We all know someone who has periodic times when they are moody, sulky maybe. Perhaps that person is us. When I was a teenager, I was constantly moody. My temperament went from severe depression to moments of elation (usually when I was climbing a tree, reading a good book nestled in the arms of my favorite Oak at Rae Creek, swimming in the Beaver River in the summer, gliding down the frozen Beaver River on my ice skates in the winter, watching deer and rabbit and squirrels running alongside the river following as I went). Once home and around my parents, my temperament sank to its lowest level. I crawled into my cave, feeling sad, pain crawling over me like ants from an anthill, never knowing what caused it.
Today, now that I am grown and have gone through recovery and repaired the damage done by my father’s incest relationship with me, I have the tools I need to pull away from moody times at a much more rapid pace.
The tendency to get depressed always waits off stage. As an example (one of those that really happens, to many of us) I may have a moment of tension with a beloved teenage grandchild, one of those moments when they know so much more than I do and aren’t afraid to tell me in their arrogant, condescending teenage voice. Today, I can listen, trying to decide if there is anything new here that I can learn; I can pull myself away from resentment and irritation, and objectively decide what is the wise move to make. Do I tell my grandchild what I think of arrogant, know it all attitudes coming from one who’s still as they say, “wet behind the ears.” Or do I listen politely, telling myself that they are filling some need, that they may learn in time that they aren’t the brightest bulb in the universe; they just think they are? They’ll learn. So will I. I will learn that this is a teenage stage they are growing through; I will learn that some of their personality may be part of their DNA make up inherited from a parent who too is arrogant and condescending. Maybe they can’t help it. Maybe they’ll always be this way. And maybe they have some deeply rooted pain of which I’m not aware; maybe they aren’t either. Maybe this isn’t even about them; maybe it’s about something I need to learn.
My father was self- absorbed; everything had to be about him. Do I not have some of that in me as well? He could be judgmental, unwilling to listen to other’s point of view. Do I not at time display the same characteristics? Perhaps I judge my grandchild too harshly. Maybe they suffer from an extreme lack of confidence. Maybe, they have grown so competitive that the desire to scramble madly through life seeing themselves as someone who is wiser than, smarter than, is imperative; someone whose primary mission in life is to correct everyone.
We all have shortcomings. Most of them we aren’t even aware of. Some we inherited, some we learned as defense measures. One of the Ten Promises written by the Optimist Society is: “I will give so much time to the improvement of myself, that I have no time to criticize or judge others”. I love that saying and work every day in hopes that one day it will be true of me.
Isn’t this, after all, what life is all about, finding our way through the foibles of our own behavior and character? I sometimes think that we are like the clay of a model and God is the sculptor, guiding us through life, ridding ourselves from this shortcoming or that one; finding out we have yet one more we need to work on, shaping the clay. And, if we are fortunate, before we drop our body, we will have completed the model we worked so diligently on and we will be ready to meet our maker who stood by our side the entire time, pulling us away from resentment, from anger, from disappointment, from the need to judge and condemn others, often for that very flaw that we ourselves have. Years ago I wrote a poem, one I want to share here.
A mirrored image of who I am presents itself to me,
Each time I meet someone new, I see what I can be,
For we are drawn to those who have qualities we own,
It helps us to identify the ones to which we’re prone,
And isolate the character that contains a hidden flaw,
And brings to light correctibles, the ones we never saw,
Beyond that, it validates the facets of our whole,
Our intrinsic nature’s better side, the gems within our soul.
Dear Lord, may I one day be as perfect, as wise, as I now think I am.