... never, never rest, 'til your good is better, and your better, best." (- St. Jerome)
That seems like such a tall order right now. But the worse things are, the more I need to remember it.
For the past few weeks I have been struggling more than usual with my tendency to ruminate over slings and arrows aimed in my general direction. It is a complicated situation which fortunately has nothing to do with my home life or my work life but affects me in a more public way. But my post is not about that - it's really just about me trying to smack myself upside the head and do better at being better.
I decided to dig into my digital file of quotations and little verses that encapsulate Things I Should Remember. They sum up life lessons that I have learned through the years, sometimes painfully. They also represent life lessons that I have yet to master. They are a beacon of goodness that I can read and say, Yes, this is important, and without this, I am not fit to be around other people.
So I dug into the file, because I've been grumpy lately, and because why save the good stuff in a file, real or digital, and never get around to using it?
Samuel Johnson had two bits of advice that made it into my file. Since I have what I consider to be very high standards for my file of good stuff, that made me sit up and take notice. What I noticed first was that I don't have a clue who Samuel Johnson is. So I Googled him (of course), and if you are likewise wondering what kind of person he was and what he did, go to this link for a short Wikipedia article that will fill you in.
Here is the first quotation from him that I liked:
“Reproof should not exhaust its power upon petty failings.”
How true that is. Save your disapproval for the big stuff. Don't use a peashooter on every little thing. If something big comes along, and you can do some good with your objections, load up a cannon, aim carefully, and put things right. I'm thinking that may not be the best analogy because a cannon is kind of overkill most of the time, but analogies never were my strong suit. I have a very literal mind. But I think I get his point.
And Sam again:
"To hear complaints is wearisome alike to the wretched and the happy."
Other people might be happy, or not, but it doesn't matter - nobody wants to listen to me whine. I still want to whine, badly. But it's not going to win friends and influence people, as Dale Carnegie put it. Instead, it will make me look like a big whinypants. Maybe even a Whiny McWhinypants. Because I would BE one.
So, how should I be behaving instead?
A long time ago, Aristotle said:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
And he was right. Maybe it's hard right now not to reply to the insults and innuendo, but with practice, maybe it will get easier. And when it's finally easier, I will hopefully be a slightly better person.
I'm trying, but - oh, man, this is hard. Like HARD hard. Like SISYPHUS hard. If you'd like a breather from all the stern self-talk I'm sharing here, have a look at this video, which is much cuter than a quote from Wikipedia about Sisyphus would be, but makes the same point.
That video is really, REALLY cute. Did you skip it? I'll wait while you backtrack. It is an excellent visual representation of how I feel right now .......
Oh. Ohhhh. I believe I am guilty of whining right there. I'm sorry.
Moving along now, with my big backpack of woe. I do believe the next verse sums up what I should be focusing on, instead of what I should not be focusing on. There is a subtle but important difference between the two.
Do all the good you can.
By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can.
In all the places you can.
At all the times you can.
To all the people you can.
As long as ever you can.
That covers all the bases, I think.
And it brings me to a quote my mother has loved all her life, taught to her by her father, and taught by her to me:
"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." (commonly attributed to Stephen Grellet, Quaker missionary)
There is no lack of inspiration here to be a better person, but I'm really starting to think I need a rubber mallet to pound this stuff into my head. Wish me luck, please, and pass the mallet.
Bad thoughts, listen up:
Fly away now ... far, far away. Whiny McWhinypants has spoken.