I’ve learned to brush off many annoying things in life. Gossip? No problem. Don’t give much thought to people who chat about lives they’re not living. The person who counts out exact change in front of me in line? Infinite patience.
Pity me, though, and you will see steam rising from every pore.
Pity is the ugly stepsister of empathy, sympathy and compassion. All three of those emotions recognize the strength and resilience of the intended subject, usually someone who has gone through a difficult time. Pity just says, “Poor you.” Ugh.
“Poor you” assumes life is a one-act play. Some of us have multiple acts, with an intermission thrown in for good measure.
When I began this blog, my first entry was about such an intermission, a sacred pause. I was at yet another crossroads in life and facing not my first, nor my second, nor even my third—but probably my fourth act. Each time, I’ve risen to the challenge of a new script, new actors and improvisation beyond what I thought possible. Each time, I become more accomplished at this thing called life.
I’m sure many of you have a similar progression. Mine spans being a sixth daughter and Catholic schoolgirl in Ohio; to a 20-something building a career in Chicago; to stay-at-home wife and mother; to divorced mom and working woman. And those are just the labels. I have filled each act with laughter, tears, creativity, obstinacy, love and learning. Just as I’m sure you have filled your own life. When my script calls for reaction to a less-than-pretty life situation, I get through it. And I learn.
So pity is not merited. It assumes a superiority that none of us should feel. Talk with me. Have a glass of wine with me. Laugh with me. But do not assume the simple joys I feel even during a rough time are any less than what you have. Very few people I know experience real joy. If I can experience it in the midst of muck, then I’m not to be pitied. Maybe you could learn a thing or two on me, friend.
I have always wondered about those who see life as a strict linear progression. Those who feel decisions made should span decades—be it relationships, jobs, beliefs. Some should, yes. Others are appropriate for a season in our life but are meant to morph into something different.
So as I move into my next act, I anticipate good things. Bumps in the road, yes. Of course. But also, a script worthy of the learning I bring to the table. I am excited. Tired? Hell, yes. But optimistic. Ready for adventure.
All who wander are not lost. But they sure are interesting.