Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do you feel responsible?

Good Morning….
I’m taking my longtime friend/companion, Bob, for surgery this morning. While he is not one that shares my faith perspective, I’m sure he would appreciate your positive thoughts and a quick prayer. I know I certainly would….not only for the surgery, but for the coming days of recovery. I’ve been in a position many times before where I was privileged to care for/help someone who was ill or going through some medical situation, and I recall that it’s not always easy, especially when the sick/injured/elderly person becomes difficult to be around. Even my dear priest friend would lash out and made me cry on more than one occasion, and yet, I knew that he loved me deeply and appreciated my presence in his life. He was just sick/hurting/frightened…..and a whole bunch of other stuff that I couldn’t really understand and I he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just “fix” everything and make him better.  While I didn’t comprehend it then….and I was often hurt, frustrated, and wondered why on earth I was doing what I was doing when he would say hurtful things to me, I have since learned that sometimes things are not “about us” but rather simply a person’s way of dealing with their own struggles, and often lashing out/blaming/resenting, etc. is the only way they know how to cope. Learning that was a valuable lesson and it never excuses one from doing/saying/acting in ways that hurt another; however, we’ve all likely been on both ends of the situation.  I’m not anticipating any of that kind of thing in the next few days, but I’m prepared to be as loving, patient, supportive, and kind as I can.

While I’ve not really experienced this to a great extent, I know that many people live in this type of reality….EVERY DAY….because they are surrounded by people who seem to think that their misery is the fault of everyone but themselves. Perhaps this is your reality and you have people in your life that think that everything that is wrong in their life is YOUR fault. They are sick….and somehow YOU are responsible. They are depressed and it’s because you didn’t do something right. They get angry and you are to blame. Somehow they think that everything that goes bad in their life is because of you….and they make it a point to let you know that by lashing out, blaming you, being miserable to be around….and doing everything in their power to rob you of any peace, joy, or self-worth you have.  What a horrible situation to be in….and yet….so many deal with this on a daily basis…..or have come from a childhood/past relationship/job…..where this was their reality.  Maybe you know someone that is in this situation now….and it’s painful for you to watch. Maybe YOU are the one that is miserable/sick/hurting/struggling….and you, without even realizing it….are the one that is blaming others and making them suffer too.

I had a conversation with a student yesterday that really confirmed my thinking about this subject. He is failing three of his classes….and wanted to withdraw from them. He was frustrated and agitated and his future financial aid eligibility is on the line. In the course of the conversation, he blamed EVERYONE involved, including me, for his situation: The instructor won’t accept late work; the class expectations are “ridiculous”; the policy is ‘stupid’ and so forth. His misery was the fault of everyone else….but he didn’t want to accept any responsibility for his situation.  It took me a long time before I was able to get him to admit that HIS own lack of effort and time management was to blame; not someone else. It was HIS choice to spend time in the Student Center; walking around talking to friends; cutting class; and doing other things besides homework/studying that got him in the mess.  I recognized his frustration and listened patiently….but was not about to let this become MY fault or walk away thinking I was a bad advisor; I scheduled him for classes that were too hard; I was to blame in any way. His agitation was NOT about me.  A few years ago, however, I would not have thought that way. I would have accepted his rudeness and irritability and somehow thought that I played a role in his reality.  I would have tolerated his behavior because I was in a different place “in my head.”  My journey has been about weight loss; yes, but the transformation/change in my thinking has been the bigger miracle.  As you lose the weight or give up the addiction…be prepared to lose more than just the excess weight. God wants you to be free from the ‘thoughts’ that hold you bondage as well as the behavior.

When I think back to the “Old Theresa” days when life was nothing but a struggle, I can recognize times when I behaved just like that student and my priest friend. I lived alone and therefore I didn’t have people in my life to lash out at or bring into my misery, but I certainly “blamed” others for my situation and was angry and frustrated. I was unemployed and struggling to pay the bills…..and it was all the “Church’s” fault that I lost my job….or so I thought.  I was obese…and it was because I was taking high doses of steroids; I was in pain and couldn’t move around; I come from a long line of obesity…..the list goes on and on. It was everyone else’s fault….or so I thought. I was in constant pain from the RA and taking so much medicine my hair was falling out in chunks; I was miserable…..but I didn’t know who’s fault that was… I was angry at God. My life appeared to be harder; sadder; worse than everyone around me...but I couldn’t blame them; instead I felt jealous and resentful. Because I didn’t have anyone at home to suck into my misery, I ate potato chips and junk food. It was my way of ‘lashing out” and making myself feel better.  YIKES…what a horrible place to be!  It was only when I began to realize that I was partially to blame for my own reality that my life began to change for the better. Yes, certainly I had things “happen” to me; I lost my job; I lost loved ones; I got sick; someone burned down Pip’s place; and so forth. I didn’t choose any of those situations….but I chose how to deal with them….and those CHOICES were partially responsible for my reality.  Learning to recognize that and accept my role in my situation was an important key in my weight loss.

My friends… might be able to recognize yourself on either side of the coin. Perhaps you are the one being brought down by someone else’s misery, but maybe you are the one blaming others for your pain.  Neither is a good place to be mentally, physically, or emotionally. Both places can destroy your self-esteem and rob you of the peace and joy that God wants you to have.  If you are on the receiving end of the negativity, I encourage you to try to recognize that YOU are not to blame for the misery of someone else…and try your best not to let someone else’s mood/comments/actions sabotage your own life or make you feel worthless. Don’t let others drag you down with their negatively and bad moods, but at the same time, try to be as loving, supportive, and encouraging as you can.  If you are the one who is struggling, try to be conscious of your actions and your words and how they affect others. When others are eating good food around you and you are choosing not to….it’s difficult and you might want to lash out and be angry; but don’t do it. Remember…you CAN eat whatever you want to….but you are CHOOSING not to!  If you’re trying to give up a habit or quit smoking, remember that it’s not your kid’s fault that you are going through withdrawals, so be conscious of how you treat them when you want a cigarette. Remember….you CAN smoke or take a drink if you want to…..but you are CHOOSING not to. It’s not YOUR fault that someone else is struggling…and it’s not THEIR fault that you can’t have a cookie or whatever.

Goodness……life isn’t easy is it?  Fortunately, God gives us the grace we need….to care for those around us; to support those that He places in our lives; and to make the choices we need to change our own lives.  Be strong….and recognize that your self-worth comes only from God….not the scale, not what others think or tell you; not from the bank statement or the car in the driveway. Only God….and He thinks you’re pretty awesome!