Life is suffering.
This morning I woke up and checked my email like I do every morning. There was an email from my older brother, who rarely emails me, with the subject “reminder.” I was curious what I had apparently forgotten and opened it up to this message:
Be the change you want to see in the world.-Gandhi
Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path…and leave a trail.-Thoreau
If you wake up convinced your going to have a bad day…you’ll never disappoint yourself. Just a reminder as we go into the holiday season. You can’t change what the world throws at you; you can only change your attitude. Some people will have things much easier than you, other will have it much worse…but ultimately you are accountable for how you rise up and face each challenge despite how it ranks in the grand scheme of things.
Its how normal everyday people can go charging into the face of danger and staggering adversity with a smile, and how a one person moves a mountain and triumphs against all odds. Are they just that much more gifted, lucky, blessed?
It is attitude, and that’s one thing you have 100% control over. So take a deep breath, and no matter how much it hurts the muscles, force a smile and give thanks for the ability that even though we can’t necessarily control our own destiny; we can control how we feel about it.
Now, I normally hate forwards of this nature anyways, but this particular message on this particular day particularly pissed me off.
First off – Consumerism. I hate the holiday season. It brings out the best in some people and the worst in all people. Everyone rushes to the stores to fight over cheap plastic toys made in China and dipped in lead paint. Too often I see people who are living outside of their means and trying to keep up with the Joneses by buying crap that they don’t need, don’t want and are purchasing merely because it is marketed so that they think the ignorant consumer thinks he/she is getting a good deal. And we wonder how we wound up in such an economic crisis?! It is disgusting. I work my ass off to pay off my school loans while these same slobbering pigs take out multiple credit cards to buy shit at Wal-Mart and then claim bankruptcy and America will bail them out because they are the hard workers that live on Main Street. Maybe there’s something to the work ethic of those who made it to Wall Street and manage to keep themselves out of the crazy credit card debt that seems to plague Main Street.
Secondly, I can’t afford to go home for the holidays. Now, this doesn’t mean I’d travel if I could afford it because traveling over the holidays is about as enjoyable as getting a Brazilian bikini wax. We live in a society where people are self absorbed. We don’t help the old lady get down the cramped airplane aisle, we push her out of the way while cussing her out for being slow. I have people I spend my holidays with even though I’d rather sit at home alone watching movies that represent the wonderful human spirit that we celebrate this time of year. I think Wall-E is appropriate.
Thirdly, I’m not religious. The holidays hold no value to me whatsoever except a day off work. Only I no longer work so it’s a day like any other day with no significance at all.
Fourth, Gluttony. I try to eat healthy. However, I eat an apple a day to feed my stomach as much as I do to feed my absolute fear of gaining weight. I wouldn’t call 911 on me for any eating disorders yet, but the holiday smorgasbords of sugar and fat give me panic attacks like they give Uncle Lardo heart failure.
So back to my big brother’s email. Fuck holiday spirit. If we all had holiday spirit would we need to forward emails about keeping basic manners during this time of year in the first place?
Now, on to attitude. I try to look for the silver lining in life. I really do try. I think it’s my genuine effort to find the silver lining that in the end fails me. The world loves to squish the dreams of the few true optimists there are left.
Oh attitude. Like in Luke’s email you decide how your day is going to go when you wake up. I woke up yesterday excited to start the day. I had finally finished my thesis paper for grad school and was getting ready to start my final semester. It’s a two year program and it’s already taken me two and a half years to get this far because of a deployment to Iraq and trip to South America. I was excited to prepare for my last semester that starts in a week. However, life has that funny way of ruining your day. For the last two and a half years of my life every single semester starts like this:
Registrar’s office: Dear MFA student, you are not registered or enrolled in classes because you haven’t paid.
Libby to Registrar’s office: Dear school, I can’t pay until you send the VA my registration information so I can get GI Bill money to pay my tuition.
Every semester. So, I have learned to anticipate this. The school has not. Just over a week before classes start I find myself in the same conundrum only this time it is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. In the school’s defense the VA has had a plethora of problems since it was activated the new bill last fall. So, it might not be the school or my fault, but fault of the VA. But this is silly, pointing the finger gets us nothing in life except the culprit of the stinky fart. This morning I decided to move on in life. I am not holding my breath that things will or won’t work out. I don’t care. I could finish my degree for the prestige that having a masters degree would get me, but if I don’t I still have the tools if not the qualifying documentation. In short I am completely defeated today. Things are out of my power to change so fuck it. I just don’t care anymore. I will move forward expecting my day to progressively get worse. And so fate has killed the last living optimist.
I grew up in a world of rainbows and butterflies. My parents looked on the brighter side of life, even if the brighter side was a bit abstract. When things went to hell my dad would always say, “Everyday we take a bite out of life’s shit sandwich. Some days it’s a little bite and some days it’s the whole damn sandwich.” Truer words had never been spoken until my sister recently informed me that we are the people lined up at the all you can eat shit buffet.
I can’t recall a particular event that led the rest of my family to believe that life is suffering and changing your attitude only prolongs the suffering until the day you realize it really is just suffering and you have been living a facade. However, until now I kept on believing things would indeed one day get better. I went through the Marine Corps with this blind hope. I took on each school and duty station with the sincere belief that things would work out now. They had to, there’s no way things could possibly get worse! Unfortunately I left the Marine Corps with no respect for most of the men and women I served alongside with and a lot of respect for the few honest men and women who put up with the bull shit so they can proudly wear the uniform.
Each unit I went my fellow servicemen got progressively more self-centered, more vindictive and all in all simply bad people. I left because I wanted to hold onto what little hope I still had in the human race. To me a group of men and women who take the same oath to defend our constitution should work together, but 99% of them waged war within the unit rather than our perceived enemy. And even more unfortunate 99% of them teamed together to wage war against those who didn’t drink their kool-aid brewed of discontent.
I left and yet things aren’t getting any better. I watch war unfold on CNN with the constant fear that I will be called back. I will honor my commitment to the Corps and proudly serve against my reservations I now have about the wars if this happens. I try to have a good attitude. I try to believe in the good of the human race, but apathy, laziness, incompetency of my fellow Americans make this hard. I watch as the government slowly seizes our constitutional rights and nobody does anything about it because it is easier not to fight. I try to look on the bright side of life because going through life knowing things will get worse with no hope at all will make you bitter and jaded – like my older sister. However, it was recently (just this morning) I realized why I am the last living optimist and my sister was the second to last. It has nothing to do with the events of your life or the attitude you take. It has to do with where your path is to begin with.
Like my experiences in the Marine Corps I go through life with the absolute blind faith that things could be better. I have spent my whole life thinking that my actions could lead me to this better world where I could live a better life. People with better attitudes just think their mindset can lead them down a sunnier path. I think it’s the path itself that is in the wrong location. My path is stuck in monsoon season. No matter how sunshiny I go through life it will always rain. My only hope is to change my path altogether. This is going to be difficult. Everyone else lives in normal clients where they get rainstorms only on occasion and can make it through holding onto the hope that there might be a rainbow afterwards if they hold their heads up high. They don’t have the difficult challenge of moving their path.
I can change my attitude but it would merely be a temporary fix. The fact that after year after year of living in a monsoon I still dumbly believe that it can get better makes me the last living optimist. Unfortunately, lately it seems my monsoon is teaming up with tsunami’s and I can’t even see the path anymore. My optimism isn’t lost, it’s drowning. But I have a responsibility. I have to find a way to move my path and lead others to do the same. Live by example. Changing my attitude would do little compared to changing my actions. So I move on from Antioch and the VA defeated, but this is just one battle. There are many more to fight. To loose. To win. Instead of going into this holiday season with the perceived good attitude full of holiday cheer I will live the whole year looking for opportunities to help those in need. I will not wait to celebrate the birth of Christ to pass on good will towards men. I will carry it throughout the year. On days that I am down I will look towards the realists, not the optimists to help pull me out of the flood and I will do my duty to the world as the last living optimists to believe this world can be better and it will take more than merely a good attitude to make that happen.