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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Perspective: See you on the other side

I've noticed over the past number of years an amazing phenomenon in my life.   I suspect some of it--the phenomenon--is part of the natural process of gaining age and experience, some of it is karma, and some of it just coincidental.  So, what is it you ask?  Glad you asked!  What I speak of is seeing or being on the other side (of situations or life in general).  I will expand upon what I mean in just a moment, but what brought the concept was a mundane everyday experience.

I was on my drive home earlier tonight and was in the fast lane as is my custom. I noticed someone bearing down on me.   I was going 70MPH + and giving a reasonable distance with the car in front of me (60mph being the speed limit).  Anyway, the driver behind me must have had a hot date or something, because I couldn't make out his headlights in my rearview mirror.  Frankly, I don't know if I could see his license plate?   You know if a driver is that close (especially at a pretty high speed), they are dangerously tailgating you.  As is my custom, I let off the gas a little as I don't appreciate someone risking my safety because he or she is impatient.   I did a kind of jerky move though, once I passed a car off to the side, I noticed that the tailgater was making a power move to get around me.  I wasn't having any of it. After all, I was going to be that jerk's karma this day.  I sped up enough that he couldn't pass me as I caught up to and was now passing another car on my side.  He fell back behind me and continued tailgating, probably pissed off that he couldn't get around me.  He probably also knew what I had done. 

Every since I was involved in a high speed collision with another driver and her irresponsible driving, I don't take kindly to irresponsible, overly aggressive drivers.  If you are behind me and look like you want to drive more quickly than I am, I will probably see you and make every effort to move out of your way.  In other words, safely and reasonably let you pass me.  If you are pushy about it--in a way that threatens my safety such as tailgating or threatening to cut me off--I don't take too kindly to it.  I will make it a point make sure you don't get rewarded for driving in a reckless manner.  I'm sure that's not defensive driving, but who's perfect?

The funny thing about the story above is that I used to be the jerky, impatient driver who tailgated others in the fast lane in an attempt to ENCOURAGE them to change lanes and get out of my way.  My wife said, "Maybe they don't realize how pushy they are being.  They want to get where they want to get and don't really think about the other person."  I disabused her of that notion.  Not to say that that is never the case.  But, I personally know better. I used to think to myself as I was riding close to the driver in front of me, "Aren't you getting the message?  Just the get the hell out of my way."   It's funny though, years and a high impact collision later, I'm the old man effectively screaming, "Get off my lawn" or the driving equivalent of it.  I see it from the other side now.

In my first marriage, when we first lived together, my now ex moved into my apartment and then the house I bought shortly thereafter.  I never realized how much of an adjustment that may have been until years later. I remarried and I was the one that was moving into my significant other's place.  She has owned the place for over 20 years and I'm the person moving in.   It gives me some perspective now from the other side.

Then there is the child to parent role being flipped.  When I was a teen, I remembered thinking my parents were old.  Then one day I found myself being "my parent's age" and having children.  While I wasn't carefree as a teen, I remember that I wasn't super worried about paying the bills and things like that.  Now, I can see it on the other side.  Having to worry more about others than myself.

I suspect one day, I will be the older driver who is taking too long during rush hour.  I will be the older driver who is driving 45 in a 45 zone irritating the people behind me.  In other words, the one who is blocking the younger drivers, you know those drivers who are in a hurry.  If I have the presence of mine and am not too ornery, I might even laugh about it as it is happening.

I guess another way of describing this situation is: If you live long enough you will experience life's rich ironies.  That is, irony with a rich helping of iron.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Perspective: Wants Being A World Away From Needs

I got an iTunes and Amazon gift cards recently for Christmas (2018), so of course, what do I do?  I sought to supplement my music collection on my iPod.   Anyway, I had been a little sad this Christmas season as I had just turned 50, I didn't have my daughter for Christmas and most of Christmas Eve, I had previously lost three of my immediately family members in recent years and frankly, the year had been very tiring at times and I'd reflected on long-time hurts.  So, one could say I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.

I'd always respected Roy Orbison as a musician and I know I heard his life story before.  However, I never really thought to much about it.  But, this time was different.  I'd been looking up ELO on YouTube and stumbled upon the Traveling Willburys which then led me to Roy Orbison.  In a way, this search had taken me to the "End of The Line" as far as Roy Orbison.

Anyway, in researching his music, I came across his life story and it was very tragic and sad.  Yes, he may have eventually accumulated some wealth and not had to worry about where his next meal came from.  However, his life was far from easy.  He was born smack dab in The Great Depression with his parents both struggling with employment.  He was blessed with a guitar and a gift of music.  Though he was talented, it took him a while to get established in the industry.  His star gained momentum in the early 60s, but he was hit with marital problems which led to divorce in 1964.  He and his first wife, Claudette, had patched things up in late 1965, but this was only a temporary reprieve from downtimes and tragedy in his life.  His 1st was killed in a freak accident in June 1966 and in September 1968, his two eldest sons died in fire that burned his house to the ground while he was touring.  His star by that that time had been in decline.  Eventually, it picked up again and he found new success in the 1980s.  He died of a heart attack at age 52.  I'd heard his story before but this time it really got my attention and I felt sadness for him and thought, while I've faced adversity, I hadn't had to face losing a spouse and kids and health problems like he had.   In a way, though I haven't achieved fame and fortune like had, I hadn't faced some of the tragedy he had.  This got me thinking about something I've thought about a lot during my life.

I've long thought that, we in this country, are very fortunate. I have felt some guilt that my want, even in an unnecessarily poor childhood, was still less than need in many other places in the world.  Our poor usually are better off than much of the world, especially places like Haiti.  I guess it's all perspective.  I grew up with less than many/most others in my school and across town and I felt poor, but seeing images of others having to worry about starvation is very humbling.  Anyway, I have a few thought on wants and needs in my life, the life of kids in this generation and in the world as a whole.

  • Being around people with "more" can give a distorted picture and can create false 'needs'.  
    • For example, if the people I see socially, work with, or are related have large homes and live in a very nice neighborhoods, it might create a sense in me that in order to 'fit in', I need to have that as well.  In reality, in such a case, I don't 'need' those things, but 'want' them to prevent me from feeling 'inferior'.
    • If a kid goes to school and all his friends have nice clothes, nice cars,  and nice things including electronics out the wazoo, then the kid will 'need' some of those things to at least be able to 'relate' or 'fit in'.  The need, in this case, isn't more nice things but to appreciate that you can't always have every nice thing.  The other need is for other parents, with more means, to raise their kids with a healthy respect for others regardless of what others have.
  • Getting used to 'luxuries' can make them seem like needs.
    • Growing up, I didn't have a microwave oven until I finished college, I didn't AC until I went away to college, I didn't have a dishwasher until I moved into my first apartment, I didn't have a TV with remote or with cable until I was on my own.  At the time each of these things seemed like a luxury.  
    • I am so used to having all of these things that to have them taken away makes them seem like a need that is unmet.
  • If you grown up or gotten used to having more, the best way to remind yourself that much of what you have is a luxury is spending time around those who struggle to have basic needs met.
  • Our real needs are sometimes masked by purposely or unwittingly by those things we feel are needs.
    • If we feel ugly, we may feel like we 'need' to shop for clothes.  In other words, substitute an outfit to deal with insecurity.
    • If we feel sad, we may feel a 'need' for the latest electronic or other gadget to distract us.
    • Often times what we really need is not more 'things' but instead peace and serenity.

I don't know if I broke any new ground here, but I felt compelled to write this blog post.  Kids today seem to not appreciate what they have and when I remind them growing up how we did with less, it doesn't impact them.  I forget that its hard to relate to having less when you never have.  In a way, I feel like it is hard to relate to those in the world who do have less and are in real need unless you actually see them with less.  That's why I titled this post as I did.  Anyway, hopefully, others can relate or get something out of this post.

- Rich

This post reminds me of another I wrote:
Accepting People Where They Are.