A long-time friend of mine recently posted this and it gave me quite a smile. Not only because I had the fortune to have been raised with the same principles (and family and friends who also observed them), but because those dearest to me inherently abide by every single item mentioned.
The distinction of “gentleman” isn’t awarded lightly (the word itself is imbued with class, grace, poise, and dignity – aspects that are rarer, perhaps, than they should be, and that take true allegiance to be sincere.) It is a way of life whereby one upholds oneself to a rather exacting set of morals and values on a daily basis…ones we would all do well to maintain.
These – kindness, respect, common decency etc. – needn’t, therefore, be relegated to one sex above another…but remain an aspiration for us all.
I could say SO much about this amazing, wonderful, awesome quotation…but where to begin!?
This was, by the way, posted by someone I’ve met in my pursuit of my passion (to help individuals with disabilities maintain a joyful, active life.) This gentleman has Cerebral Palsy and is one of the most positive people I’ve met. 🙂
We are all – as human beings – entitled to tough moments and emotions. If we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves, complain, worry, huff and puff…I’d argue that we weren’t human beings at all! Our limbic system is enough of a whirlwind on its own, but paired with the most advanced evolutionary neocortex on the planet, we are susceptible to torrents of push-and-pull internally…including the huff-and-puffery!
What matters at the end of the day, though, is our overall approach to life. That approach is founded in our attitude and behaviors – we can either do our best to focus on the positive and strive ahead as best as we are able with what we are given… OR, we can be miserable, blame the world, and do nothing to better a bad situation. (It’s like someone saying that a given circumstance is unfair when they have invested zero effort in trying to turn the tables.)
I have to say that the majority of individuals with disabilities whom I’ve had the honor to know are among the most enthusiastic, positive, and inspiring people I have met. To be fair, I’d say it is actually 100% of those I have encountered, and this includes friends I have lost to illness (such as ALS.) The overwhelmingly gracious attitude and perseverance in the face of adversity is enough to have altered my life forever – I simply am a changed person because I know these people. My DNA is fundamentally geared towards being empathetic, compassionate, and positive…but like everyone, I have my “ugly moments” too. That said, I’ve made it my business to count blessings every single day, and to see the light in all situations…even if it means I’m squinting with all my might. While I was programmed to do so anyway, I have also made a commitment to live my life this way going forward.
This quotation hit home for me because I see so many people in the world who don’t value gratitude and appreciation…and yet they have so much to be thankful for. And then I see individuals for whom life would seem to be a dark and terrifying place…and they not only thrive, but live joyfully, and to the fullest that they are able.
It shouldn’t have to take a jarring image, nor the suffering of another individual for us to “get with it.” But when human beings are exposed to the courage of those who actually HAVE the right to complain, it tends to strike a chord – for that I am immensely grateful, because it is a reality check some people need.
Gratitude, thankfulness, happiness, positivity…they are founded in one’s perspective. They aren’t handed to us. They aren’t up to anyone BUT us. As such, that also means they aren’t out of our control.
We have a choice in how we view the world and our lives. If we make a decision to shift our lenses in favor of gratitude, that “rose color” some people go on about? It may suddenly blossom into view. . .
I was taught this lesson many, many moons ago…but I failed to actually learn it until much later. I suppose, though, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes to learn…just that we are willing to do so, and that we move in that direction consistently.
Any day can be the day we break a cycle or release what no longer serves us – but it is ultimately up to us. This is a powerful bit of wisdom that takes not only a willingness to learn it, but immense courage to take those steps. When we trust ourselves, and that life always finds a way to work out for the better, we can more easily take the leap. It is one that – in the end – is well worth the bravery.
Know your value, recognize your contribution, raise your head high, and claim the life you deserve. We are not bound to any limitations but those our minds contrive.
Kindness and compassion are two traits that I personally value high up on the proverbial moral list. I have the great fortune to be close to many individuals who posses both of these, and the absolute honor to work with children with disabilities and among their communities where they are found in spades.
I sincerely believe that each generation has seen the progression of our species and discovered with it an innate and creeping fear – we manage to embark on new territory with frightening (and seemingly increasing) speed. As a Martial Artist part of me feels that the world has become more dangerous, and there is ever more opportunity to abuse and to bully – the forums are countless, whereas…once upon a time…they did not exist. (Think social media, internet chat rooms, cell phones etc…) It’s hard not to see the glaring negatives.
But…my mind is admittedly wired to be overly optimistic. That doesn’t mean I am not based in reality, or that I don’t take life seriously (whether it be bills or the threat of being car jacked.) But I see the immense value in keeping a positive outlook as much as is humanly possible because I have seen the tangible impact it can have. This week I am completely down for the count with a kidney infection – couldn’t say where it came from, but I confess it has been quite painful and body-rocking. I’m a dreadful bore to be around, slow-moving, and probably not smiling a ton… But I feel thankful. I see the good.
For one thing, I feel blessed to have the help and care that I do from my husband and appreciate feeling love from my family. As importantly, I recognize that I’m not terminally ill! I have all my limbs. I have all my senses. I haven’t been jumping for joy, certainly, but I have not lost sight of the fact that this is a short bout. I have nothing to complain about, and certainly no right to be yelling at anyone, nor taking out my frustration in a negative way. This was an out-of-the-blue lesson, as often they seem to be.
I also think sometimes the Universe wants to say, “I really think you need to slow down for a minute because YOU won’t on your own!” Frustrating that may be for a personality type like mine, I have to accept it. It’s not a fun stroll in the park, but there is value in having to slow down (or flat out rest.) There is an additional benefit in that it reminds me that I need to be kind and compassionate to myself – it’s okay to rest.
Even when I feel horrendous, I know how blessed I am. It’s important to say thank you to my loved ones to express my gratitude for the kindness they show me, or others along the way. For instance, I appreciated that the ladies at the blood lab were as sweet as they were – it was a little thing, but they were kind, and I noticed. I even appreciate the people who make the amazing whole wheat english muffins I’m eating.
The world is a tough place – whether more or less so than the past, who knows… I think each era comes with some pretty challenging circumstances. But we don’t have to be bitter, or treat others unkindly. We don’t have to abort compassion to buffer ourselves, or lash out in response to someone else’s poor understanding of proper human interaction. Lofty it may sound, and perhaps also unrealistically utopian, I truly believe that the more compassion and kindness people show one another, the better off we all would be.
I live in a tough town. Some days I really notice the effect… My DNA defaults to seeing the world from someone else’s lens (or trying to), and to coloring everything with an empathetic heart. But there are days I feel like an angered animal in my own skin and I sincerely chalk it up to the environment (40 years of living with me gives me good insights when engrained M.O.s are changing.) It’s an interesting experiment in a way – incredibly enlightening, and I’ve welcomed the learning. It has taught me just how valuable it is to maintain my own standard of airing on the side of kindness. Why? I don’t want to contribute to the downfall I see around me (and I don’t want to be pulled further into the depths with it.)
My recent travel was also quite a fiasco, between cancellations, unexpected delays, missing connections… I was tired and frustrated but yelling doesn’t help anyone in a situation like that – it wasn’t the gate agents at the airport who were responsible. It wasn’t the pilot or stewardesses… Various people kept asking why I was smiling and it occurred to me that I guess most people don’t (a fact that actually made me feel sad.)
I didn’t really know who was to be held accountable in all cases (two planes themselves for breaking? A mechanic long gone who maybe could have done a better job? A supervisor who should have triple checked the panel work?) But would it matter if I did know who was at fault? Not really… There was no sense in getting crazy because at that moment all I could do was be resourceful and figure out my next move. I couldn’t control the external circumstances, only how I was going to react to it. I wasn’t trying to catch a flight to Tokyo, I wasn’t stuck in a hostile territory (well…that can be debated!), and I knew I’d figure out a way to get to my destination at least in 24 hours.
Having compassion and kindness for the players involved encouraged them, also, to have the same for me. And they did. They took care of a lot for me, including arranging a long drive to get me to my destination and sending me a credit for inconvenience – I saw them feverishly trying to get my bag pulled at one point… They were legitimately putting in the effort (which we should be honest doesn’t always happen these days even if it is at the common core of a job description.)
I spent 20 minutes on the phone after the fact waiting for a manager so I could commend the key people who helped – I could tell that acknowledgement and appreciation would matter to them, and a kind word can go a long way. I sent an e-mail doing the same just to be sure it got to the right people. Will I ever see those agents again? Probably not. Does it matter? Absolutely not. To spread kindness and compassion doesn’t take a lot – in fact, I’d argue it takes less than to hate, to be angry, and to yell. But it changes lives. It makes people want to return the favor, to work hard…it helps them to feel good about their contribution and to, therefore, continue making a positive one.
If everyone could do the same, the environment would shift dramatically. Though it isn’t realistic to expect everyone to eagerly jump on board with a “love more, hate less!” hippie-like mantra, it doesn’t hurt to live that example as much as we can. And it doesn’t mean we can’t seek out environments which are more in tune with these principles – it is impossible not to feel the shift when compassion and kindness are blooming in spades around you, and when you recognize that there is a choice about what we do with what’s presented to us.
I loved this sentiment because the reality of life is that none of us are, nor ever will be, “perfect.” Bound to countless socially and personally imposed definitions, the word “perfect” encompasses far too much for any one person to attain. And to what end would we wish to achieve the title? To appease our inner critic and absolve ourselves of any future self-deprecation or doubt? To impress someone else in effort to quell the internal need for belonging…or to bathe in the external, social rewards?
It’s a tough path to travel, the one to “perfection.” The word itself is saturated with such infinite criteria – as defined by everyone in a different way – that it would be nigh impossible to satisfy all conditions.
We are, as human begins, all flawed and fragile. But, it is in imperfection that the world then becomes so beautifully diverse. Our quirks and eccentricities may in fact be what others can relate to. So too can our personal struggles and challenges be what brings others into our circle, or to look to us for advice. These things allow us to connect to others in the world, and therefore provide us an opportunity to inspire every day.
How do we handle adversity or when things that don’t go our way?
Can we be the bigger person and admit when we are wrong or say we are sorry when appropriate?
Can we treat others with respect and kindness, even when we disagree or are upset?
Do we approach the world – ourselves and others – with an attitude of acceptance and appreciation that we all have our “stuff”? (e.g.: we aren’t perfect, we are learning.)
Our behaviors and actions can inspire others to “rise above,” to find strength in tough times, and to do what they can to see the positives in each day. We don’t have to do those things perfectly ourselves, either – remember that others may be inspired because they see YOU trying your best. They see you struggling but still holding on to hope and working hard… They see you being the bigger person in the face of another’s poor behavior…
Those things might give others the support and strength they need – they see that it doesn’t HAVE to be executed perfectly to work (and that’s the whole point.)
We will never be able to achieve the grandiose “perfection” because it is a word that has no single, defined definition. Perfection is many things to many people and it – by default – leaves no room for humanness, for growth, or for mistakes. Mistakes, however, are a huge part of life, as is a human vulnerability that we all possess. How we approach life on those terms, however imperfectly, can be even more inspiring than if we were the “ideal individual.” Why? Because if we can do it, in spite of a world that is ever-changing and challenging, then so can others – seeing the effort in the face of difficulty is why those actions ARE so inspiring.
So fear not if you falter, if you have flaws, or don’t make your mark every day. Because you are always working towards your goals in a positive and meaningful way in spite of your missteps, “mess-ups,” other people’s poor behaviors, you are inspiring others to do the same. You are inspiring others by being exactly who you are – unabashedly – and that in and of itself is empowering.
I generally do catch myself when I’m complaining or feeling sorry for myself… Honestly, I’d say I’m aware of it 100% of the time. I’ve learned that – though disappointed in myself for taking the whiny tack at that moment – that it IS okay to “feel.” The human experience of emotion is both complex and highly individual. If we didn’t fluctuate, I begin suspecting we were in some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare. No thanks!
But. . .
I grapple with that concept because I don’t honestly believe I really have the right (or good reason) to complain. I’ve somehow had engrained that one person’s annoyance is another’s absolute dream…so perhaps my default is the cause of my inner turmoil. Still, I’ve never viewed complaining under any circumstances as a positive thing, so maybe it’s just flat-out disappointment that I’ve succumbed to the whims of my limbic system.
Whatever the case may be, I am ever-aware when I stray from gratitude. It has nothing to do with being a goody-two-shoes – I have PLENTY of moments of grumpiness, irritability, annoyance at others, frustrations etc… It is more that I sincerely WANT to follow a path of thankfulness – because I also sincerely believe I am blessed beyond measure. I don’t need moments of perspective to remind me. When one does come along – and it does often in the community I get to work with (children and individuals with disabilities) – I’ll be the one moved to tears.
One of the reasons I love the disabled community – and let’s be clear, I view them as uniquely abled, in fact – is that they just DO things. They get out there and they try, fear and anxiety be damned. There are countless examples of individuals with disabilities (physical, neurodevelopmental, intellectual and so on) who persevere in spite of adversity.
I took one look at the image below and really had to check myself – the amount of time I spend worrying about whether or not I’m good at something, whether I will come across a certain way, whether I will appear this or that…is RIDICULOUS!
I’d love to learn archery. Too many passions with too little time aside, I know deep down that I’d give myself a hard time while learning. There’s no good reason for that, just a life-time hard-on-myself M.O.. What the hell kind of excuse is that?!?! A terribly poor one (or, frankly, not one at all.)
I am so very thankful for the opportunity to work with a community that I both hight respect, and am ever-motivated by. The inspiration is endless and I am constantly moved by the adaptive, positive spirit these individuals imbue. They remind me to get out of my brain, forget the “what-if”s, and appreciate all that I do have…especially during a stuck-in-my-emotions moment. And I have to say…I, you, we…have A LOT going for us.
I don’t really like the word “limitations” – to me that word pertains only to what we impose on ourselves. The challenges of disabilities are NOT mind-imposed – they are real…but they are not “limitations.” These fine gentlemen are a beautiful example of just doing things differently. No excuses, a whole host of adaptations, and unwavering, can-do attitudes.
Having a moment of feeling like everything is against you, or you (four letter word) “can’t?” Look at the image again. Take a moment to appreciate what you are seeing because it goes far deeper than just physical.
It’s 1,000% awesomeness saying “I don’t have an excuse. You don’t need one either.”