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Oct 31, 2011

It's Not About Me

Having to cope with some less-than-pleasant information finding its way to me unexpectedly, I suffered a minor panic attack last night. It actually surprised me that I was as deeply bothered as I was, but the emotional state can be tricky thing at times.
At any rate, I came across an older blog post which reminded me how to best deal with moments of depression. I thought I would share this idea by reposting the original:
Better Than Chocolate, Than Prozac Even...
Posted: 03 Feb 2009 08:34 AM PST

   I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes,
   until I met a man who had no feet.
         ~ Jewish Proverb
I believe shows like “Jerry Springer” and other daytime drama provide an odd public service. It makes us look at ourselves and say, “I’m not so bad.” In theory this should affirm and esteem us, but this I-ain’t-so-fouled-up result still leaves us cold, often followed by thoughts of “I just can’t do this…oh, or that…and, yup, there’s that problem too…”
This count-your-blessings explanation just doesn’t seem to functionally work. Jerry Springer does not give us the affirmation we need, even though surface logic would indicate it might. Oddly, subjecting ourselves to these type messages often hurl us into an even deeper depression. In the vein of personal activism I’ve been promoting over the last few posts, I’d like to make an interesting observation, which flies in the face of Springer-Logic.
As most know, I was burgled about a week before Christmas last year. I was fortunate as burglaries go. I lost a very small amount compared to what might have been taken. Nonetheless, the theft of a few thousand dollars worth of items could have easily depressed me, especially during the Christmas Season.
My response was quite the opposite. I was in the midst of a Fight The Establishment campaign, designed to help those less-fortunate than I. Something inexplicable stirred in my soul and told me, the need is still out there despite my current circumstance.
Rather than sitting immobile, wallowing in my misery as I was tempted to do, I got up and went to McDonalds. No…I didn’t glutton my depression away; instead I purchased 20 Arch Cards to carry with me in my car at all times. I now pass these out to homeless people I see (and still with less proficiency than I should).
Now, what I can only explain as a miraculous transformation of spirit took place. My burglary really seemed small, and I felt really good inside. Note I the grammar; I didn’t feel well – I felt good. My problems seemed irrelevant. Logically, it makes no sense; I had a problem, but focused on other people and lent a helping hand. Please note, I did address my own problem; I secured my house and updated the things that were needed, but I had no self-pity when doing so.
I surmise that this approach of feeling good about one’s station and counting blessings is the way to truly reach the “I’m not so bad” state of mind. To look down our noses at those with bigger problems gives us a temporarily state, but it is sung in a falsetto voice, and the beauty is only an illusion which turns us even colder than we were before. However, to reach out in kindness places a real grace in our hearts, works towards solving another’s problem and blesses them in an inexplicable way too.
However, where this spiritual energy drink kicks in is what it does for those not involved directly – and for me, the indirect person affected was my daughter. I cried uncontrollably when I overheard her tell someone why she has a “wonderful Daddy.” Catching the story in midstream, her words were “Then he went over and helped that mom and kids get their car unstuck from the ice. No one else did anything, but my Dad didn’t hesitate. He was there to save the day. I am really proud to be his daughter.”
I don’t say this to boast, but to recognize that my daughters have very little idea what I do at my job, nor do they care to understand it. They couldn’t care less how brilliant of an idea the non-recursive SQL stored procedure linking six unrelated data elements through a dynamic cross-reference table in real-time is. What my daughters notice, what makes them proud is the compassion of my heart. And they learn its importance. They learn to be cautious too, but they learn from my model of personal activism.

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