There are three things I would tell my younger self. Besides relax, relax, relax. Three things that would have saved me much angst when I was younger if I had known, and embraced them.
The first is, it is not all about you. The world doesn’t actually revolve around you. The sun doesn’t rise and set on you only. In our younger years, in my younger years I held no other perspective than my own. I wasn’t even aware of another perspective other than how I was being affected at any given moment. Everything was personal. I had no concept of anything that didn’t include, impact, or matter to me. It wasn’t so much that I was a bad person as much as it was I was asleep to the world at large. Immature. Unripe.
I’m a sensitive person and a sensitive person without perspective tends to be overly sensitive. A gift without perspective is a curse. Everything and everyone was either for me or against me. Maybe, we all start out this way as infants, only knowing the world as we are in it. Some wake up to the larger picture sooner than others. My five year old granddaughter had some of this figured out by the time she could talk. She’s always shown an awareness of, and concern for, the feelings of others.
I would tell my younger self to wake up, it’s a big world out there and a lot of it, most of it, has nothing to do with you. Realizing we are a part of a much bigger whole is the beginning of wisdom I think. Maybe that is why we are told in scripture that the fear (awe) of God is the beginning of wisdom. This is at the heart of the book of Job.
In this story from scripture, Job is a good man, considered a righteous man….in right relationship with God and neighbor. And, he loses everything, his property, livelihood, beloved children, everything that makes up a good life. Everything that reflected his righteousness. It is not fair. It is not right. The people around him are perplexed and want to know what he has done to deserve such torture. Even his wife puts in her two cents. Job rails at God, demands an audience. God takes him on a ride. Shows him the world. The big wide world, everything that Job had no part in creating or sustaining. The big wide world beyond Job.
Job “wakes up” to the truth that there is always more than meets the eye, there is more than him and the small world that has insulated and then betrayed him. Does he get his answers? Not really. Does it make his pain go away? I doubt it. And, in the midst of the uncertainty and pain he does gain perspective, and that perspective prepares him to live in a deep awareness that he is part of something much larger than he ever realized before.
This new deeper and wider perspective opens up the possibility of letting go of his grip on all the things he thought his life was supposed to be about. And in this letting go space there grows the possibility of deep awareness and gratitude for what life really holds. Gratitude made possible through perspective. Job is restored and his life is restored, family, property, livelihood. Most of all his awareness of his place in the world. Job discovers the place of humility. I’m forever grateful to the wise friend who pointed me to this truth. So, I’d tell my younger self, wake up, be humble, it is not all about you and what you think your life should be.
The second thing I’d tell my younger self is this; not everything wrong in the world is because of you. Not everything is your fault. You are not to blame for everything that happens in your, or the larger, world. I don’t mean to be sexist but it seems like I know more women than men who struggle with this. That feeling of being responsible for everything and needing to fix everything that goes wrong. That is my go to reaction when something goes wrong around me. Must be my fault. I must fix this. I used to blame myself for everything…still working on recovery.
We are especially vulnerable to this urge when it comes to our kids. If something goes wrong in their lives, in loving and often misguided intention, many of us think it must be our fault and rush to make it all better. I always felt like I needed to fix what was wrong in my child’s circumstances so she would feel better.
Then, and only then, would I feel better (see first thing I would tell my younger self).
I would now tell my younger self, everything that happens is not your fault, nor yours to fix. Sometimes you need to get out of the way and let the other person have their own journey, make their own way, face their own consequences, deal with their own pain, test their own faith. It doesn’t mean I can’t be there to support them, it just means I acknowledge I can’t control life for them.
Sometimes really messed up things happen in the world and it is hard to tell who is to blame. Try as I might, blame is not the answer to the pain. I have often blamed myself because it was someplace familiar to put the pain, to lock it away. But blame too often brings shame, and it’s hard for any sort of healing light to get to shame. Nothing is accomplished by shame. Nothing that brings life anyway. Shame only adds to pain.
So I would tell myself, stop blaming yourself for everything. Everything is not because of you. Own your own stuff and do what you can to bring about restoration. Let other people own their own stuff. And let all of the other stuff for which there are no answers be your teacher in the school of learning to trust in the midst of uncertainty and pain. It will bring you back to that place of perspective and gratitude. For it is there you will find the sustaining hope of the power of Love in and through all things.
The third thing I would say to my younger self is this. Not everything good in the world is in spite of you. You are not outside of the activity of the world. You are a part of the whole, an essential piece of the puzzle. We all are. Stop waiting for permission to participate. Stop waiting for someone else to bestow upon you some sort of credibility for you to get into the game. Your credibility, along with your gifts and talents and purpose were yours all along, from the first minute of your God breathed life. You’ve been given this life to pour out as an offering to the world at large. Even your weakness and flaws can be used if submitted with a heart of love. You, like each and all, have something the world needs and if you don’t do your part that part will be missing from the whole.
There is no gift too small to be useful. We all have something to give, something we are born to give to the world. There’s that old saying that your life is a gift from God and what you do with it is your gift to God. If that isn’t permission and credentials enough what will be? Jesus said when he first arrived on the scene that it was time to turn around because the kingdom of God, a new way of being, had come. Now. The world doesn’t turn in spite of you. It turns with you. Wake up and do your part.
I have learned, or more correctly I’m learning the value of keeping these three things, these three cords of the wisdom of perspective, in balance. Oh, if I had only grasped them much sooner how much more open would my life and heart be to the beautiful possibilities of life. I guess we wake up to the wisdom of life when we’re ready though. I am grateful for all of the wake up calls.
I wonder what I will learn today.
Something to chew on…