The legendary psychiatrist and humanitarian Elisbeth Kübler-Ross once said, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
And that’s true, I guess.
But I also know that many of you, my readers and friends, have also gone through the wars.
You’ve dealt with issues that would be too horrific to mention in casual conversation. You know – the kind of abuse and trauma that might end up as an episode of Criminal Minds or Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
You’ve understood the ravages of bullying and mob mentality. You’ve been the kid that the other students pick on and tease and torment. And you go home and your parents yell at you for some inconceivable reason, and you think to yourself that there’s no escape. None.
And yet you escape. You find an avenue, you discover an outlet. Singing. Painting. Running. Writing. Surviving. And you get good at that outlet.
But even in those moments, you still slip. You know that the bullies and the griefers and the demagogues know your magic anger buttons, and they will press them like an alien-shooter in an arcade.
Sometimes you slip into old habits. Sometimes you don’t. You get angry at yourself because you let other people play you. You get angry at yourself because you didn’t stand up and say “no.” And you get angry at yourself when you say “no” and the teasing and the bullying doesn’t stop.
You deal with it at your job. The boss that makes you feel like crumbs because you couldn’t make 2+2=5 the way he wanted it to. The customers who ask the most inane questions and get mad when you can’t respond back in a way that makes them happy. The diner who says that his food is two degrees too cold and leaves you a five-cent tip to make sure you know your shame at bringing him an unsatisfactory meal.
And yet you keep going. You know that every penny saved, every tip accounted for, every moment leads to a new day, a new chance, a new opportunity.
The world seems like a pressure cooker on full steam to you. You wish you had a better life. You wish that your kids respected you. You wish that your spouse cared. You wish that your dog didn’t leave brown calling cards on your shag rug.
And in those grey-beige moments, those cold instances where you feel like God dealt you a two-seven off-suit and you know the person across from you is telling pocket Aces…
You need to know that you’re really a good person. Bad things that happen to you don’t mean that you’re bad by association. Trust me, it may take the strength of Hercules to break through every demon and darkness in your life, but you have achieved success so far.
You’re here. It’s the first of December, 2015, and you’re here.
You’re here, despite every effort by mean people to make you wish you weren’t here.
You’re here, despite the love of your life dumping you and trashing your name all over social media.
You’re here, despite being passed over for a promotion by the person who couldn’t tie their shoes without looking up instructions on YouTube.
You’re here, despite everything.
And you’ll be here tomorrow.
And you’ll be here next week, and next month, and next year.
That’s not to say that you haven’t survived unscathed. I know. I’ve been through this. My smile comes out about as often as a February groundhog’s shadow. And I know why. It’s because I’ve been through every step of the battle in this thing called life, just as you have. But even if my smile is missing, at least the rest of me is still here. Battle-scarred and flame-singed, but I’m still here. And so are you.
We only get one shot at this life. There’s no do-over, there’s no reset button, you can’t put another quarter in the machine and land back in the maze with Inky and Blinky and Clyde.
But in this one shot, you have every moment to prove to all the naysayers and the troublemakers and the bullies and the scathers and the trolls and the demons that you belong here.
Print this blog post out and tape it to your office cubicle or your bedroom wall.
And highlight this next sentence.
YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON, AND THE ONLY THING HOLDING YOU BACK IS THAT YOU DON’T REALIZE HOW AWESOME A PERSON YOU REALLY ARE.
Now keep that in mind for today.
And keep that in mind for tomorrow.
And keep that in mind whenever you feel like the world is crashing down around your shoulders, use these thoughts as braces and scaffolding against the oncoming rubble.
This is my #givingtuesday message to you.
I hope it brings that smile to your face.