Thursday, June 30, 2011
I am not everyone. And everyone is not me.
He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men, and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty, or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.
--Bessie A. Stanley.
Just the other day I had a breakdown. Between waking at 5:00 in the morning to prepare three pack meals and organize my life, then biking an hour to my 8:00 a.m. class to slosh around in wetlands and fens and retrieve soil cores, then biking an hour to my place of employment to stand on my feet and greet customers for 8 straight hours as though I was the happiest most awake person in the world, and then biking another hour back home after closing until 9:30 at night--well, it was more than enough to wear me out after a full week of that.
Of course I called my lovely cousin. We think very much alike. It's very easy for me to be put back in a positive mindset with her help. After our discussion, I realized I had been comparing myself to 'people' all week long.
So a little background. Our car broke down before this week, and my brother's bike was in the shop. Given our drastically different schedules, he needed the car. And I was happy to bike, as I had been biking pretty regularly already anyway, although I was far too out of shape to push my body as hard as I did this week. But here's what really killed me: as I grew more exhausted, I began to convince myself that I was weak if I couldn't complete class and work and life as well and as happily as before that week. I convinced myself that placing foolish demands on my body made me a stronger and better human being. Stronger and better than what?! Stronger and better than others. I was comparing myself. And when I finally did break down, to my brother I calmly said this:
I just feel so weak, because I have so much and I am sitting here crying about it. There are people in the world that can't even get a job with good pay or even a job at all. They have to feed their starving family. And they have to pay rent. And they have to walk or ride a rickety bicycle to fetch dirty, polluted drinking water. I, however, have a great job I really enjoy, have no mouth to feed but my own, am living for free in a lakeside cabin, and have a great little bicycle that gets me to class so that I may have an education. And what am I doing? Crying. I just feel like such a weak human being.
My cousin caught me red-handed when I said that to her. I was directly comparing myself to the rest of the world. I forgot that "I am not everyone. And everyone is not me." I am myself. And to act or think as anyone other than yourself is a waste of energy. I don't like wasting energy. I like being efficient. My best is my best. My body is my body. And I forgot to treat my body and my mind with respect and care. My cousin reminded me that all these wonderful things I have are tools I can use to help all those with so little in the world. It was foolish of me to think that I was any less of a person for having so much. What is foolish, however, is having luxury and not using it to leave the world a better place--not using it to leave "the world better than he found it."
So today I'm well-rested and feeling much better. I am going to remind myself when I get too tired, that sometimes it is okay to be a little late to class and to give only 90% at work. And if my peers, professors, coworkers, and employers don't understand my situation, I will have to accept that. I can only do my best from day to day.
And I close with another poem:
I find earth not gray but rosy,
Heaven not grim but fair of hue,
Do I stoop? I pluck a posy.
Do I stand and stare? All's blue.