education teacher, and she taught the same 6 students with autism from elementary school until the day she handed them their high school diplomas. She is, by far, the most patient and compassionate person I have ever met. I have never heard her speak one hurtful word to anyone, and she has always come to the defense of people who were unable to defend themselves. The email I received from her in return was more valuable to me than over 20 years of her writing combined:
Just wanted to say hi and tell you that I love you and miss you. Have been thinking a lot lately about how hard it is to have a positive outlook on life sometimes and to see the good in people rather than the bad. You’ve always been good at both of those things. How did you learn to be that way? Maybe I can learn…
Thank you for the kind sentiment!
- Focus on the little steps
Focus, kiddo…It is all about focus…I really believe our job on this earth is to make things better in the world around us…Yes, it is an obligation…all the time. We have been privileged with so much. Especially in relationships with others. So, to improve all, I can’t do that without finding a shred, if necessary, of positive in any person or situation and capitalize on it. The negative isn’t going to lead to anything valuable. But perspective is also important. No one knows what another has experienced or why they may have certain reactions or outlooks. I remember laughing with Peg after a particularly difficult week for Dylan when he was little, and we both agreed the only positive was that he was showing change. Neither of us were pleased with the direction it was taking, but it was change. Something not often seen in autism. Little did either of us realize, he was learning to take steps outside of his comfort zone. Just the first ones weren’t the ones we had hoped for.
- Find the humor in difficult situations
Remember, life is too short not to have fun doing all this…I can find humor in anything. Even you asking me about this makes me chuckle. You, too are now going outside that comfort zone as well to do great things. You can call an ace, an ace. Also, it is not easy, but remember, humor can make things so much easier to deal with. Your world is so much different from mine and will be, but just remember it is only your job to make one thing or even part of a situation a bit better…not to make all perfect in one fatal swoop. Celebrate your successes and keep moving on. It is hard work, especially in relationships. But it gets easier over time.
- Motivate yourself and others by maintaining a positive outlook
We each are a true gift to this lucky world. No one can change that. I have found that my energy level thrives with the positive. Otherwise, discouragement and loss of motivation seem to run rampant when dealing with the negative. It gets to the point that it makes me angry with myself when I fall into this. The effect staying positive has on others is amazing. Your outlook reflects on others and can make others move in positive directions, as well.
- Have empathy towards others
Never forget that you have great empathy for others and for improving situations. Just begin and you will see both what needs to be done and how to do it. So, yes your father’s socks will always end up on the floor, but just look at his blue eyes and his warmth of spirit. The negative seems pretty petty.
- Do what makes you feel happy and balanced
So, keep listening to Josh Groban….doing stuff because it needs to be done. But, most of all….bring balance….Take time to laugh, knit, sing, go into nature, dance, do yoga…whatever it is that refreshes you and brings back the focus. You will find no one can take you off course.
It is not goofing off…it is recharging.
You have truly been blessed with talent in so many areas. You have the resources. If you try to totally ignore the negative…a lot of it goes away. Address what’s left directly and move on…don’t perseverate. Just move on.
Have a good night!