It becomes part of our being, hugging us like skin. Not something that you can slip off at night and toss on the floor with the clothing of the day. No, attitude is much deeper and harder to change. Attitude begins to grow within us as babies when we are introduced to the world around us. We learn to love, we learn to hate, we learn to discern as bad and good. Yet somewhere along the journey of life, some of us may find ourselves consumed with the negative…like straining to see in the dark of the night…only making out the bad things around us.
Many times a parent declares, “I don’t like your attitude” or “you need to change your attitude” without understanding how difficult this process of change can be… We are asking one to quickly morph into another… or face our consequences. Yet we as parents have helped define their attitudes. Combine that with the world we currently live in…wow it is a ticking time bomb. Take a moment and consider that children are living in a very complex world today. You and I may have walked a mile to school (I confess I did not) but we never dealt with the intensity and gravity of cyber bullying. We may have had to eat what was on our plate or go hungry ( I hated roast beef) yet we never felt the aggression and severe emotional pressure many kids of today experience. Today for fun, our children occupy their time with a never-ending visual stimulation of violence through our media and high def gaming videos. They kill with a deft handling the game a skill once acquired by playing jacks or marbles. They watch live social media capturing death, destruction, mayhem and violence. Some kids have had siblings, friends, parents die on the streets. Today doomsday preppers are glamorized on tv as they are proudly hording guns and ammunition…life and death, killing and survival concepts discussed as matter of fact like cooking shows and recipes. It has become a harsh world. Attitudes become armor to protect from that which is so difficult to deal with in life. And we are partially responsible as parents. As adults we become blind to the attitudes we carry as we strive to make the dollar, pay the bills and seek our own escape from the craziness. But we all travel with deep feelings and beliefs that keep us separated from each other. And we teach our children to do the same. Attitudes, they are so hard to change…
So what happens to tomorrow if there is not a positive shift in attitude? What happens if the adults do not begin to see that their bigotry, intolerance and closed minds are imprinted upon their children? I do not want to go there. Attitude…while deeply ingrained does carry ability to change. We see an epiphany realized by the family who adamantly declares strong anti-gay attitudes…until a loved one comes out. We see the ability to empathize during a natural catastrophe…as strangers extend a hand or even risk their life for another. Why is it only then that we are willing to see beyond the dark…why is it only then that we feel we are all a part of a larger whole? Those beautiful moments when a connection of respect for life of another is made with no thought of what is to be gained in return- action without attitude.
I often wonder why we wait until desperate times to rise above our attitudes. Why do we join the cause only after we feel personally affected by the war. Cancer, poverty, unemployment, inequality, gun violence, bullying, racism, sexual abuse, domestic violence, addiction…on and on they march in front of us. Our attitudes block us from the fight unless life has chosen to throw us through the ropes. Only then do many of us awaken and see that the fight is worthy. We take up our sword and add cause to our existence. But I ask, why wait?
The promise of a new day. It nudges me awake in the wee morning hours between the sunset of yesterdays and the hopes and dreams of tomorrows. It is simply- today. Unable to determine the impending success of it, I rise to greet this unwrapped “present” and see what it has in store for me. Today…that unknown, unseen space of time which courses through my veins and continuously reminds my heart to beat and my lungs to breathe.
I anticipate the moments spent … the choices made and the road my soul determines to take. For I am not promised more than possibility, not promised that I will end this day with contentment or even in the arms of my beloved. As I sit here and contemplate, I watch the world wake up outside my window. Without notice, the lights of daylight begin to shine and the shadows around me shorten.
I think about the homeless and what the morning means to them as their journey continues. I think about the hungry as they face another day to quiet their empty bellies. I think about the sick and their struggle to overcome pain and suffering yet again. I think about the angry, bullied child who does not know love and the day is long and lonely. I think about the many who are afraid, tired and troubled…those that may not think they can or should survive another day.
I cannot stop wondering where the world will be when this day is done. There is a certain responsibility to living that should be acknowledged and respected. We are all intertwined, our decisions and actions affecting each other’s life more than we will ever know. So I contemplate what choices others will have made and what consequences will be felt. What choices will I have made and what consequences will be felt.
The unseen birds begin to chirp and chatter. The painted sunrise completes the affirmation. A new day is here.
Why did I secretly and silently yearn to be one of those “older teenage girls” when I was but a young shy ten-year old? They were so much cooler than me. They walked with confidence and had many friends and knew what to expect of the world around them- or so I thought.
Why did I impatiently desire to be one of those “older college girls” when I was but a young and insecure high school student? They were so much cooler than me. They lived a carefree life, made their own rules and walked their own paths. They had the world by the tail and life was filled with possibilities and freedom- or so I thought.
Why did I eagerly desire to be one of those “married girls” who sported a diamond ring and a doting husband. Anticipating a family and a house to call my own as I endlessly grazed through magazines at long wedding dresses and dog-eared my favorites. My name repeatedly written adding his last name in a fancy longhand script complete with extra loops and swirls. Surely a fulfilled, dreamy life- or so I thought.
Why did I passionately yearn with desire to be a professional woman when I was still a new mother and wife. Those women in suits and pressed collars with a daily destination that was so different from mine. They were driven, successful and had a career attached to their identity. I too wanted to make my mark in the world in some way. I wanted my family to be proud of me and my children to see that they could reach for the stars and achieve. Success defined who I am- or so I thought.
Why do I now so desperately desire to live in the moment? No longer anxiously striving to see beyond the mist of tomorrow. Could it be that I have learned a lesson or two along the way? Why those teenage girls had no more confidence than me. They were looking ahead and wishing to be that dauntless college girl. Yet those college girls had learned that they do not make up all the rules and life is not so carefree when you are struggling with limited funds and long nights of studying. Ah and the married girls ….a tough new world when learning to share the good and bad with a partner. Babies crying in the night, bills to be paid and learning the rules of give and take. The professional women… in suits and high heels paid more that the price of their clothing. Obligations of work did not make the sleepless nights and responsibilities of parenthood any easier. I find my mark in the professional world is but a carved groove in my soul. A personal knowledge of life that I have earned and value more that the money paid by my salary…yet even a well-defined career has rough edges to wear down.
So now…my deepest desires are quite simple. To live today…smile today…play today…breathe today…love today and reflect on yesterday with awe and gratitude for the journey I have taken. I am still that little girl deep inside but I have confidence, I walk my own path, I love my marriage, and I marvel at my children…as they reach to fill their dreams and desires and anticipate tomorrow. I define who I am…no one else. It has been a whirlwind trip to reach this epiphany. Some days were real struggles and still are from time to time. While I still make plans for tomorrow and the days after, I now know that today is the real gift from the universe- it is the present and I strive to unwrap each day with patience, reverence and awe…and love.
I once knew a boy who was as shy as the breeze on a sweltering summer day. He held big blue eyes and a smile of pure innocence that melted my heart. Wearing a superman cape and too short pajama bottoms, running through the house with The Wizard of Oz rewinding for yet another viewing- a boy I once knew.
I once knew a boy who was the quietest child in preschool – so I was told. He often played alone and never ever bossed or demanded of another. Swept away by the diagnosis of severe hearing loss at age four…I simply smiled in his presence but cried many tears apart from him. I felt an unfairness to be true- a certain sadness that his future would not be as envisioned. You know, perfectly planned out as parents do once we count the fingers and toes.
I once knew a boy who read books in utter silence for hours- stuck in his hands as if glued to the fingers. Carefully respected, never dog-eared and ever broken at the spine. Books were his love and sweetest treasure, especially those with maps. Reading became a world yet to discover and full of possibilities. A world he loved dearly. This little guy knew the beauty of the written word and its ability to transcend the present taking him to new places and adventures- without the demand for sound and leaving spoken words unheard.
I once knew a boy who taught me that life is what we make of it. We can stop and give up when the road ahead seems just too hard and long or we can walk on and figure it out along the way. We can wish for what we cannot have or appreciate what we possess and use our talents wisely. We can step over those who are in our way or reach down and pull them up with us. I have learned a lot from a boy I once knew…now a man I call my son.