Thursday, January 15, 2009

Choices

I wrote a post a couple days ago. It was one of those things that I was tempted to come back and delete the depressing thing later. I decided not to. I'm dealing with cancer, and you know what? It's not all sunshine and roses. This particular post was written after a two day bout with unrelenting (and unexpected) pain. The weather sucked, and I was homebound. I read a book which caused me to begin questioning my own worth. Life is funny like that. Sometimes you can be rolling right along, and *smack*, you get sucker-punched, and find yourself reeling from the blow. Unfortunately for you folks, I blog. Next thing you know, my black mood is right out there for all the world to see. I finally decided to leave that post as it was, not delete it, because, really, everyone has days like that, days when we are not at our finest. They pass. My own mood passed as, finally, blessedly, the electric jolts of pain in my legs and abdomen began to ease. The weather got nicer. I reached out to others, and their conversations, as always, buoyed me and put things back in perspective. In the space of a day, the world looked a much nicer place to be. It was an important message, I thought, a reminder to everyone that the dark days come, the dark days go. So I left the black post right where it was, blogged a more cheerful post to reflect the change in my mood and continued on.
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Mike left a comment on that post that intrigued me. He said: Debby, life seems like a choice to me, not a response. If you view choices in a certain way, life begins to look very much like a computer program. Your input into the "system" (the world around you) determines the response you get back out of that system. As suggested by the programming analogy, this is a quite literal model. Basic proof is most quickly seen through simplistic examples; if you smile at everybody (input) they smile back and are more kindly disposed toward you (response). If you ask people questions about themselves (input) instead of talking about yourself, they like talking to you (response). If you study (input) you get good grade from your teachers (response). If you work (input), you get paid, etc.If you frown, people respond negatively. When you put negative orders (programming code) into the system, it returns negative results. It gives you what you ordered.We can change our lives by consciously operating in "cause mode." We don't control people's responses to us but we do control the quality of the code we submit to the system. Intentionally positive programming brings consistently positive results, because the world works systematically, like an incredibly complicated computer.
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I've been cogitating on this one for a while now. To a degree, Mike, you are right. Anger begets anger. You can attract more flies with honey than vinegar (although crap draws them as well). Complaining angry people attract other complaining angry people. Suspicious people wind up being people that others are suspicious of. The list could go on and on. But the world, unfortunately is not a computer, and the positive programming theory often falls flat. I've seen, with my own two eyes, smiling women reduced to tears by grown men who feel that it is acceptable to belittle them in a public setting. I've seen smiling mentally retarded children ridiculed by people unwilling to be patient, to slow down even a minute to preserve the dignity of another less fortunate than themselves. I've seen someone come into a new church, their tremulous smiles met with judgment, scorn, and gossip. After the dust settled, the empty spot in the pew was unmourned. I've seen smiling people mocked for the color of their skin, for their sexual orientation, for their beliefs. 'Smile and the world smiles with you' is not always true. It is not at all like a computer, that you imput a code, and the world spits back a standard and predictable response.
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I know two girls. They smile all the time. Oh, my God! They are beautiful. Lively, intelligent, well read, opinionated, spirited. The youngest says the most outrageous things, but she says them with a huge smile. The world, charmed, cannot hold a grudge, and laughs with her. She is like a sponge, dancing along wide-eyed, not willing to miss one thing. The world, enchanted, does not hold back one thing from her. I look at her, almost in awe. I cannot even guess how far this child will go in life. She is gifted, beloved. The oldest girl laughs no less. Her smile is just as quick and big as the youngest's. However, the oldest's smile hides pain. She does not speak of this. I cannot tell you how often she thinks on these painful things. But I can tell you that her own buried pain makes her quick to offer sympathy and comfort to this world. She does not discriminate. The oldest is bi-polar. Sometimes, she is manic. Her speech is rapid. The world picks up on this difference, and gives her no quarter. Her smiles do not enchant the world. She is labeled, and she is judged, and people are not always kind. She will never be given the benefit of the doubt. It is a fact. It breaks my heart. These two girls are my daughters, and they are how I know that big smiles and positive attitudes do not always garner a positive response from the world. I see the differences every day.
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Bob B. also left a comment on this post: Debby, I'm inclined to agree with you. As I see it, the only choice we have it be happy or not. Everything else in this crazy world is pretty much out of our control.Through all of life's ups and downs, joys and sadnesses, triumphs and adversities, I choose to be happy.
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Probably the most powerful words I've read in awhile. Thanks, Bob. Mike is right, to a degree. Positive attitudes, constructive behaviors can garner good things in this world. Bob is right as well. Sometimes life sucks, big time. Shit happens: Cancer. A love is betrayed. Random acts of violence. The world can be an ugly place. Sometimes we get sucker punched. That is, plain and simple, life. We reel for a moment, and we grab for support, and we try to get our bearings. It is not all within our control, but we can learn from these hard times. We can choose to gather wisdom from the dark days. We can choose to learn about courage. In the end, we can choose to be happy. No matter what the world dishes out, we can choose to be happy.

16 comments:

mommamia said...

Thank you for posting this today. My mood has been very dark today and you and your commentor are right we can choose to be happy and that is what I choose to be.

I also have two girls that are similar to what you have described. The older one's problems are different than yours but the world does look at her differently because of the choices she makes.

Thank you for making me think. By the way Jeanie In Pradise recommended this blog to me and I'm glad she did.

A Novel Woman said...

If you haven't already read it, I'd highly recommend a book called MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor Frankl. He survived a concentration camp, in which his family was wiped out, by realizing that the one thing the Nazis could not take away was his freedom to choose how he felt and how he reacted to everything that was happening to him. That he, and ONLY he, could determine his attitude and his spiritual well-being.

Don't let the fact that it's about survival in the camps deter you. It's an amazing and uplifting book. I say this not to make you feel guilty or pressure you in any way, I just know that it really helped me look at the world in a different light after I read it.

Pam

Bush Babe said...

Wow. That was terrific Deb. I have no inspiring readings to offer you, but know that I will think about this blog post all day.

While I have never had cancer, I have faced a few crises in my life. And this I have learned: regardless of what the world throws at you, a smile make YOU feel better. Sometimes the world throws more sh** at you, sometimes it gentles it's response. (And your actual chances of having the latter happen are better when you are positive). But in the end, you choose your path. And you are in your own company. Make it good company. For your own sake.

I love your sharing - the downs are as important as the ups. And your writing is wonderful.

Hugs
BB

jeanie said...

I have a theory of life, Deb (of course). It is called the "flotsam and jetsam" approach.

Not everyone gets the same set of cards dealt - or in this theory, the same tide, the same ocean, the same set of circumstances.

There are times when really big waves come, and they can really knock you off your feet and it takes time to find balance and your direction again after that happens - and sometimes when it happens, another really big wave comes in and you gotta try all over again.

Sometimes they come so often you start to wonder whether it is really worth the effort of trying - and a lot do give up, it is just too easy to be buffeted by the surf than to try and find your feet.

However, sometimes you have to find something to cling to - a rock or a buoy - so that when the waves come through you can cling and hold on. It seems when you find the thing with which to cling - the perspective or the faith - you still get the waves but your recovery is easier and you can get back on your path easier.

Some people do have the simple "chose happiness" option and still don't.

Some people get tsunami's thrown at them and can still manage to find something to smile about.

One book that did change my life was Martin Gray's "For those I loved" - now there was a guy who survived and found amazing things from the ashes of his life several times.

Yes, you can "chose" a better path - but some days, just keeping in sight of the path is the positive choice.

Stuart Peel said...

You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength. - Marcus Aurelius

Redlefty said...

Just want you to know I'm still reading and still loving you!

steviewren said...

Debby, since you are a believer of the scriptures and a deep cogitator and since I sometimes have a coherent thought myself....I would like to share a commandment of God for believers; "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I Thessalonians 5: 17-19.

Granted, this one is way easier said than done, but note that God never tells us to choose to be happy, but instead chose to have a spirit of thankfulness. I think this is because without thankfulness we are unable to achieve happiness.

Thankfulness reminds us to appreciate all the daily miracles out of which happiness is born. The miracle of friendship, smiles, blue skies, warm sunshine, words of love and comfort from friends, the love of our Creator, these are the things that happiness is made of.

Maybe in our complicated lives, this is the only real choice we have to make. All of our other emotions fall into place when this one is in place.

Pencil Writer said...

Ditto. :-) What that old standard song, "Smile, though your heart is breaking, smile . . . " I don't remember it, but I do believe in thanksgiving and smiling. I haven't perfected those things yet, but I'm workin' on it. Many prayers are still being said in your behalf.

Bob said...

I think you will look back on this time and see that you did some of your best writing. Thanks for contiuing to share what's going on and giving us the opportunity to share with you. I learn from you every time I read something you write.

Mikey said...

Excellent post. I'm with Bob, that's some of your best right there.
You make us think.

Hal Johnson said...

I think life is largely about choices, yeah, but sometimes it's just a matter of holding on and doing your best to keep your head above water. Say, perhaps, when a person is going through chemo.

I'm glad that you didn't delete your dark post, simply because it spoke the truth of how you felt that day. Darkness comes and goes. Few people would want to read a blog filled with nothing but accounts of dark days, yeah. But, by sharing your own dark days at times, you're sharing a message: when life seems stuck in the basement, the stairs leading back up to brighter days are still there.

Your post causes me to think that I'm a small person, Debby. I mean, I should feel nothing but empathy for what you're enduring, but right now, I feel jealous. I feel jealous because a dang head cold will dam up my creativity as surely as a spiked bracelet up a duck's butt, and yet you write a post like this while going through chemo.

But I still love you.

Debby said...

Hal, LOL. You do have a way with words! I have to tell you, that picture of Dylan and his two little friends has just been sticking in my mind all week. It's such a sweet, sweet picture.

Stevie, I read your blog. I've always found you to be coherent. Well. Except for when a squirrel moves in. Then things get a bit garbled. :^D

Redlefty! Missed you like a migraine! Wondered what was happening in Texas!

Mommamia, stick around. It's a pretty agreeable bunch here, and I'm sure between all of us, we can spark a smile.

Jeanie and Novel Woman - I've added your books to my list. Jeanie, your flotsam and jetsam philosophy has merit.

Bush Babe, you're right. A smile does make you feel better. And I am smiling big right now.

Thanks, Stu, Bob, Mikey, Pencil Writer!

Man! I am sure glad to be feeling better!

MuseSwings said...

Another amazing post, Debby! It's true that attitude is 90% self induced. But at the same time, when facing pain, a disease that won't disclose it's guarantee and a cold dark winter, you have every right in the world to be in a blue mood. Share it with us any time. I don't see it as anything less than being a good human being. That's why we have emotions - they're meant to be used.
Hugs to you and thanks for making me laugh - no matter what your mood - when you pop over and give me a hilarious jab or two! Musey

PaintedPromise said...

you know somehow i missed that being a "black" post... i always, always bring away something positive from everything you write. you never cease to inspire me...

big hugs gal!!!!

Cara said...

I believe in the sun even when it's not shining, I believe in love even when I don't feel it, and I believe in God even when He is silent." -Wall of a WWII Concentration Camp.

Stephanie said...

Hi Debby! I am very late in finding your blog but just now stumbled upon it and so admire your writing style. I lost my dad to brain cancer two years ago and want to share something he often said that fits with this post: if you think you're lucky, then you are!!

Blessings to you and yours, and thank you for sharing your story and your brilliance.