tagReviews & EssaysMy Life is a Country Song

My Life is a Country Song


In an e-mail the other day, someone wrote to me that her life had turned into a country song. My first thought was of the old joke. You know what you get when you play a country song backwards? You get your dog back, your spouse back, your house back and your best friend Jack back. Later it occurred to me though, that if it's in a country song then chances are it's because it happened to someone else, somewhere, at some point in time.

You are unique. No one else in the history of mankind has ever experienced the exact combination of life events and experiences that you have and filtered them through your perceptions. However, if you take any one event in your life, I'll guarantee you that you're not the only one to have experienced it. Other people's experiences can be of great benefit and comfort to each of us. Reading words by others who have been through what you are going through and joining a support group can be of immense value in helping you cope.

When I found a breast lump during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, everywhere I turned the word CANCER screamed at me. It came at me from television, newspapers and radio. My friends and family told me, "It's probably nothing, you'll be fine." My doctor told me, "It's probably nothing, you'll be fine." During the day I told myself, "It's probably nothing, I'll be fine."

At night, I had the most God-awful nightmares I've ever had. Then I went to work and a woman who had been through it herself said to me, "I heard you found a lump in your breast. You must be so scared." Well... yeah! It was as if she had given me permission to be afraid in the daylight and by bringing that fear out into the light, the nightmares stopped.

(As a side note, I did not find that lump by doing a breast self-exam. I was not good at all about remembering to do them. I think the ladies might guess what I was up to. Men, this could be a great thing for you to offer to do for your wife or significant other. "Honey, have you done your breast exam this month? Let me help you with that." *wink, wink*)

We convince ourselves that we are alone in the world. They say that you come into this life alone and you'll leave it alone. Well, how about that woman who was screaming on the table to bring you into the world? (Perhaps that's a misinterpretation of the intent of the old saying but I think it's an accurate portrayal of how most people take it.) I would submit to you that this feeling of isolation is an illusion that we create for ourselves.

We are never truly alone and isolated in this world. We are affected by the actions of others and we affect them. Often we are completely unaware of the affect we are having on another. I remember going to a leadership conference as a teenager and discussing how the younger kids looked up to us. It surprised us to know how they watched us and were affected by what they saw us do and say. One person talked about having a kid come up to him and compliment him on his ability at soccer. His first instinct was to be self-deprecating, to say it was nothing. Then he realized that what he really needed to do was accept the praise graciously and tell the kid, you can do this too. Parents, you know this well. The little ones mimic everything and learn our habits, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Often we think that we're not important enough to affect others, certainly not the world. But what we do causes ripples that filter out to other people. A smile, holding a door open for someone, a word of kindness; any little thing that can brighten another's day will affect how they deal with other people. I remember going into a very busy sandwich shop and watching a woman make sandwiches. She looked so tense and harried. I stood there with the room full of people and watched her intently. When she glanced up, I looked into her eyes and smiled. It made her pause. She wiped her brow on her sleeve. I saw her take a breath and some of the tension just seemed to drain from her body. She smiled back. We had made a connection and it had made a difference for her. I'm sure that it affected how she treated other people, at least for a little while.

Once in a while, I get to feeling drained - like I don't have a single thing to offer another person. I feel like I need to curl up in a ball under an afghan and just pretend the world doesn't exist. I set about filling myself up again, with good books, movies and music. You know what helped me the most last time I felt that way? Helping someone else.

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