Friday, July 6, 2012

Controlling the Uncontrollable

It’s now been just over two full weeks since I’ve returned from my life-changing trip to Ethiopia and Uganda. Part of me feels like it was just yesterday – part of me feels as though it was ages ago. I feel like I’ve experienced the broadest range of emotions I’ve ever felt in such a short period of time – it’s like a hormonal woman gone wild. From joy to sorrow, from angst to peace, from anger to happiness. I never know how I’m going to feel when I wake up in the morning, or how I’ll feel when I go to bed at night. I think a lot about the children that I met while there – I wonder if they went to bed with a full tummy, if they had someone to tuck them in and tell them how much they’re loved; or if they are lonely and hungry.

One of the most common emotions I’ve felt since I’ve returned is rage, and I’ve had to learn how to control it, bite my tongue, and keep quiet. You see, I’ve had friends go to Africa, and they always come back and just say they can’t describe it. I always kind of thought it was silly. Honestly, I fully expect all of you to think I’m silly, I never understood until I saw it face to face. I feel like I had a good grasp on what I would see and experience, but it was so much more than I could have ever expected or prepared myself for. I know everyone is different. Some people might go and think, “Well, I’ve experienced it, that’s enough for me…” and go on with their lives. Others may say, “Well it was sad, but it didn’t really affect me…” or they could be like me and say, “I’m completely ruined and broken-hearted for that country and I can’t wait to return…” or maybe somewhere in between.

I live a pretty great life. I have a job that I love, surrounded by amazing friends who I consider family, have two beautiful, healthy children. I live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood, have a dependable car. I get to go out to dinner, spend time with my friends, travel, shop. I by no means live a luxurious life, but I’m comfortable. And up until I went on this trip, I felt like I was entitled. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am today; I deserve all of this. The truth is, for me, is that I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve this fortunate lifestyle – none of us do. We’re a product of circumstance. We were lucky enough to be born into this wonderful country and society. We aren’t any more deserving than any other person in this world. Yet, somehow, so many of us (myself included) have taken our fortune for granted.  

This is where the rage comes in. I see and hear people constantly complaining (complain and debate are different, also) about the smallest things. Traffic was bad, they have a cold, the neighbor gave them a dirty look, the store didn’t have their size (how dare they), it rained on their vacation, the restaurant messed up their order, it’s so hot outside, or one I've used recently - tickets were sold out, I could go on. (Again, I’m guilty of all of this, I am not trying to be superior here). The thing is, I make a conscious effort to look at everything differently now. I’m still me through and through but my heart is different. I have a drastically changed perspective, and there are days it takes every single last bit of self-control in me to not shake someone and say, “SHUT UP! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW GREAT YOU HAVE IT!”

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with lately. My point is, when you’re complaining, stop for two seconds and think if it really matters, if you’ll really care in 5 years, better yet 5 months, heck 5 days! Be thankful. Be grateful. Soften your heart. Love others. Let others love you. Take out the negativity in your life and be the type of person others want to be around. I’m not perfect, I’m not even close, and I never will be and I don’t claim to be better than anyone else. I just want people to be empathetic. Show a little grace, a little love, a little mercy. Make a difference. Control what is controllable. You cannot control the things that happen to you, but you can always control how you react to them.

Again, I owe my friends (who are really my family), and my fellow trip goers a huge thank you. Throughout the up and down emotions, the crying, the anger, the character that really hasn’t been me over the past two weeks, you have all been supportive, loving, and exactly what I’ve needed. Some days someone will randomly say something to me that is the calm to my storm without even knowing there was anything wrong. This was a life-changing experience, and I’m so glad you all have been patient enough to let me live it out and work through it. You’ve been the light to my dark and the fuel to my fire.