Sophie’s Choice: Thanks for keeping me honest
Not to sound like the philosophically waxing Grand High Poobah of 20/20 hindsight that I am, but the phrase, “pick your battles” is more applicable on a day-to-day basis than I like to acknowledge. I was forced to embrace this bit of counsel last week. Well, admittedly I didn’t so much embrace it. More like it clamped me in a bear hug and held on until I stopped struggling and screaming like a toddler pitching a fit in a toy store. All the petty, garish details aside, something happened to me last week that enraged my ego and set off my neurosis like a grow-your-own-Godzilla. But in stereotypical, passive-aggressive feminine nature, I said nothing of my hurt. Instead, I found the first loved one who had a moment (more like several) and I got my ventilation on. I huffed, I puffed, and I sang the, “Mememe” song in four-part harmony. And to this person’s credit, they listened patiently, nodded sympathetically at the appropriate intervals, and let me blow off steam like the little engine that thought it could, should and would, have every single appeasement it demanded. My counselor’s response was, “don’t be such a delicate pansy.” Actually, they didn’t say that. I’m taking paraphrasing liberties. They were much more eloquent in their wording, but the truth threading through the message was the same: there are times you need to take yourself seriously and there are times you need to get over yourself. It was sage guidance and I have put it on ponder rotation in the record player of my head and heart. The inability to be flexible and taking every little preconceived speed bump life sends one’s way as sink holes in the road creates bitterness. It’s an angry, sullen stew whipped up by people who are ticked because their expectations regarding life have not been fulfilled to their satisfaction. One of the maxims my elementary school teachers used to trot out when one of us wee ones was on the border of a hissy fit was, “you get what you get and don’t throw a fit.” And some 20 odd years later I finally realize how true to life that adage is (with apologies to my elementary school teachers; I know you ladies tried hard and I’m getting there). The unspectacular, face-slapping truth is that life guarantees us nothing, but it demands everything from us. I’ve never gotten everything I wanted, but I can say without a doubt that I’ve got what I need, which is more constant than the ever-changing whims we convince ourselves are necessities. When you take a breather and think about it, people who have gotten everything they want make for some boring life stories. They have never had to adapt, compromise, fall down and get back up again, all the while trying not to let the world see you cry over broken hearts and disappointing dreams. I’m not saying you should just throw caution to the wind and drink the Kool-Aid. By all means, spark that imagination and make plans. But curve balls are never planned (at least not on the receiving end) and when they make contact they hurt. Nevertheless, we keep swinging, running, catching, stealing bases and occasionally hitting a home run. We have no idea how the game is going to end, but we play it, because that’s the part that actually matters. The past year-and-a-half of my life has been nothing extraordinary in the grand scheme of things, but humbling, challenging, funny, sad and beautiful for me (so basically, life in general). I’ve sobered up, fell in love, lost that love, broken bridges for the better, worked on repairing those that need it and kept on walking. I have been prideful and downright tetchy; I have been scared, exhausted and apprehensive at my future. I have to stop and laugh at myself though, because for all my anxiety, the most lovely and splendid things in my life have bloomed without me fretting and fussing over them. Also, the tragedies and obstacles that kicked me in the teeth and ran off down the street didn’t spin the world off its axis. Life goes on, as they say. You can try to walk upstream against the current, screaming at the top of your lungs about how unfair it all is, or you can batten down your vessel and go with it, enjoying the journey. Delicate pansies are for salads.