Recently I was in a car with my brother who was telling of a situation in which his wife got agitated and upset about something that, in my brother’s mind, was no big deal. He concluded his story by saying he didn’t understand why people had to make life more complicated than it needed to be or get bent out of shape over little things. Seconds later he was yelling and waiving his hands in disgust at the driver two cars ahead of him for taking way longer than was necessary to make a simple turn.
I’m not sure if he got the irony of what just happened. But it made me smile as I thought how easy it is for us to see and judge other people’s “drama” but yet fail to see our own (our “drama” is, of course, serious and justified!). Then I started thinking more about my own life. I often don’t think of my life as having much drama. But sometimes I do struggle with familial, work, or personal relationships. It occurred to me that I may be creating my own personal drama around having to deal with other people’s drama. I decided to explore this a bit further.
Most recently I’ve found myself starting to react to my mom’s pessimism about her life (or lack thereof, she would say) and having a husband who she has to take care of all the time. In my mind, I was beginning to really take this personally – after all, if she says she has such a bad life, she clearly finds nothing in it to be grateful for, no joy, no love. Naturally that includes me, my bro and all the other friends and family in her life. Boy was I starting to get emotional and upset about how she was responding to her life hardships – most of which I was seeing more as a matter of perspective since pain may be inevitable but suffering is always optional. At one point I was even seeing her attitude as a direct attack on my self-esteem. I took it as a sign that I must not being doing a good job as a daughter if all of my efforts could not result in my mother’s happiness. Talk about creating my own personal drama!
After listening to a good friend describe various people’s interactions and judgments of one another and it occurred to me what I was doing, that I was turning my mom’s “drama” into my own. I was making it about me, rather than letting her have her perspectives. After all, she’s probably going through the stages of grief because of the change in her life circumstances which is completely natural and understandable. While I don’t necessarily need to subject myself to the negative outpourings, which rarely turn productive, I don’t need to judge them. I can shine the light on the other’s needs while still being mindful of my own. No one’s attitude has to change unless he/she wants it to; likewise, a person’s attitude is about them, not me. It’s not necessary for my mom to be a constantly happy person who always expresses her gratitude and love for me in order for me to be a happy, grateful, joyful person.
And so it is with all of life. My ego wants everything to be about “me” but “I” know better. In my mom’s case, I know what a selfless, loving person she has always been, so it probably makes these realizations a little easier to uncover. We are all taking this wild and crazy journey to exactly the same place. Only the timing and paths differ and I do not need to spend time judging another’s chosen path – his or her beliefs, values, opinions, emotions, choices, perspectives, etc. – that’s between them and God. I’ve got my hands full dealing with what’s my business (my beliefs, values, opinions, emotions, choices, perspectives…). I think that’s enough to keep me busy for a lifetime!