A few of us were discussing pity parties and being presented with a shit sandwich. Or maybe this usually occurs in the reverse order. The sandwich appears and the party begins.
It’s easy enough for me when I’m in the midst of a pity party to think I’ve been handed a shit sandwich and I just can’t figure out what to do next. Sure, it’s tough to have a virus that eats your heart, leaving you with a chronic and quite serious heart disease. It’s tough to lose a job you love because of it. It’s tough to be walked out on by your husband of decades, the father of your eight kids about a year after that. It’s tough when you realize you’ve moved from forgiving abusive behavior and infidelities and lying to simply ignoring it. It’s tough when you realize that, for all of your efforts to protect, some of your kids are still hurt enormously, in lifelong ways. It’s tough when you’ve built your work life around a husband and family, to function part time in two or three jobs so that you can ultimately be home more. It’s tough to let go of a marriage that has been rocky from the get-go, but you’ve believed that the relationship work is paying off because he says it is. It’s tough when you realize you’ve trusted someone who lies as readily as he breathes. It’s tough to feel insecure because you’ve lost the vocation you trained for and the one you still have does not provide medical insurance. And it’s tough to try to plan for your high medical expenses and the medical expenses for your kids out of your part time pay. It’s tough to try to figure out what to do next with the new vocation you’ve trained for while most of colleagues your age are talking about their 401Ks and their retirement plans. There’s more. But that’s the basic form of my pity parties these days. Let’s not forget, will my heart give out? Will I be able to keep this house? Will my car run for another six months? A year? Can I even find another part time job with medical insurance? Who will hire me? Why do people say “you’re only as old as you feel?” And…now I’ve got another migraine.
So eventually the party’s over and life has to resume. My current research is in drylands agriculture, so naturally I know about conditions in other parts of the world. When people say “your worse day is someone else’s best day,” I can take this to heart. Maybe here in the USA, as an adjunct college teacher, self-funding the learning center on my farm, no medical insurance with serious medical problems, maybe here, my family is classified as sitting right at the poverty line. And it is. The federal poverty line. I don’t think about that too much because I know that what is poverty here is luxury for over half of the world. My family has its own car and it does still run, with regular maintenance. I have a home to live in. I have central heat and a woodstove. I have a swamp cooler and semi-operational air conditioning. I have running water. I have hot water. I have toilets that flush, even though the septic system needs to be replaced. I was able to afford to call someone in to help figure out what was wrong. When and/or if I can afford it, there are people who can fix this problem for us. I have a washer and a dryer for my clothes. I have a television. I even still have cable for the television. I have the internet. I have a computer and so do my kids. I have a cell phone. I have piles of music CDs. I have gardens, such as the are in the high desert. I have some chickens for eggs. I can still afford my heart medicines because the state of California gives me a sort of discount as an uninsured person. My youngest son and I qualify for monthly food stamps which helps all of us who live here. I cannot afford to retire. If I could, would I want to? Even that level of decision-making springs from abundance, not true poverty. Truth be told, when the pity party is over, as all parties do come to an end, I feel gratitude. Not just for the material possessions above, which do make life easier in many ways, but for my supportive compassionate children, other family , and friends. For my students. For the people who have supported the farm day endeavors from the very start until now. For mentors who continue to work with me. This shit sandwich is just what it is. Sometimes things get tough. It’s life. How could they not, no matter where we live?
So my philosophy is that in spite of those shit sandwiches I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving on. I need to take time for clarity to emerge from the deep spaces. I need to get outside more often. I need to continue doing the things that inspire me. I need to remember gratitude. Gratitude is part of the practice of a spiritual tradition I follow. It’s part of the practice of most spiritual traditions, in fact. That’s the key for me. It’s a practice. Pity party ends. I practice. Maybe one day the order will be: I practice and the pity party doesn’t even begin. I’m not there yet. But I do practice.
We can look at it scientifically. I’ve certainly done that. I was trained to do that. And I’m glad. No seriously. I did study fossilized human feces. When I say sh*t sandwich, I can take a long view.
We can even clean it up and make pretty things.
I suppose I like to look right at the situation…
and see what eventually grows from it. What else can I do, really?