Monday, June 14, 2010

Rise Above

(*Edit* It's no longer a few days past the birth of my niece.  It's no longer May for that matter, but sometimes you have to wait for the right time ... a baby chick doesn't just hatch any ol' time, and I guess this just needed a little more time in the nest.)

I'm baking this morning in the pre-sunrise hours because I can't sleep, and that's what I do when I'm unsettled inside, which believe me is a better option than some of the other ideas I've considered! The women in my family are strange creatures, we each have a respective "thing" we do when we're sad, angry, frustrated, and unsure of what to do next, perhaps it clears our heads and gives us a moment to sort what's important. For one it's yard work, another is cleaning (aka scrubbin'), for another it may be bills or paperwork of some sort. The funny thing is that they are each productive, and a type of sorting in a very obvious and physical sense clearly reflecting the work that needs to be done on the inside or on a more spiritual / emotional level. Believe me, I've had a couple record breaking arguments with my sister ... her house has never been so spotless! It's fairly safe to ask when you see counter tops full of goodies to munch on, or a spotless house, or a lawn you can eat off of or a desk as neat as a pin, "So who have you been upset with?"

On Mother's Day this last Sunday I became an Auntie (again) to a most charming little girl, and she's been causing me to reflect on recent events, and on myself, and on life in general, I suppose. Perhaps that's the nature of a brand new, shiny life - an absolute clean slate. Maybe it's each child's job to shake the rest of us awake, and out of our illusory lives that each of us creates for ourselves, and exist in, and challenge us to ask ourselves what on earth are we all doing, and what's it all for? Okay, maybe that's a little on the lofty side, I mean that's quite a job if you ask me, and I'm not so sure that babies are designed to carry burdens quite that large, but it's funny how not only do they do it, but they pull it off so effortlessly, you know, between naps and all that cooing. The other question she leaves me with is what is her "thing" going to be when she's unsettled inside, make no mistake, if she's one of us - she'll have one!

So with the smell of banana bread wafting through my kitchen, this very early morning I am brought back to the title of this post. What does it mean to "rise above" or to be the "bigger person," and when is it time to do it? It's funny, we use these terms in times of conflict resolution, but have you ever noticed the tone in which they're said? Somewhere between rising above, and being the bigger person there is a very slippery slope that most certainly will make you neither. Who hasn't heard someone say "Well, I'M going to riiiise above, and be the BIGGER PERSON!" in that oh-so-haughty tone that quite clearly tattles on you that you have neither risen above, nor have you become the bigger person ... except maybe your fat head? So really, what do they mean? To me, rising above doesn't mean inflating yourself, and acting too cool for the situation you're in, that's just more of the problem, not the solution, but is so often what tends to happen. I think it means to humble yourself, and then elevate your thinking to a place of self respect, and respect of others, and out of a situation that was not good for either person to be in, and to look for a remedy for what has gone wrong. I think being the bigger person is not about being, or seeing yourself as better than anyone else, rather, it is more about trying to become a better, more loving, kinder, and more understanding version of yourself so you find yourself in fewer conflicts to begin with (hopefully!).

Why is it that these things are always so much easier said than done? Why am I not better at practicing what I preach? What barriers are we putting up in our lives to keep us from living a more whole existence? Why do we work so hard at having shallow relationships with people? Is it because if we keep them at arm's length then we are less likely to get hurt? Funny (or rather sad) thing is, it doesn't work. I look around and see hurt, angry, and offended walled off people all over this world. I'll tell you what it is succeeding at, it's keeping the genuine love people feel for us on the outside of our fortresses, and robbing us of the experience we were built to feel. So wait a minute, the bad is still getting in despite our efforts, and the real love never gets through? What part of this is actually working for us? And why are some of us so desperate to keep it that way? Why can't I answer all of my own questions?

When did we all become so entitled? Why is it that the very basic things we desire (if not come to demand, which is part of a larger problem altogether in my opinion) from people, whether it be acceptance, what we perceive as love, understanding, and kindness, are the very things we are sometimes incapable of supplying? The law of attraction, or karma, or whatever you want to call it says that what we put out is what we get back. If that's the case then how can it be any surprise when we refuse to provide the exact things we so strongly want given to us, when they don't come back to us? Is it because we've become intoxicated by our own self importance that instead of creating a reciprocal existence we have begun to crave these things in a ravenous, if not perverse sort of way? When it comes to these things that are perfectly natural to want to achieve in our lives have we just become prize hogs at the trough, shoving one another out of the way so we can have it all, and leaving little or none for anyone else?

Selfishness wears many hats. It's not just about the obvious, and overt "taking" of things tangible or emotional, or the "stealing of one's thunder / sunshine / spotlight" (whichever "ism" you prefer). It's also about not extending ourselves, and passing on to others what is bestowed upon us. It's also about thinking you're more important than those around you, and that comes in many forms; when we don't listen, when we speak over the top of others, when we're too busy thinking of what we're going to say next to be bothered to hear what anyone else is saying in this moment, when we're too caught up in ourselves to operate in mutual respect among other things of course.

So if it truly is better to give than it is to receive, and it gives us such a wholly fulfilled feeling in our hearts, then why is it that we've become so accustomed to crowding around with our empty, grubby little hands outstretched looking for what we think is our share of (fill in the blank)?  Would it not be better to give completely without any emotional strings attached, and trust that the universe (or whatever you believe in) will provide what you need in return?  This isn't to suggest I believe in complacency, and that we should live blindly and just "trust in the Lord, God, Universe, Karma, Garden Gnome, Whatever" to direct our lives in a way we perceive a leaf floating aimlessly in a river.  Who knows, maybe the leaf leaped from the tree it was on to take the ride of its life, and it's not doing anything aimless at all!  What I simply mean is, maybe Gandhi was onto something with his whole " the change you wish to see..." business.  None of us know who we may inspire just by doing something differently, or the goodness in another that is sparked by a simple act of kindness.  Most importantly, perhaps, at the end of it all we may just inspire ourselves.


I have to say, just before publishing this after sitting on it for so long, that I know I speak in cliche, and use adages, and quotes quite often.  Before I come off like a smug (let's go with) twit who throws around the words of others in a sad attempt at making her own point I'd like to admit, well, quite honestly, the things I'm talking about aren't all that new in themselves are they?  There's nothing cutting edge going on here.  I'm just a girl trying to find my own answers to things human kind has struggled with for generations, and probably since the beginning of our known history.  With that in mind, why not use old, and oftentimes familiar phrases?  An adage wouldn't be an adage, or a cliche wouldn't be a cliche if there wasn't actually something there worth repeating (ad nauseam) until they become what they now are.  People wouldn't be quoted if somewhere along the way there wasn't any truth to what they were saying.  Though, for me personally, so often we're out there in life tossing words all around us, and using some of these very popular sayings, but something is getting lost ... pretty soon the real meaning begins to be rubbed off because they are spoken out of habit, and I like to be able to sit down and break them apart, and get back to the true sentiment ... or rather, pop the hood, and kick the tires ... to see what's really there.  Most importantly, they mean something to me, or they are something that I feel I could really use some help with in learning myself, or reminders to help me get myself back on the track I feel I need to be on.  We are all a constant work in progress, and not least of all me.  So no, I am not sitting high on a throne somewhere, or deep in a meditation cave being phony, and admiring my own "perfection" whilst spewing tidy snippets like a box of stale, discount store fortune cookies. Just thought I'd mention it! ; )