Increasingly, I’m confused. When friends get together, the main points of discussion seem to focus on illness, relationship break ups, horrible things that happen in the grocery store, lack of hope for world peace, political craziness, or the completely strange behavior of children or parents.
I get tired when I scan Facebook, overhear conversations on the street, or read just about anything. “There’s nothing we can do!” is repeated as if it were obvious and reassuring. It’s a terrible world! Let’s live in it together. In other words, most talk seems to be about hopelessness that only we and our friends understand, ad nauseam.
In fact, the other day, a friend shared this quotation: “A fundamental sign of mental health is one’s realization that life is hard.”— Scott Peck.
I answered this, being me, with, “That’s a depressing quote.” To which someone replied, “But life is hard…” I left the conversation at this point, but have to ask isn’t “hard” a decision? An interpretation? If “life is hard,” what is the opposite? “Easy?” Then what is an “easy” life? Does it mean never having to/choosing to do anything? Most of Scott Peck’s quotations are simply challenging, such as “We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them.” But I digress.
From the stage, a speaker “earns the right” to share with their audience through telling them about the bankruptcy, accident, or divorce. In a group we scorn the word “perfect,” which, if you’ve been following these conversations, you know I actually like (Perfect). In fact, we would rather wallow in our imperfections. Maybe we also wallow in assuming things are hard because it precludes action. It implies that addressing issues is ultimately useless. Family drama is the norm. Many (most?) churches focus on sin and the sinful rather than on joy and redemption.
Of course, when we meet each other, it’s “How are you?” “Fine. You?” “Fine.” Although “fine” isn’t true most of the time. In the case of “fine” as a false response, in addition to our really not being fine (whatever that means), we’re lying to our bodies, our minds, and those we meet, which is another post for another time. Did I say I was confused? It’s not that I’m doubting that any of the above is true. I don’t know anyone happy with our current politics. I’m sure your mother’s behavior is incredibly frustrating.
But what would happen if we just said “hi” on the street and leave it at that —unless we knew the person we met and really wanted to know how they were? Or answered the question of “how are you?” as a friend of mine does. “How are you?” “Partly cloudy with a chance of showers.” Or, as I usually do, with silence and a smile.
What would happen if, while admitting our “not being fine,” instead of claiming it as our primary identity, we described the ways we’ve made it to the other side of the negative or asked for help in seeing how the apparently negative could be a possibility? What if the problems were presented as a chance to share job opportunities or to explore new ways to deal with your “difficult” mother?
As another example maybe one can say “cancer survivor” when talking about someone. But what if that person’s preferred identity is one who rejoices in flowers or who has discovered new cooking techniques, or who has set a new record in the javelin throw? And had also, by the way, survived cancer.
One reason I’m confused is that I know I dismiss some of this. “You really were life threateningly sick,” my doctor scolded me. “Oh,” I answered. And I think he’s right. I need to claim that part of my life even though I’d rather forget it. I joke, although I’m actually serious, that when I “earn the right” to share onstage, my line is that people can choose what “D” they need for me to expand for them. Death, divorce, disease, debt, degrees, depression, decadence, debauchery, even, perhaps, desires…, etc. But what I want to share and so “claim” to “earn the right” is the excitement, joy, and achievement on the other side. No, not on the “other side,” but as part of every side.
Because a major piece of our mandate to change the world involves daring to hope that it will change. Yes, I understand, that for some of you, that seems almost impossible. (You might want to reread our first conversation for a vision of why it’s not impossible.) But take the risk. Hope involves daring to see that something not only will and can change, but is changing. And this gives it space and direction in which to continue to change for the better.
The mandate is to dare to claim joy and excitement now.
So “How are you?” “Well, my knee hurts sometimes, but I’ve been swimming almost every day; I have a couple of new ideas on things to share with Spirit Moxie; I’ve met some new friends; I’ve started a new Facebook page; and I’ve had some chances to cook again.”
Photos from the top: