just ponderin'

… on a path full of lessons

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Leaves at the Front of the Woods.

I was talking to a rather significant person in my life this morning. She’d received some unsettling medical news recently and has been busy processing it all. It’s one of those ‘could be’, ‘might be’ anxiety-producing situations. No diagnosis, and more ‘let’s wait and see’. Tough stuff. I’ve been there, both personally and with my kids.

Almost immediately, she set about creating a fundraiser for one of the maybe-might be diseases. The idea being that channeling her energies into such a thing would feel good. And I am a big fan of doing good, and of this particular human. So, cool beans.

Yesterday we were talking about how successful the event would be (very), but that she was disappointed that certain people – folks she thought would put aside differences and come to support this cause (or at least support her and her family) – weren’t coming. She was disappointed. She was mad. Resentment beckoned, with its nasty tendrils just waiting to wrap themselves ’round her cerebral cortex and squeeze…

wHoops…one too many episodes of Monsters Inside Me.

Anyway…

I was reminded of so many situations like this. People who want to give to causes important to them, and are so disappointed and angry that people they thought would and should actively support these efforts, did not.

I’ve been there. Tough lessons, these. And when I say ‘tough lessons’, I am not talking about ones that go something like, “Woe is me the world is not as good and giving as it should be, and I will have to come to terms with this.” I’m talking more, “Wait, what is really my intent here?” and “Who am I to judge?”

Ya. I know. The really tough stuff.

Easier to come up with a potential fix for everyone else.

Harder to come up with a fix for me.

When I was talking to my significant person yesterday, I shared that I had recently read an on-line story by a Mom who wanted to do something in light of her daughter’s battle with a deadly disease.  As I read the story, I got stuck on an idea that kept cropping up.  And I was hearing this same thread woven through the words of my significant person.

You won’t be surprised, if you’ve been coming here for a while, to hear that the thread came down to one word.

“Should”.

I’ve talked about my struggle with ‘Should People’ before – almost completely light-heartedly (except for the lady who said I should buy red grapes instead of green – that got serious (and expensive when I bought three pounds of grapes just to make my oppositionally reflexive point)). Anyway, that point being that we are all different people, with our own opinions and experiences, and to go through life believing others should have the same opinions and/or beliefs and/or reactions is to go through life rather miserably…

Or at least mildly irritated.

But there is a deeper, darker side of should-ing.

Sanctimonious Should-ing.

Oh ya, I said it.

It is a trickster, often laying in wait in concepts truly wonderful, and good, and meaningful. Sometimes hiding in one type of good that can be absolutely magical…

Giving.

Think about it.

Who doesn’t think the world would be better without hunger, or disease? Who doesn’t believe that potable water is critical to survival, or that endangered rhinoceroses deserve to keep their horns, and oceans their fish, and women of certain cultures their rights to be educated, and families their ability to have more than one child and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and…

You get my point because I just typed 22 ‘ands’ (yep, typed them. Didn’t cut-and-paste a’one. That shows you how committed I am).

There are countless issues and problems in the world, all of which could benefit from our time, and/or energy, and/or money.

And when others don’t jump in and help when we think they should, it is exceedingly easy to rationalize that those people are wrong.  And then weaknesses appear in our deepest selves, and cracks form.

Enter the trickster.

First, he infuses us with confusion and frustration…

I wonder why they don’t want to help in the way I expect them to, in the way I think they should 

Then, he sprinkles in something he likes to call, ‘assumption of motive’…

They won’t help because they don’t like me/are completely selfish/are cheap/are lazy/it isn’t their idea…

And then, if possible, he reminds us to dig up some righteous indignation on a personal level…

I did this for their cause, now they should do this for mine.

And, finally, we’ve slid all the way down into the bottom of the trap that he’s set for us, sticky and trapped in a primordial, angry, ‘poor me’ ooze:

I am trying to do something great and awesome and wonderful. They suck. 

All negative stuff.

All taking us further and further away from the best part of giving… the joy.

The good news?

Sanctimonious Should-ing has a weakness.  It’s Kryptonite?

Faith.

*The faith that there is no way to know all the ways in which another person gives, and there is no way to know anyone else’s true motivations. If I cannot know these things, why would I assume the worst, and not the best?

*The faith that it is possible to give in many ways (not just ‘my’ ways), in all kinds of different environments – from the caretaking of family members and the raising of good humans, to helping a local family after a house fire, to beating back AIDS in Africa or ending human trafficking.

*And the faith that people are participating in one or more or many of these giving landscapes, all the time, in massive numbers.

The Sanctimonious Should-ing trickster freakin’ hates me.

Because if the feeling I got as a result of giving – or trying to set up a way of giving – included the resentment that all those who don’t join me are selfish, or are somehow letting me down, or are less than me… well, that’s just a wHierd form of entitlement on my part. 

I’d be missing the whole point.

Plus I don’t want to have to drag people into a giving situation kicking and screaming. That’s just a pain in the ass.

If my expectations aren’t met in a certain giving endeavor, it is no excuse for should-ing all over my fellow humans, or for feeling bad about myself.

Some efforts work, some don’t. This is as true in giving, as it is in life.

Oh! And as an aside, those little beasties known as Bitterness, Resentment, and Disillusionment?

Those suckers are as weak as kittens compared to that magical feeling that begins as and excited flutter in my belly and moves on to permeate my soul when something super cool has been accomplished, and a fellow human’s life is just a little bit better.

Thanks for readin’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs always, you can come on over to Just Ponderin’s Facebook page to comment or just hang out.

Elena Peters

midlife blogger & pinterest master

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