We often hear that we should be grateful and be humble, which is true. Humility is a lack of ego. Some people confuse it with “humiliation,” which is totally different. But I wonder if everyone really takes that into consideration as much as it should be, which is enough to actually practice them consistently. They aren’t natural ways to be, and for some people, it comes much harder than others.
I know a lot of people who I’ve known for nearly my whole life that have grown up demonstrating a facade that they have and are the way they are because of entitlement or some God-given grace. They’ve never had to show gratitude or humility, and to do so in the least would be as mortifying as standing in Times Square at noon naked. Admitting that would be impossible, which comes with the attitude. But through life, I’ve gotten to know many people who are gracious, grateful and humble, and they are some of the people everyone wants to strive to be like and want to know. It’s the difference between people that give and people that only take. It usually takes some twist of fate that puts us in some compromising position to begin thinking about what we should be grateful for and how to truly be humble. I know in my case that’s true.
But I don’t think it has to be that way. Empathy and the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes allows for it. Men like Robert E. Lee understand humility and haven’t been down and out like some people have. Although “down and out” is relative, generally speaking. What seems huge now might seem laughable at a later point in life. I know I’ve faced what I thought were some hard times, but in retrospect, they were pretty easy comparatively. And although I’ve been what people would certainly consider “broke” I’ve given my last $5 to a man standing out in the Summer heat on the corner of a highway asking for help because obviously, he was in a worse spot than I. I at least was sitting in an air-conditioned car, driving to a house with water and food.
Whenever we feel great about the position we’re in life and proud of where we find ourselves, it’s a perfect time to reflect and try to think of all that we should be grateful for, and not proud of. And remember that it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye. Usually, the easier it comes, the easier it goes. But not always. And to remember that we’re all human and imperfect is something to keep in mind. No one’s better than anyone else. It’s easy to judge someone else based on perceptions we have thanks to the experiences and gifts we’ve had and been given that others haven’t. I don’t think it has anything to do with “luck” or fortune or misfortune. It’s that everyone takes a unique, complex set of routes through life that makes us see things differently, and make choices to the best of our ability that differ from others because of what we’ve been exposed to and learned from our past.
At the very least we need to be able to be grateful to be happy. They go hand in hand. And when the cards are down, being humble makes life much easier when you have to reach up and out for help. There will be many more hands available than if you need to reach down for help from the pedestal you’ve maintained, and turns out you’ve borrowed the whole time.
Definition of a Gentleman
Robert. Edward Lee
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
I’ve been noticing some interesting things recently as I deal with a number of stressful issues occurring in my life. They are separate and related, and vary in scope and scale and how they were injected into my life and relieved. They’re dynamic, in other words, but persistent, and lately, sizable in any way someone looks at them. They’re relative, I know. Everyone has problems, and I know there are people with greater problems than I have, and others with less. But to each person, the stressor is relative to the amount and type of coping skills they’re armed with, the amount of time they have to devote to them, and all the other resources needed to deal with each one separately, in conjunction with one another, and often compounded by each other. I don’t mean to compare my situation with anyone else’s because they’re all unique.
So I’m not writing about this as a complaint; more like a clinical observation about how my own person, physically and mentally, have reacted to what I’m experiencing. I think nearly anyone would agree that what I’m experiencing, knowing the details of it all, is unusually high-stress in any context, however. “Measuring” it seems pointless and futile because of what I described above. I’m just trying to impress the fact this isn’t your everyday “I got into a car accident” or “my power was cut off” type of problem that’s being dealt with.
So what initially happened when I was hit with the sudden news that my wife left me and my family was destroyed, dreams shattered, the dog died, etc… was that I lost a lot of weight quickly. My cortisol levels went off the chart. I lost over 25% of my weight in two weeks, and I wasn’t overweight. That was from about 175 lbs to less than 152 pounds, and then it kept dropping into the 140s, to about 145 and then to 135 when I stopped weighing myself because it was frightening to see myself turning into a skeleton and not being able to stop it. Even though I was eating normally and living as I always had. Eventually, after gorging myself for months and time doing the work time tend to do, I put the weight back on. Yes, I went to the doctor, and he just said it was because of stress, which is what I already knew and why I dismiss most doctors to begin with.
Fast forward to now, about 2 quick years later when I’m experiencing a resurgence in stress from some of the same issues that remain unresolved, or have become worse, plus a number of new ones. I had financial stresses removed temporarily, and then the rug pulled out from under me and me crashing on the ground even harder than before, which I’m working on getting back up from now.
But what is interesting to me is my body’s response this time. I went through a period of sleeplessness where I would go days without sleep until my common sense and biology made me get some sleep. And then I’d rest very hard, and find it hard to even move a muscle in the direction out of bed, to shower and tend to the numerous obligations I have. I don’t drink or smoke, and I exercise when I can, but I’m not on a regular exercise regimen. My daily chores typically provide quite a bit. Just mowing my nearly vertical yard is more than I believe most men my age could do, and I do it every week, plus chasing my daughter nonstop around gets the heart pumping. I’ve never worried about becoming Mr. Universe but I’ve always been active. Always.
What’s more, I find that I have an insatiable appetite. I’ve never eaten for comfort or as a coping mechanism. I consider food fuel and eat healthily. I tend to graze throughout the day and night instead of eating big several full meals like most people I think do. I don’t wait until I’m starving to refill my tank. I’ve never been a snacker. But I do have a sweet tooth and will eat dark chocolate or ice cream as a rare treat.
But lately, I have been eating non-stop, which I think is due to our fight or flight instinct. I stay awake forever as a fighting stance. And my body wants me to bolster my energy sources by eating a bunch of food and resting, once I give in and lie down. It tries to keep me down to rest, to be prepared to fight, although to me when I’m lying there, it feels more like flight. I keep getting bad news which is body blows that also tempt me to hide from the world as well. But I know that’s the least productive thing I can do and will only make matters worse, so I fight it. I’m a fighter, not a quitter, and I’m a doer, not a talker, which is are facts that will remove me from this pit eventually one way or another. People have had to face far worse circumstances than I am, and have emerged so much stronger than most people on Earth as a result. I don’t think that I fall outside that group of people with the background and fortitude I have. And although nearly everyone has turned their backs to me, I still have a group of people that I know live me and care about me, which will always be remembered and helps lift me up when I just want to lie down and give up.
This time, despite my ridiculous appetite, I’m not putting on any weight, but it’s especially noticeable when juxtaposed against my daughter’s appetite. She is 4 years old and eats like a bird, to begin with. And she’d rather play than eat. I have to force her to focus on settling down and eating, and even then she’s picky, so she’ll only eat a few bites at a time and then it’s back to work for her. She reminds me of myself in that regard, where I will often neglect myself in the name of finishing something else I’m focused on to the point of being manic. When I did consulting work, I’d stay up for 3 days straight to finish a project and not come up for air until it was done. That’s always been my ethic, and I recognize it and recognize it’s crazy, but that’s another post. I also notice stress compels me to want to create/produce, like writing, building things, fixing things around the house, playing guitar, and being artistic. And it’s the reason I’m up typing this at nearly 2 am instead of getting sleep. But I’m not crazy, so goodnight.