Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reality check

Today is my birthday. My birthday present to myself...
: noun, a freeing or being freed from illusion.

It sounds negative. Harsh. I guess if you blind-side someone else with it, it can be. But... eyes open, facing forward. It is a gift.

Reality for the realist or the pessimist creates the norm. For an idealist and optimist like myself. Reality shifts perspective. A shift in perspective always involves some creativity. And creativity is always a welcome gift... in my world anyway.

In the trite but true category, for the most part I like to think I've taken Casey Kasem's advice to keep my feet on the ground while reaching for the stars. I haven't listened to the top 40 show in a while, so I'm not sure if DJ Kasem is still offering those words of wisdom. Either way. It takes a conscious effort to perform that exercise with a personality like mine. Any optimist/idealist will tell you. Staying in touch with reality, on a list of priorities, is right there with keeping in touch with your second cousin's best friend's ex-girlfriend's mother... once removed. But because it's important to your cousin, you do it.

Though I thought had I been in reality mode, this week I came crashing back to Earth with some disappointments. It says nothing about the people involved. They didn't change. They are still perfectly human i.e. imperfect... the way I prefer my fellow human beings. (Feet on the ground!)

So when some of the people in my life this week didn't live up to all of their promises I had to look at the big picture. The question I had to ask was whether or not these people failed in reality or if they had only failed to live up to my idealized view of them.

A long-held belief of mine that everyone and everything deserves a second chance shows how my optimism sometimes rescues me from my idealism. A quotation of Eleanor Roosevelt's that I carry around with me, literally and figuratively, expresses this best:

All human beings have failings, all human beings have needs and temptations and stresses. Men and women who live together through long years get to know one another's failings; but they also come to know what is worthy of respect and admiration in those they live with and in themselves.

If at the end one can say, "this man used to the limit the powers that God granted him; he was worthy of love and respect and of the sacrifices of many people, made in order that he might achieve what he deemed to be his task," then that life has been lived well and there are no regrets. -- Eleanor Roosevelt

So now after my illusion-ectomy. I feel readjusted. Refreshed. Back to my usual big picture, in which
I'd much rather believe in people and be wrong on occasion than be right about people on occasion for all the wrong reasons. It takes a lot less energy. Being right for the wrong reasons just doesn't seem to be worth the extra effort.

A special shout out to my friend and "sherpa-hero" Jennzing, because she helped me get to this spot. :)

Special note: I don't mean to be vague or cryptic about any of this. If elaboration seems necessary, perhaps in future posts I can share more concrete stories to illustrate these thoughts. For now though you can have concept, metaphor and broad terms.

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