Opting Out

I’ve hit the wall, and I’m done.  I know we’ve all been through a lot in the past year and a half, and that most of our nerves are truly shot.  I know it’s human nature to want to divide the world into “them and us,” and that isn’t going to change.  I know the easiest way to feel better about ourselves is to look down on someone else, and how tempting it is to do that.  Most of all, I know I’ve been guilty of all of this myself, far too often.  But it seems to me that the ugliness has reached new heights these days, and I have gotten to the point where I just can’t take it anymore. 

I don’t want to live my life in fear and anger, or even in a state of “justified” outrage.  I don’t want to believe that people who are different from me are necessarily bad people.  I don’t want to spend precious time ridiculing those whose behavior and choices I don’t understand, and I most definitely don’t want to indulge in pointless online arguments with those who dare to express an opinion I don’t happen to agree with. 

Life can be tough, and it’s normal to want to find someone, or a group of people, to single out as the cause of all our problems.  But a quick look at history shows us that bad things happen, to all of us, when we begin to believe that our aggression towards someone else is justified and deserved.  (Because isn’t that what every single abuser says about his or her victim?  That they “deserved” it?)  So I have made the conscious choice to back away from that kind of thinking, and instead to look very hard for the common ground that binds all of us together.  Because I truly believe that it’s so much more productive to look for what unites us than to concentrate quite so much on what divides us.

I realize that my choices go against the grain in a world where we are constantly being pitted against each other, and where we seem to dream up new divisions each day.  We’ve always been conditioned to divide ourselves along political, national, and religious lines, and sadly, most of us do just that.  But now we’re also dividing along the lines of vaccinated verses unvaccinated, rural verses urban, vegans verses omnivores, and even battling over our choices about education, gender definitions and about everything else you can possibly imagine.  If we keep going at this rate, I’ll only be allowed to like people who are exactly like me.  Which would mean I’ll only like…. me.

So the time has come for me to say “enough is enough” and I don’t want to do this anymore.  We all get to make choices in how we spend the precious time we have on this earth, and I’ve made mine.  I want to be done with the fighting, the squabbling, the superior outrage and all the rest of it, and I’m going to do my very best to turn my back on it, both literally and figuratively.  Sometimes, if only for the sake of our sanity, we need to choose to simply “opt out.”

 

It’s All About Attitude

IMG_0055Last Friday night, my husband and I took some very good friends to the local “Balloon Glow,” which is an event held the night before the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. Everyone gathers in the park to watch the giant hot-air balloons being blown up, and after it gets dark, the balloons light up randomly, a few seconds at a time.  Every so often, a loud whistle blows as a signal that all the balloons are going to be lit up at the same time.  It’s an incredibly beautiful sight.

My husband and I have been to this event several times, but this was the first year that this couple joined us, and they were very excited to see the balloons all lit up.  They brought their camera, and we came early to beat the crowds and make sure we didn’t miss anything.  We even paid extra to attend a special fund-raising event at the Balloon Glow that meant we would have a place to sit and enjoy drinks and dinner while we enjoyed the sights.  Unfortunately, it was so windy that night that they were unable to even blow up the balloons, much less light them.  So we had come all that way, and paid all that money, just to see a bunch of deflated balloons lying on the ground.

IMG_0057Now it could have been a horrible evening, with our disappointment leading to non-stop grumbling and complaining, and even anger at the decision not to proceed with the Balloon Glow, since frankly, it didn’t seem all that windy to us. We kept hoping that they would blow the balloons up and light them for just a few minutes, or maybe even just a few of the balloons, and were definitely disappointed for our friends when that didn’t happen. But our friends were very gracious about it and pointed out that they were spending a nice Fall evening out in a beautiful city park, enjoying dinner and drinks with good friends.  And we followed their lead, making the conscious decision to simply relax and enjoy ourselves rather than fret over what “should have been.”

Later, it occurred to me that the whole evening was a great example of how little control we often have in what happens to us, but how much control we have in how we choose to react to what happens to us.  I couldn’t make the wind die down, and (although I had the good sense not to try), I’m quite sure I couldn’t have convinced any of the event’s leaders to proceed with the Balloon Glow despite the wind.  But what I could do was acknowledge our disappointment, and then let go of it, and simply get on with having a nice night out with dear friends.  And I can honestly say that we had a wonderful time together, even without the hot-air balloons.

There will always be bad stuff in our lives, from the minor disappointments of deflated balloons, to the major stuff of serious illnesses, natural disasters, financial hardships and the like, and there will be times when we just have to let ourselves feel the anger, fear and hurt that comes with them.  But even in the worst of times, we can choose to look for and embrace the good that is always there if we just allow ourselves to see it and respond to it.  Good stuff and bad stuff are always with us, but we get to choose which one we dwell on, and I believe that life is so much better we when try our very best to focus on the good.  It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.