Saturday, May 12, 2007

You can't please everyone...

Sometimes you learn great life lessons in the midst of not so great times.

That's happened to me this week. Six days incapacitated leaves you with plenty of time alone --- to read, to rest, to think. It hasn't exactly been fun, but I think I've learned a lot about myself.

If I were honest with you, I think two factors have overshadowed much of my life --- guilt and a tendency to look to others for happiness rather than seeking it within myself.

Let's start with that first one.

A friend told me recently that guilt attaches to them quite easily. So it is with me. That started in childhood, as I watched those of a particular brand of Christianity try to use their religion to guilt people into making certain decisions. I didn't much like it then; I have no respect for that tactic now.

And if I were honest with myself, I think my outlook on life and my desire to please others, or at least to not be a hindrance, adds to it as well. I feel guilty when I get sick and miss work. I feel guilty when I can't do everything others want me to do. I feel guilty about feeling guilty.

You get the point.

Bottom line is there are times to feel guilty (most often when you've screwed up), and other times when you just can't be perfect. Maybe that's a better way of saying it. Maybe it's not guilt I feel so much as it is trouble accepting the fact that I'm not perfect.

But what you learn is neither is anybody else --- and that's OK.

Now let's talk about looking to others for happiness.

I've done this for years. Although I alternate between being an extrovert and an introvert, I generally lean toward the former. I like people. I like talking to people -- especially those I care about. I love to have an audience to perform for and don't handle things well when the curtain falls.

I think that's mostly fine. But what you have to learn is you can't have folks around you 100 percent of the time. People are busy. They can't always hang out. Sometimes they don't call you back.

And that's OK. Often I tend to think something is wrong with me when that happens. It's my fault.

Well, no.

It's perfectly fine (and normal) to find sources of strength in others. That's why we're not alone here on earth. But I've found it's also healthy to spend time alone --- time to reflect, to recharge the batteries, or, frankly, just to get away from the world for awhile. I wouldn't trade my now infrequent solitary trips to the lake for anything.

I often try to put a positive spin on things. This week is an experience I hope I never repeat. But I'm thankful for what this time to myself has taught me.

You aren't perfect. No matter how hard you try, you just can't be. And while external sources of happiness are perfectly fine, sometimes the best sense of tranquility comes from within.

Maybe the late, great Rick Nelson said it best.

"You can't please everyone. So you got to please yourself."

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