Can Hope Survive Disappointment?

My column published week of January 9, 2017 in the Albert Lea Tribune and Courier-Sentinelperception.

If you hear something often enough and it is repeated time and time again and you listen, you might internalize and believe what is being said, whether it is true or not.

A young girl is called an ugly duckling over and over again. She grows into a beautiful swan, but because she has always been told she is an ugly duckling she still sees herself as that duckling in later years.

A young boy is told he is a failure at sports even though he hasn’t developed his talent, and as he grows and becomes a teenager he doesn’t try out for sports because he believes he is not good enough.

A wife or a husband is told over and over and over again they don’t deserve love. They aren’t contributing to a family or they are not a good person and they believe the way they are treated is because they don’t measure up and don’t deserve better.

Someone repeatedly hears many times a day that politicians are crooked and corrupt, but they don’t look for the facts and because of the fabrications they believe what is said.

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” But we don’t. We see it every day in our friendships, in our marriages, in our businesses and in politics. Our excuse for not believing when a person shows us their true character is to give them another chance, we know people can change. 

There is also the question: Does a leopard change its spots? Can we apply that to life? We hope whoever it is that is telling that young girl she is an ugly duckling or convincing the teenage boy he doesn’t measure up, or the husband or wife who verbally assaults their spouse or the business owner who convinces us his product can’t be defective because it is our mistake or the politician who is corrupt and lies, sees their mistakes and will become a better, more honest and kinder person. We hope they change their spots, and they may do so for a little while to further their agenda.

There are people who have changed their behaviors toward others — but not until they have done the work to understand why they need to condescend and lie and behave the way they do. They must have an honest willingness to treat others better and become a person of integrity.

If you have ever been in one of these situations or in something else similar, did that person show you who they were, but you chose to see something different even though the facts and the words were staring you right in the face? Where does our eternal hope come from that the leopard will change their spots, keeping us believing in them despite what they have demonstrated to us.

Maybe the reason we can’t accept the life we live is because we would have to own our choices. Was the politician we voted in a mistake, and if it was, what does that say about us as a person? What about other decisions we made, were we blind? Does that make us weak? Does that mean we have bad judgment and are a failure? Maybe we don’t want to face ourselves and the fact we have accepted less in any part of our lives, so we can’t see the true reality of the situation.

I am pondering this today because I tossed out the word narcissistic on my Facebook page to see what would happen. My post said, “Narcissistic. That all I have to say for today in this post or I’d be toast.” The responses were interesting all the way from “I totally understand,” to “upcoming administration.” The definition of narcissistic is to have an excessive interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance. Exaggerated feelings of self-importance.

That brought me to thoughts of the things I have seen blasted on the news lately about people and politics. It brought me to the thoughts of those who make others feel less than human because of narcissistic feelings about themselves. What they say, behave and act toward others says more about how they feel about themselves than the person or situation they are targeting. And it still comes back to hope. In the midst of the fear, sorrow, and feelings of desolation, hope still springs eternal that relationships can be mended, business opportunities can be fruitful and honest, and our government will survive.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” — Desmond Tutu

Perception or Reality?

perceptionMy latest column from the Albert Lea Tribune on October 3, 2016

I found my summer clothes. The problem with finding my summer clothes is that I was looking for my winter clothes. Do I have you confused yet?

At some point in the last year I organized my closet and my clothes, and instead of leaving summer and winter clothes together in my drawers and my closet, I decided to change them out so I would have more room. I function very well when I am not organized. I forget where I put things when I organize. Remember the place for everything and everything in its place? When things are in place I forget where that place is.

This summer I was sure I had more summer clothes the year before. But, I did remember I gave some of my summer clothes away. Last fall I weeded out those clothes that did not fit and got rid of those I wasn’t in love with. When spring and summer came this year I had four pairs of jeans, a couple dresses, seven summer shirts and a pair of shorts and capris. I washed more than usual. And I must say I got along with those few pieces of clothing choices. I berated myself for giving away some of my favorite items of clothing. I didn’t think I would have done that, but, I could not find them.

Cool weather is settling in. The other day I had to dress up a bit and I shoved and pushed my meager assortment of clothes in my closet to find my fall and winter dress pants. I knew I had some because I just bought them last year. Again, I seem to remember in the spring I decided to organize. But I can’t remember where I put my winter clothes. And, that is how I found my summer clothes. Actually it was Natasha, my beautiful, furry kitty, that helped me find my clothes. She hid under the bed, and as I tried to get her out, low and behold there was a flat storage container slid far enough under the bed to the middle that you couldn’t see it. Maybe I should dust under the bed once in a while.

Excitement filled my veins when I saw the container. I knew I must have put my winter clothes in it. I am not an under-the-bed storage person but I think I recall listening to an organizer guru that said it was the perfect place for clothes. I pulled off the lid and there they were — my summer clothes. My feelings held a mixture of excitement that I found my favorite summer blouse, and a mixture of disappointment because I couldn’t wear my dress pants to church.

Though we welcome the change of seasons in nature, it is perhaps harder to welcome the change of seasons in our lives as we age. One of the things that happens with age besides our bodies changing, is the fact we have history to fall back on. With that history comes knowledge. It is that knowledge of what we have lived through that shapes the choices we make today and the viewpoints we have that affect what we do going forward into the future.

There is a quote about reality by Robert Bolono that states: “People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth.” Watching the presidential debate and seeing the comments afterward, I think that statement rings true. Each and every one of us has something we wish to happen for the future, and we back the candidate that we feel matches what we need, no matter what is proved to be false or wrong. We believe unscrupulous websites because they are telling us what we want to hear. And there is something in us at each season in our lives that tells us we can’t be wrong. We don’t want to admit our views could be skewed because what does that say about us?

After the debate there was one statement that people asked of their friends time and time again and that is, “Did we watch the same debate?”

Everyone has a different stake in this election. The younger generation is afraid for their future and the future of their children. They are worried about crime and terrorism and the economy. They want their children to be able to afford college and health care and to own their own home. This is their future. It is the season of their life where they want to grow and flourish.

As a senior citizen, we want to ensure our retirement and our health care. We want to ensure we will be able to afford to live, and one of the differences of us being in the autumn and winter of our lives, is the fact we remember what was, and we are having a hard time reconciling it with what is.

As I hunt for the past season’s change of clothes I hunt for the past seasons of my life and remember the race riots in the ’60s and ’70s. I remember my parents talking about Hitler and the war. I remember waiting for someone I love to come home from Vietnam. I remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. But I also remember neighbors helping neighbors and people standing up against hate. I remember the kindness of strangers and the wisdom of many leaders from both parties. I remember the good and the bad.

It is no different today. We believe what we perceive to be our reality. It is neither right nor wrong because we live the seasons of our lives. Our perception will influence our votes and therein lies what kind of truth we see.

My truth: I am better in creative chaos in my house than organized neatness. That is my perception of my reality.