Attitude and Personal Growth

I don’t know what’s best

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that, Supreme Court Justice.

“You don’t know what’s best for you.” Rick said that, guy I once knew trying to teach me something.

Here’s me in my head: “I know what that person should do and what that person should say. I know how things should be, and shouldn’t be, and how everyone should just chill out and listen to me.” Or something happens that I’m sure is a terrible thing. “I told you this was gonna be terrible,” I can hear myself saying. And then it isn’t.

Always thinking that I know best gets in the way of stuff. Getting along with each other is a lot easier when we are humble. Innovation and creativity happen when we are humble. When I let go of my righteousness and trust my fellow humans, things tend to work out. Often, things work out better than I could have imagined.

Acceptance

For me, acceptance is a critical strategy for finding peace.

When I’m upset it’s usually because there is a difference between what I want and what I have. Something seems unacceptable to me. For instance, I want a government that supports wind and solar but I have a government that supports oil and gas. That infuriates me! Or I want a government that supports pro-life but I have a government that allows abortions. To many people, that’s infuriating!

One strategy is to work to change what I have; work to change the policies of my government. Another strategy is to work to change what I want; work to change how I look at things. That’s an inside job. That’s acceptance.

Here’s the tricky part: When to fight for change and when to accept what is. A well-known prayer calls that “the wisdom to know the difference.”

For me, one often follows the other. I fight like hell and then at some point I try to accept. I’m expecting that point to happen around 8pm tonight when the polls close.

I have knocked on doors, written letters, made phone calls, and given money; all to change things. Yet the results of this election are not up to me and not all my responsibility. 8pm marks a turning point from “courage to change” to “serenity to accept.”

I do the best I can – I put it all out there and leave it all on the field of battle – and then once the battle is over I let go of the fight and accept the results. That’s how I find peace.

Sometimes before the battle is over, or even before it’s begun, I try to imagine losing. I practice acceptance in advance. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I ask myself. It helps me to prepare for that.

And sometimes after the battle is over I can’t let go of the outcome. I want to keep fighting. I seek new fights to overturn the last outcome. And that’s okay if I am driven from within and game for continued conflict.

What’s not okay — if you want any hope of finding inner peace — is to complain about the past without trying to change or accept things going forward. Yelling about “how things should have happened” is a set-up continued inner turmoil. Instead I try to tell myself, “Okay, this is how things are now. In light of this new reality, what should I do? Who should I be?”

You have to decide for yourself where the line is. When to fight. When to accept. I am wishing you wisdom to guide your decision.

Yet I’m also reminding you that you have choices. Peace is available to you if you are able to look at things differently.

I caught myself being racist

Soon after the pandemic hit I went to Danny’s hot dog stand on the Brunswick mall. There was a long line, all six feet apart, and when I stepped to the counter I was horrified to see that no one making hot dogs was wearing masks or gloves. Weren’t food providers supposed to wear masks and gloves?
 
I was not courageous enough to confront the woman taking my money. Yet after I got my hot dogs I dropped them into the nearest trash can. Then I called the police. Not 911, but the office just to see if I was right about the law. I was a little freaked out I guess. The virus was new and scarier to me then.
 
That same evening I ordered take-out from Lisbon House of Pizza. I know! Basically I eat hot dogs and pizza; that’s what it looks like. Anyway, when I stepped to the counter I was horrified to see that no one making pizzas was wearing masks or gloves. While being handed my pizza I said to the woman at the counter, “So no one is wearing masks or gloves in the kitchen? I probably won’t eat this.”
 
She was taken aback; insulted. I explained that I was perfectly happy to pay for it, which I did. I thought that would make things okay.
 
In the first instance I turned my discontent away from the hot dog clerk and to a third party, the police. In the second instance I vented directly to the pizza clerk. Why did I handle these two instances differently?
 
I’m sick to admit it but I think it’s because the hot dog clerk was white and the pizza clerk was black. I guess I thought it was more okay to directly disrespect a black person than a white person.
 
Make no mistake. My comment to her was disrespectful. I told her to her face that I was rejecting the food she was handing me. Paying for it did not make things okay.
 
I have this awareness because the Black Lives Matter movement inspired me to read two books about racism by black authors, So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo and How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. I’m starting to see things I didn’t realize before. Systemic racism is in my blood, sick to admit it or not.
 
Without this awareness I would have justified my poor behavior on many other grounds.
 
As a white person I have to be more aware and call myself out. This post is me trying to do what the books are asking me to do. This is me trying to be an example for other white people. It’s not fair to put the burden on black and brown people to bring this stuff to light.
 
And notice the title of my post. It’s about a behavior not a person. It’s okay to catch oneself doing racist things without defining oneself as a racist. Just because I did a bad thing doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. I choose to define myself as a white person who grew up with systemic racism trying to learn to be anti-racist.
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