“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.”
The human being has an amazing capacity for adapting to change. It takes many different skills to drive in different countries. In the US one of the biggest challenges for those who immigrate is the art of the merge. We may get here able to drive manual (‘stick shift’) cars, capable of three point turns and hill starts, and then we sit in an automatic, power steered car and quake at the thought of getting on a ramp to join the tons of metal screaming down the expressway! It once occurred to me that the picture of streams of traffic entering and exiting the highway, seamlessly merging and blending with each other must appear from above to be like a dance. Just like the coordinated marching bands that twist and braid their way, making living patterns on the field while making joyful music. We are astonishing human beings.
The skills needed for driving in a place like Jamaica are far different. That involves dodging potholes, and bracing for unexpected animals which may leap out of the bush unannounced (both the four legged and the two legged variety). Of course every Jamaican driver knows themselves to be the most dexterous and expert driver, they take turns and bends with confidence and speed. Many tourists come back with memories of beautiful scenery interspersed with flashbacks of drivers who appeared to dance with death!
Yes we have this amazing ability to adapt and learn and grow. But why do we let our moods be changed by the behavior of others? When I was thinking about the origin of the phrase ‘driving me crazy’, I realized how much it acknowledges, that often we give others power over our own happiness and wellbeing. There was a period in my life when I would dream I was attempting to drive the car from the back seat; another time I was in a driverless car. I woke up recognizing that I had no control over my life. So often we think we are stuck in situations where we have no choice, and yet we always have choices. We may not recognize this, but ultimately we have the choice of attitude, choosing to laugh at adversity, make fun of conflict, find the sweetness in the midst of pain.
The word crazy is one we throw casually around. Other people make us crazy, we make ourselves crazy, we say this without thinking. And yet, for those who have mental illness, the word carries a weight of pain. We happily discuss our brief illnesses, our bout of the flu, our rough time with bronchitis. We talk about a young relative with diabetes, discussing the trying times that the family has had in adjusting to a lifelong disease. But when it comes to those who have mental illness, we don’t discuss it. We leave them to suffer both with the disease, and the silence that accompanies it. According to the government, over 25% of the population suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. That is one in four, which means that the problem is way bigger than we think.
The other day I heard a concept which seemed to describe the problem very beautifully. It suggested that when you don’t take care of your body, your physical health declines, and when you don’t take care of your spirit, the result can be mental illness. There may be far more complexity to the problem than that, but how much attention do we pay to our spiritual health? How can we support the mind that is running the show? How can we be more aware and supportive of others who may lose their grip on reality from time to time, are they not human too?
When we label people, we allow ourselves to think of them as ‘other’, not quite as human as us. We do it all the time, fastening labels on people that permit us to group them together and push them aside. Our politicians are good at this, talking about ‘illegals’ or ‘inner city culture’ which removes the humanity from the equation. It is not until we are personally involved, or when something touches us that we look with fresh eyes. Until we recognize that we are our brother’s keeper, that no man is an island, we will not be able to begin the healing that can make this world a better place.
So this morning, I hope you will think about your words before you use them, and make sure that they count. Start your day off with love for yourself and others, and emit a light of acceptance and compassion for everyone, not turning aside from those who make you uncomfortable. I heard a story of a woman who found herself battling a bipolar disorder, and realized that she despised herself, just as she had in the past despised those ‘other’ with mental illness. It is time for us to open our minds, and recognize that when we point the finger we may be the one most in need of acknowledgement and forgiveness.
Have a wonderful weekend, family! Challenge yourself to confront one uncomfortable fact about yourself, and then forgive and let go. Then turn that feeling on that person you feel wronged you so many years ago, and let go of that also. Begin the spiritual healing that will give you happiness and contentment you may not find elsewhere. Let the healing begin!