Sometimes I have actual moments of clarity. Times when, just briefly, I understand what it means to be luckier than most people who have ever lived life on this planet.
Other times I just say I understand it.
And still other times I let myself become concerned with how much luckier people may be in the future. I mean, will they have a life expectancy of 150? Then I get led to other topics of science fiction and apocalypse….evil future government plots.
But right now I am seeing clearly, and I know that I am self-centered.
I was thinking about last Thanksgiving. As we drove home from dinner, we passed a man on the road with a sign that read “Homeless and Hungry.” We had a lot of extra food with us, but we did not stop. We did, however, seriously discuss stopping.
First of all, he was not in a place where we could just easily pull over. We judged him awhile for this. Why didn’t he pick a better spot on the road? Also, there was the possibility that he really just wanted money, which we had none. We discussed the man all the way home. The further we drove from him, the less likely it was that we were going to go back.
By the time we arrived home, we were basically just disappointed in ourselves for our clear laziness. Because, realistically, we were just too lazy to help. It would have taken some form of effort, so we talked ourselves out of it. We cared, but not enough. I was mad at myself. It would have been better if we had just driven by him without any discussion at all.
I have become incredibly lazy. I hate putting gas in my car because I have to stop and do it. Never mind that there are 4 different gas stations on the way home from work, and I don’t even have to go inside to pay.
I can go to the grocery store and buy whatever I feel like eating whenever I want, but I don’t particularly enjoy stopping and picking those items up. I could actually do all my shopping online from the couch- but I would probably feel a little annoyed when I had to re-enter my credit card information. Seriously. It’s just the world I live in, and it is easy to go through spans of time forgetting how lucky I am.
I think on a daily basis, most of us place ourselves within the circle of life as we know it. How could we not? The people in our lives, the experiences we have had….we tend to rank our success and happiness according to our own surroundings. But once in a while, we have moments where we wake up to the concept of where we rank according to the entire world population and the history of time. And for a moment, we feel differently about everything.
You hardly need to make a fortune these days to live with amazing conveniences. Do you know the things I can do with my iPhone? Not only do I live better than a great number of people living today, but I have it better than a lot of the richest and most powerful people of past generations.
Am I grateful? Sometimes. But more often I am too busy feeling sorry for myself because I don’t have my dream job yet, or because the internet is slow. Why? Because other people I know are more successful and I live in a world of instant gratification?
I am a horrible human being.
Don’t get me wrong. I do have more serious things to deal with in life. I know I am luckier than most when it comes to the hard realities, because I need to know it. With things like my daughter’s autism and my husband’s epilepsy- I am always aware of how lucky we are to be living in this time. I know things could be worse. But I still have to remind myself of it now and again.
It’s just so difficult to hold on to appreciation unless you really need it for survival.
Other times we get a sudden appreciation for our good fortune, but it’s not about the time and place that we live in. Some moments come from knowing what could happen to us, but hasn’t. Some people look at our situation that way. There are times I know I have instilled fear in an expecting or new mother because of Teghan’s autism. Friends feel more grateful for their children who so far have grown up with little complications. Much like we feel when we see parents with children who are battling life threatening diseases. We feel lucky, and we remember something about life that we had forgotten.
These moments often come to you from your own world. In the summer of 2010, I knew for sure my daughter had autism. She would be officially diagnosed in March 2011. In those in between months, a lot happened. In July, I left a job I loved and we moved to Michigan. We thought it would be good to live near family again. And, we like an adventure.
My sister was battling breast cancer, and we had recently started keeping in touch more frequently than before. She was excited that we were moving back to Michigan after so many years. She worked downtown, a block away from my new job. We ate lunch together several times a week. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for those days. She died that December. She was just 39 years old.
When it rains, it pours. But it also brings new perspective to life. My sister’s death affected me in ways I could not have predicted. It was unfair. It gave me an appreciation I could not forget, because I thought about her all the time. I could not feel sorry for myself, ever. Here we were, at the worst point of grappling with the realities of our own daughter’s future, but it seemed unimportant. We were alive. Our daughter was healthy and happy. And alive. For months I felt as if I was walking around in a daze of self-awareness and depression. But the pain of feeling sorry for myself over autism, a feeling which had been very strong that summer, was eliminated completely.
So maybe I came out of it a smarter person. But with that knowledge comes fear of being taken back to that place. But you can’t stay there. Slowly but surely we all make our way back to what keeps our minds sane, and we return to the world of occasional self-pity and laziness. Preoccupation with our day-to-day bubble. But I need to get more from the lessons I learn in those moments that make me see the world differently.
Being content with what you have is a half truth. You cannot be content unless you still have something to hope for. For some it is religion, for others it is an ideal they believe in. Most of us never give it the attention it deserves. But if you get everything you want in life, with nothing new to strive for, won’t you mourn your lost dreams? Won’t you still have fear? Possibly even more fear?
I need something bigger than the successes and happiness that exist in my small world experience. I want to redefine those things in my life. I want to be part of something that would feel worthwhile in any world I was a part of. Life has taught me that our whole world can completely change again and again in one lifetime. Some people really get it, and they take action. Some people change the world, and not just for themselves.
Everyone talks about it, blah blah blah- but then there are those moments when you really get it. When you don’t feel lazy, but you feel like you could do anything if it were the right thing to do.
I get it right now.