March 20, 2013

Life is Strange, But I Don’t Have to Be.

Life can be so funny sometimes.

The other day I thought about how many times I drove over where I currently live as I cruised down the turnpike from where I used to live outside Philly to visit my family in northwest Ohio; kind of odd to imagine that the beautiful bridge I enjoyed passing underneath isn’t terribly far from where my husband and I ultimately ended up settling our small family.

I remember also when my husband and I longed to spend more time in nature and less time experiencing traffic and city-ish happenings. We then wound up living in a pretty remote area of New Mexico.

I actually felt kind of lonely there, so far removed from my family and, sometimes it felt, society.

So then, I longed to live in a hip, urban area where I could still walk everywhere, but have museums to visit and more than one coffee house to frequent too.

That’s when we wound up outside Philadelphia, which ended up being a little too New Yorkish for my personal taste.

That’s when I decided I missed Ohio terribly and would love to head back to where my husband and I grew up.

At that point, he found out he’d been accepted into graduate school and we moved back in with my parents until we had the perfect place of our own secured. Talk about being right back in with my family!

This is when it occurred to me—completely, as the thought had definitely occurred before—that God has an ironic sense of humor.

Often in life we wish for a dream to come true, and we get that wish, but if it isn’t exactly what we had pictured in our mind’s eye, then we don’t even realize the gift we’ve been given.

I pictured living happily out west, being my own pioneer. I didn’t picture long, lonely days without a visit from my twin sister.

I envisioned inhabiting a bustling, trendy city with chic night life. I hadn’t envisioned that I’d actually feel more alone surrounded by so many people.

I yearned to live back where I grew up, but I hadn’t been honest with myself about how challenging it is, in this day and age, to acquire the perfect job in the perfect location. You have to be willing to give somewhere, and for me, that giving meant moving away from my family again for my husband’s ideal job after his graduation. Sure, it’s only two hours this time instead of a plane ride or an eight-hour drive, but I still don’t get to have lunch with my twin sister either.

Likewise, people don’t always live up to expectations—myself included.

I don’t admire my inner asshole when my temper flares. I don’t feel so yogi-like when my monkey mind takes over more often than not. I certainly don’t like how easily my feelings get hurt, and how hard it is to let that pain go.

Sometimes I find myself wondering what the point is. I think that as human beings we all tend to ponder this from time to time.

What is the point?

I’m not convinced there’s a man with long white beard sitting cross-legged on a cloud making “everything happen for a reason.” Yet, I’m not convinced there isn’t either. (Well, I’m definitely not convinced about the man with the long white beard part.)

I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that at least part of the point is to enjoy myself and to help others have a good time too.

You know, to not be a jerk; to be the kindness that I desperately want to experience in this world.

I wrote a blog called Where Have All the Normal People Gone? What I really want to know, in all honesty, is where have all the nice people gone?

The people who enjoy smiling at others and receiving and giving happiness to the world around them.

I’m that nerd sitting at the front of the classroom raising my hand exuberantly when this question is asked. “Me! Me! Pick me! I want to smile at a stranger and pass on joy! Ooo! Ooo!”

There are lessons to be learned in life; lessons that mean that not everything is a bowl of cherries with whipped cream on top. Still, even the occasionally sour cherry shouldn’t destroy the deliciousness of the rest of that bowl.

Life can be strange and people can be stranger, but maybe if we focused our energies on our own oddities instead of picking on those around us, we’d realize that life and people aren’t always as strange as they seem. The real weirdness is actually our own boxing up and categorizing of the situations we’re thrown into.

I’ve realized lately that my own expectations, judgments and emphasis on outcomes are the roots of many of my uncomfortable thoughts and feelings in life. While I don’t expect myself to become the most open-minded person in the history of the world, I’d absolutely love to stop causing myself unnecessary discomfort.

I found this quote when looking for inspiration. I’ll leave you to ponder its message.

 “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”

~ Joseph Campbell


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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