Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Written on: 12/24/11

It's easy for us to accuse people, and to throw blame around like confetti.
We all do it, there's no use in denying it.
“They said they'd do it, but they didn't, so now I have to”
“If they'd just called to let us know...,”
“If that person would just show a little consideration...,”
“Why do they DO that?. What sense does it make?,”
Now one of my biggest irritations is when people say they'll do something, then they don't. The worst part of this is not that they didn't do it, but that they didn't TELL me they couldn't.
I'm not even asking for a REASON. Just a “heads up, I can't make it today” or “oh hey, can't do that. I'm afraid you'll have to do it on your own”.
And let's face it: most people don't.
Most people don't seem to realize when someone is depending on them. And very few people acknowledge that time has been set aside to do something with them.
It's like it's this enormous mystery.
Someone once said “that which annoys us most is actually a part of us”.
I've read the quote in various forms, and many people have said it.
That's because it's pretty much true.
Now I can't think of a time I've agreed to do something and not done it, especially without letting anyone know I wasn't going to.
However, I believe I probably have. Probably a lot, truth be known.
You see, it's very hard to see yourself. And to rationalize yourself to you.
It's shockingly difficult to look at yourself objectively and say “well, I've done this and this and this and this” in a real sort of way.
The first time someone told me that, I thought they were off their rocker.
“I've eaten breakfast this morning, had a glass of water, I have not brushed my teeth yet today....”
Okay, more seriously:
“I don't lie, I don't cheat, I don't steal....”
But don't you really?.
Most of us tell little, itty bitty lies every now and then. And pretty much all of us avoid admitting something if we don't want to.
I've said all this just to try to get the thought process going.
We can't judge ourselves. It's impossible.
Does that mean we shouldn't expect ANYONE to tell the truth or take responsibility?.
No, it certainly does not.
People, especially adults, need to take responsibility. And I'm not talking about paying the bills and feeding the dog, although those are good starts.
People need to take responsibility for how their words or actions affect other people.
A lot of us go around thinking “this has NO impact on the people I live with”.
And it's not true. Everything we say and do has some effect.
Don't look at me like that. I've already thought it. But follow me a bit further.
Think of some time you've wanted to something to someone that was a correction or criticism.
Did you say it?. Saying it or not was a choice on your part.
Now, do you think you made the right choice?. By not saying it, did you avoid a fight?. By saying it, do you think that you made that person think about themselves or what they were doing differently?.
Whatever you said, or didn't say, had an impact.
It had an impact on you, and on the person in question.
Not only that, but it no doubt impacted your impressions of each other.
You can try to deny it. Go ahead, just say “oh well that didn't make any difference”.
But that's not how reality works. In reality, everything we see, hear, taste, touch, say and even think has an affect on who we are as a person.
Thing is, we've got so many things affecting us that it's hard to see how any single thing could possibly make a difference. We also tend to think “if I've forgotten it, it had no impact”.
But that's a lie. Last night, Mom and I were watching Kenn Kington and some of the things he said got me to thinking. I remembered things from my childhood I haven't remembered in YEARS.
And they had a huge impact on how I think about people.
For example, when I was a kid, one of my parents would feed me lunch, then leave.
The second parent would come in and say now I could have dessert, or now I could go play.
From this and events like it, I developed the assumption that adults communicate everything.
This is actually a very sad assumption to make, because of this next story.

I'd go to birthday parties, and they always had a pinata. And we'd all take turns hittin' the thing.
Sometimes the kids would be blindfolded and spun around, sometimes we just hit the thing.
I have a distinct memory of one party where an older sibling was actually holding the other end of the rope, which was tossed over a tree branch.
Whenever someone swung at it, he'd yank the pinata up higher.
This was all well and good, until the pinata actually broke.
Candy flew everywhere, a herd of girls pounced like kittens on a string, I'd start gathering candy like there was no tomorrow. And I have several distinct memories of different adults (and some children, but the adults are more relevant) saying to me “don't take so much, leave some for the other girls”.
And I'd look over at the other girls and think “I have pretty much exactly twice as much as they do, what's the problem here?”.
Now you see, I assumed adults knew things. This was a stupid assumption on my part.
I assumed they knew my reason for gathering so much. Anybody know what it was?.
That's right, I had a little sister. I tried just helping her gather, but neither of us got any that way.
Why?. Because all of the OTHER girls were gathering like there was no tomorrow.
Nobody slowed down and thought “let's make sure the younger girls have a chance”.
No. That's not how their minds worked. Their minds went “Oh, they're slower... more for me!”.
But I had been taught to be good to other people. To care how they felt, and give when I had plenty.
This is not how people naturally behave. And believe me, I wasn't a very nice kid. I was often pretty mean to my little sister. But there are many things I can think of that got me to gather that much candy.
One, I assumed that I always had to share with my sister. After all, we shared a room, a bed, our toys and our television set. Why not the candy?. So I was actually sort of being childish by going “well, I'll just gather more than anyone else. That way, I'll have more when that split occurs”. You can argue over whether or not I was being greedy by doing that. Go ahead, I don't mind.
Two, I knew my little sister would be asking for candy as soon as she saw other people eating it. But she couldn't eat things like gum, do to caps on her teeth. So I would gather the right kinds for her. A lot of people assumed I just really liked Smarties. I didn't. She did. I learned to like them after awhile. You know why?. Because when the split of candy occurred, adults wanted our two piles to look the same. So if I didn't get enough Smarties, then I'd have to give up something I really wanted, like a Hershey bar or something. So I gathered Smarties and what were called Dum-Dum-Pops, not because they were my favorite, but because they were hers. You know why?. Because she was out there slowly gathering them, but she didn't really understand what was going on. She was just participating by picking everything up off the ground, including candy wrappers. She was a great kid. However, that meant she would end up with a bunch of wrappers and gum and candy that NOBODY wanted. She was playing the game, but didn't understand the rules fully. She understood that the goal was to pick things up and put them in the bag.
Three, if I gathered most of the Smarties, I might be able to trade them with the other kids later after the candy was split up. It was a way of trying to get what I wanted.
Now, I thought children normally shared with their younger siblings. I thought it was normal, because I had been taught that it was. I thought adults knew she was my sister, and had down syndrome.
These two assumptions were both probably wrong.
Sometimes they would make me put some of the candy down. Sometimes they would wander off and I'd be free to continue collecting.
The ones I find most hilarious in retrospect?. The ones that made me promise to share with the other kids. Which wasn't hard to do because that was the PLAN.
The same thing happened on Easter. We'd be collecting eggs (which were never EVER hidden, but instead just strewn around on the ground) and I'd have more than the other kids.
Same reason. I recall my sister was usually taking a nap or refused to come outside.
Again, I assumed adults knew these things and were living in the same context I existed in.
They almost always made me put some eggs down.
Now you would think I would have come to assume that adults were stupid or mean.
And you'd be wrong, because that's not how small children operate.
Children are full of a great innocence, which gradually gets destroyed as they encounter life.
I assumed that maybe I wasn't counting the eggs right, or that someone had collected some for her.
I assumed that the adults KNEW what was going on.
This is because, until that child's innocence is destroy, all children believe that adults and people who are older than them are all-knowing.
So I believed that I was wrong and they were right.
It's so easy to go “well those adults are SO stupid and should have known better!”.
Thing is, I know some of these people today.
I like these people. They are nice people. So it's hard to blame them.
Especially now that I have tried communicating with people.
In the last month, I have made plans to do things with three different people. Every single one of them broke those plans without a word to me. Why?.
Because they didn't think I needed to know. Adults, they don't tell each other everything.
In fact, they usually don't tell each other ANYTHING.

Actually, nothing seems to have gone right this month.
We were about two weeks into December and nothing was going right.
Nobody was working on Christmas at all. Not even a little.
“We should work on Christmas” “Oh yeah, we should”. Nothing happened.
And everything seemed to go wrong for me. I mean everything.
I'd take a shower and somebody would start running the dish washer and washing machine.
That's how wrong my days were going.
That is until Mom and I took our first Christmas shopping outing.

It was cold. And it was dark. And it was our first store and we'd barely found anything.
And oh... it was just horrible.
So we finally got up the steep incline to the car, I had to help my mother up the bank.
I had nothing but a hoodie. And I get cold easily.
So we both finally got in the car. And it immediately started raining.
Our windows were fogged over and it was pouring rain. And Mom couldn't find her keys.
I had already pulled off my hoodie and put it in the back with her jacket.
I reached back to get it because I was cold.
Again, how wrong could things go?.
I mean, if she'd noticed her keys missing a bit earlier, I could have kept my hoodie on.
Well, she'd unlocked the car, so we KNEW they were around somewhere.
We looked under the seats, through her purse and in her pockets.
And all the time I was getting this urge to get out of the car. Why?.
Finally, I got out to go look and see if the keys were in the car lock. They weren't.
She had said she remembered putting them in her pocket.
I looked around, on the ground, wondering if maybe they fell out.
The whole time the wind is blowing and the rain is COLD. And no keys.
“God, why?. Why can't you make things go right for me, just once?”
I got back in the car, and my Mom started to suggest I look somewhere else.
I don't remember where, because I interrupted her.
“First I'm taking off this hoodie” I don't know if any of you wear hoodies, but they're not water-proof.
I pulled the hoodie off and reached back to set it down- and it hit me.
She had been wearing her jacket!.
Two realizations collided at the same time.
One, her jacket pocket came to the level of her pants pocket when the jacket was unzipped.
Two, I invariably put the keys to the backyard gate in my hoodie pocket if I had it on.
I managed not to say anything until I was sure, because I didn't want to get any hopes up.
I felt around in both pockets and didn't find anything.
Disappointed, I started to put the jacket back down, when a third realization hit me between the eyes.
I was looking for one key. Not my ten-key collection.
I reached into the left pocket. Nothing there. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the keys were lost forever and we'd have to call someone to pick us up. Great. Just great.
Then I reached into the right pocket. I sighed. Oh wait- there!. There it was!.
I pulled the keys out triumphantly and handed them to Mom.
This is a very relevant story to the topic at hand for two reasons.
It seemed like my trip out into the rain was a wasted effort. But as tired as we both were that night, we probably never would have thought to look in the jacket pocket if I hadn't had to take my hoodie off that second time. Second, it was my turning point. It was when I pulled the keys out of the jacket pocket that my view changed.
“God, whatever happens from here to Christmas, it's all you. You have to get me through, you have to make it work. You have to deal with it. Because I can't. I can't make any of this work. Just tell me what to do, move me where you will, because I can't handle all this stress anymore”
Does that mean everything suddenly started working for me?. No.
In fact, nothing has worked the way I thought it should.
I have put the Christmas tree up, strung the lights AND put ornaments on.
I didn't plan to do any of that originally.
I haven't gone to bed before midnight a months, yet have mostly been getting up at eight or nine since I gave it all over to God. Normally, I need nine to ten hours of sleep every night at least, or I cease to function. Yet I don't feel all that tired.

By saying “God, it's your problem” I found peace.
The problems didn't go away, but I wasn't worried about them anymore.
When things went wrong, I just thought “God will make it work together for good. I don't have to solve this, it's okay no matter what happens. This is the way it is, and that's okay because I can't change it”
I have very little memory of last Christmas, evidently because I didn't feel good.
But I do remember that we were still wrapping and labeling on Christmas DAY.
And I don't remember half the things going wrong that year that went wrong (at least for me) this year.
I mean seriously, I'd sit down to watch a movie because I was so tired and the disc wouldn't work.
I was so tired and so frustrated and really wanted things to go right after November (which is a whole different story in and of itself) and nothing was.
But then I said “God, it doesn't matter. I know you. You'll make all this work together for good. Just carry me, just guide me. You know I'm human, and I'll go back to leaning on my own understanding, but for now I'm just leaving it to you. Just make this work like you know it should”.
And guess what?. Despite all of it, we finished wrapping yesterday. Our tree has lights and ornaments.
When I stopped trying to 'fix' everything, and stopped depending on other people, it worked.
When I just said “God, this is your job. You make the world work. I can't do this” it worked.
Mom and I were talking about that the other night.
Nothing we've accomplished really seems like we made it happen. It just sort of.... fell into place.
And I think that's God. And that's why the story of the jacket is so important.
It's happened more than once. Everything is going wrong and then.... it works out.
It's not working like I think it should, but it works anyway.

God says that we should trust him, and it's not something we do well.
Children trust. They believe that adults know what they're doing, that their older siblings will take care of them. Until that trust is abused. And it always, always is.
Because this is not a perfect world. We can't trust everyone. But we can trust God.
Another example is also from this year.

Every year, I get my Mom an Angel for Christmas and Mother's Day. As long as I can find an Angel I think she might like. Usually I go shopping with her and she says she likes one.
If I have money, I can usually wander away from her at some point and buy it. Although that only really works with the small ones that fit in my purse.
On two occasions, I have been unable to find anything beforehand, but then we'll be out shopping and she'll really like one and I'll give her the money for it.
So anyway, this time we were at the Collector's Market and she saw one she liked.
If you know anything about Collector's Markets, you know one means ONE. Not a row. Just one.
It was beautiful and pretty cheap and right at the front of the store.
I thought “I'll have to come back really soon to get it”. Only I don't drive. I have to get someone to take me to the store. Good trick.
So one day passed, then two, then three. And I'm thinking “well, maybe Dollar Tree will have one she likes this year”. We went there to do some shopping. No Angels. None.
A week later, I'm finally out with my Dad, and we go back to Collector's Market.
I didn't see the angel at all. I thought “well someone probably got it. It was so beautiful and right at the front and it's almost Christmas. Maybe they have another one”.
So my Dad and I wandered around the store. No angels. It's almost Christmas, of course there are no angels. Everyone has bought anything that even LOOKS like a Christmas decoration.
As we were on our way out, the guy at the counter says “What?. You've been all over this store and haven't found one thing you can't live without!?”
I paused in my tracks and turned from the door towards him. But I stop halfway there.
Because there she is, hidden behind Raggedy Ann and a Tin Soldier. She's beautiful. And on sale.
I had walked into the store, seen she wasn't there and said “God, please let there be a nice angel somewhere in this store. One as beautiful as the other one, so I can know Mom will like it”.
Well, that angel was just as beautiful. In fact, she was more beautiful than I'd remembered.
I went through all that frustration thinking I would never find her a gift this year. There was no way I could think of another place to go. And how would I know if she'd like it.
And then God gave me the one angel I knew she'd love.

Last night, I got to thinking. I thought “I really need to share some of this stuff”.
I started this off talking about responsibility and blame.
That's because that's how I felt when I was trying to get all of this organized.
Why can't people just go to the store?. Why can't we get the tree up?.
This that and the other.
Then Mom and I were talking about forgiveness.
It's not about someone saying they're sorry and you saying okay and letting them get away with that.
Mom made the reference to abusive relationships.
The offending person is all “Oh, I'm so sorry, and I love you and I'll never do it again”
And the person who was abused takes them back.
That's not what forgiveness is all about.
Forgiveness to the offending person only occurs when that person is genuinely sorry.
Forgiveness on the part of the abused occurs when they let the anger go.
I've forgiven a lot of people who didn't ask for it, because I don't need that anger in my heart.
Does that mean I don't think they'll do it again and let them come walking all over me?. No.
Everyone can quote this one. What did Jesus say when they nailed him to the cross?.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”
This is unbelievable on the surface. Well, they sure better have known they were nailing someone to a piece of wood and hanging them up to die.
But that's not what he meant. He meant that they did not know they were killing the son of God.
That doesn't make what they did right. So what does it mean?.

Scout, one of our cats, has taught me a lot of about not knowing what you're doing.
He is such a sweet, loving, cuddly cat who loves everyone, be they cat or person.
His best friend is Keiko, his little sister. He adores her, but she gets tired of him.
Growing up, he was twice her size, and that's no exaggeration.
His favorite games was wrestling, which she hated because she couldn't win at it.
So he'd land on top of her with a thud and be grabbing her head and chewing her ears the way kittens do. She'd try to push him off, which never worked. He always won. And he loved it.
Her favorite game was chase. She was faster and more agile that Scout could ever hope to be.
She loved her little pink string and would drag it around the house with her all the time.
She also loved bottle caps. She'd send them skittering across the floor with her paw and then bound after them with glee.
Scout would watch her playing with them, or her string, and grab them the first chance he got.
He would carry them off and hide them under the furniture.
Keiko was no sweetheart either. She doesn't like ham, but Scout loves it. Yet she would pick up a piece of ham out from under his nose and carry it off. Revenge?. Who knows.
But the point it, Scout is a really sweet cat. He loves his sister.
When she got locked in the car, he kept coming to me and crying, but I didn't know what he wanted.
She would get locked in the closets, and he would come crying to me.
Just recently, she got locked in the garage, and when Dad got home, Scout was sitting outside the garage crying at the top of his lungs.
He's a great cat, and anyone who knows him knows that he doesn't really think about his actions at all.
He's fire, ready, aim all day every day.
Nobody would believe there's anything malicious about him stealing her toys.
He just wanted her to play with him, and knew that was the way to get what he wanted.
He wasn't just trying to be mean.
And I don't think most people are.
I don't believe most people sit at their desk writing out a list of ways to make other people miserable.
I think they're just trying to get what they want.
I don't think most of us are going “gee, I just want to make someone mad... I know, let's argue!”.
No, they want what they want.
And that extends into trying to get someone to see things your way (number one cause of arguments).
So as I looked back over a lifetime of people doing me wrong, of being selfish, of being greedy, of lying to me, of breaking promises and of taking everything they could from me, I realized something.
Those people don't know what they're doing.
They're like Scout, just getting what he wants and not thinking about it.
Does that mean I should let them, and allow them to not be responsible for their actions?.
Should I just say “Oh well, you didn't know what you were doing, feel free to take the rest of my stuff”.
No, that's not what it means. They need to learn to be responsible for their own actions.
They may not like it. Scout doesn't.

We got a cardboard box this Christmas, and Keiko thinks it's wonderful.
Scout thought it was great too, he could land on Keiko and she couldn't get away.
That is, until I kept pulling him off her and making him play nice.
He figured out that I wanted him to play her way for awhile. And left immediately.
I remember playing with people as a kid, and having them say “first we'll do it my way, then we'll do it your way” only we never got to MY way.
“You go first, I'll be right behind you” then they chicken out.
Now, Scout's a cat. Cats are cats, and they like it like that.
But people are also people. And they need to learn to respect other people's feelings.

Mom read a story recently of a former alcoholic who had no idea that what he did was having any impact on the people around him. He had no idea. None.
And that's how most people seem to be. They're doing what they're doing, thinking they don't affect anybody around them with their action or lack thereof.
But they do. And they should realize that. And sometimes they need someone to tell them.
But what the rest of us need to do is first realize we have our own bad habits.
And the next thing we need to do is forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing.
And then we need to realize something else: they made us what we are.
So many of these people we blame for things, who made us put the eggs back, or took our candy... these people had an impact on our lives and changed us forever in ways we can't even begin to imagine. All those mean, selfish, ignorant people you know or used to know... they made you.
Some people read that God will take all things and make them work together for good and think that means that everything will be lollypops and chocolate drops. That's not what it means.
It means you may get out of your car in the cold and rain, and find what you're looking for.
It means you may go all around a store and find nothing you want, only to find the perfect thing.
It means you may sit down to watch a movie and it doesn't work, then you see the movie next to it, and that one is so much better.
So forgive those people who've done you wrong. Release all that bitterness in your heart.
Don't let them do it again, but don't let them rule your life.
Thank you for reading, and Merry Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. That was good. :)
    I've had something similar on my mind lately, and that is adults do not know what they're doing at all. They're just like kids, but with more responsibility and a bigger vocabulary.
    And as a brand-new adult, this makes me feel a bit less lost. Like, "Hey, they're not much better at this than me! :D"