It's never too late to become the person you think everybody else should be. -- Margaret
When I gave birth to my son, I was roomed with two other women. One of them had immigrated from another country and was in distress and need of constant help. When the meals arrived, she groaned and stared, wide-eyed until our Good Samaritan roommate, peeled back her covers, got out of bed, limped to the woman’s tray and rolled it into place. I was incredulous. In my large family of origin, we were taught: If you can eat, you’re fine. Get your backside to school! If she could eat, couldn't she reach out and grab the tray?
At first I thought they'd known each other. But when the needy one hobbled out of earshot to the latrine, the helpful woman’s shoulders sank. "I can't keep doing this,” she said. “I gave birth, too. I need my rest!" I suggested she yank the curtain across the foot of her bed and plug her ears.
Later a nurse arrived and sat in a chair beside the distressed patient. She asked numerous questions probing the measures the woman had taken to care for herself. Turned out not too much. The nurse's expression was kind, but firm. "You are in America now," she said. "You have no servants here. You must learn to do for yourself." It was silent. It was clear. And now it all made sense: dependence was all she knew.
I thought I was independent, that I didn't expect much, but sometimes what I believed was nothing was actually a lot to somebody else. People have been known to collapse from exhaustion or sink into emotional ruins servicing “low maintenance” people who “never asked for nuthin!”
Sometimes the revelation is that it’s not the world, but me who needs to change. My mindset is squeezed, like icing through a decorator's tube, and a transformation begins that I don't expect, don't want, and try with all I've got to resist. When necessary, the landscape is reduced to a vast wasteland, devoid of available friends and family. This happens because God wants to have a conversation, and it's probably not about other people's mistakes and shortcomings.
Ugh, one of those conversations.
As I was coming off a period of shallow breathing from stressful events several years ago and heard nothing but crickets, I wondered: Where are all of my friends? My family? Was nobody there to roll the proverbial food tray into place for me? For Pete’s sake, I had more talking to do, more ruminating, dissecting, micro-analyzing.
Fine. See what I care! My name will be in lights, and then you'll be sorry! But as my self-pity grew, so did the 3D image of a 12 step motto: "Something needs to change, and it's probably me." And I began to listen. Just listen... to what that meant. Lessons came through loud and clear, if for no reason other than I’d circled the same mountain countless times, until I was so exhausted by what they taught that I can bullet point them.
- Even when life hurts, nobody owes me anything, not even my family
- Each person in my life is a gift
- It's important to respect the gift of other another's time, including and especially the people I live with
- Even Good Samaritans can get in the way of a person’s personal progress
- God uses everything, sometimes especially frustrations and agitators to teach something valuable about others, the world, and about myself
- Don't expect to understand every experience in the moment; the value is often seen in retrospect
- Forgive yourself
- Don't waste time wishing you didn't waste time
- God doesn't rush
- If I'm judging and critiquing others, I'm probably avoiding something
- Count life's blessings
- It's all part of the journey