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The Conquering Ego

egoWhen the chips are down, asking for help can be risky business.  There are some folks, however, who are all too comfortable leaning on others; they are altogether an entirely different story.  For must of us though, asking for help is like making a deal with the devil.  It means admitting that we are not the rugged, problem solving individuals that society expects us to be.  Once we ask for it, we surrender our control; we become weak, needy and incompetent.  We have a tendency to act as though it’s a complete and total character deficiency, as if we are letting our guards down to somehow invite hurt and embarrassment in.  God forbid our request for help is used against us.  We worry about what will be expected of us in return.  What price must we pay for this help since modern civilization has adopted a reciprocal relationship system (tit-for-tat) so that we don’t feel indebted to those who answered our call?  There is also the fear that we may present our request to the wrong individual and then suffer with a lifelong hovering and patronizing relationship. 

Help me.  How can two little words (three if you’re polite about it) have so much drama attached to it?  And where did the drama come from?  Deep down inside us – in one of our special places – lies an insidious beast that operates solely and inconspicuously on preventing our humility from being nurtured.  This beast is Egocentricity.   This egocentric thinking keeps us wrapped up in our own definition of a thing, even if it may be false.   Most individuals, especially those that genuinely love us, want to help us and more importantly have a need to help us.  They derive a pleasure, a personal satisfaction, and a (perhaps fleeting) sense of purpose to something outside themselves – when helping others.  

People ask me for help all the time, and I give it… freely.  I also know that I don’t judge those that ask me for help, nor do I condemn them to my egocentric thinking.  On the contrary, I credit their strength and courage to recognize their limits as well as their willingness to stretch outside themselves to push past what they know – into what they don’t know.  And sometimes this means requesting help.  How can I consider this to be a strength in others and yet a weakness in myself?

In order for me to even the playing field, I need to let my ego know that I can not be identified on the basis of my achievements – or lack thereof.  It should also learn that I have no need to always be right, (even though I do really like to be) and that I am superior only to my former self.  I will not concern myself with what others think of me, even if their opinions are valued and loved.  Life is not a game to be won, nor to divide it’s participants into groups of winners and losers based on our own egocentrically driven ideals.

Trust, not control, will determine my course.  Faith in another, not certainty of outcome, will be my guide.  We can’t always know/be/do everything, sometimes we will need help, even if it is just a safe place to express that we can’t always know/be/do everything.  I will apply this understanding to myself and I will be better at asking for help, more direct in my approach and with less consideration to my unfaultering ego. 

The choice is mine.  Now it’s time for a chat with my pride…

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A woman with no nose.

As a young girl, I would hang around in my grandfather’s workshop daydreaming the hours away.  Above his bench there was a small black cast iron plate that read “I once complained that I had no shoes… until I met a man with no feet”.  Even as a young girl that resonated with me.   My grandfather and his bench have been gone for 30 years, but that simple quote still plays in my head. 

The other day I stood patiently in line for the cashier at the corner Dollar Stop.  An old woman in front of me (moving impossibly slow) had far too many packages and bags for her cane to allow, and not near enough nimbleness of fingers to find her wallet and count out her total in coins, which I knew to be inevitability.  With her back to me, I passed the time imagining her haggard features and the events of her life that led her to this moment in time where she now stood before me and my ultimate freedom from the store.

In one quick second the old woman lost her wallet to the floor and the coins bounced and rolled in all directions.  Instinctively I dropped to the floor to begin the task of retrieval.  I quickly gathered her entire payment into the palm of my hand and gently extended my hand to the woman …whose back was still facing me.   She turned slowly and deliberately, (only later did I consider it a mustering of courage) and the old woman looked me in the face with the gentle eyes of a long lived life. 

There was a white surgical bandage running the length of her face, starting at forehead space between her eyes and stopping just short of her thin and chapped lips.  More startling than the presence of this white bandage was the absence of the bump from her nose.  The bandage was neatly placed, without wrinkle, and placed as smoothly against her skin as it would have been upon a tabletop.  I could hear the insensitive gasps of shoppers behind me and I squared my shoulders to block them from her view.  I kept my eyes locked on hers and with a genuine smile I took her small hand and placed her coins into them.   Her hesitancy broke my heart and in the same moment I suggested that if she was interested in throwing her money away that she might give me a moment to prepare a bag for catching it.  With this small joke the cashier giggled and the old woman smiled and spoke to me for the first time; an offer of thanks and an explanation of age for her clumsy nature.  With that, the old woman was gone and I was left with my silent curiosities and a total abandonment of my earlier impatience.

On the ride home the old woman dominated my thoughts.   Again I considered the events of her life that had led her to this moment.  The courage and strength she must wear out of the safety of her home like a coat and the sheer pleasure of a simple outing to the Dollar Stop.   This was a teachable moment for me.

What I take for granted can sometimes be as obvious as the nose on my face.

~uberscribbler

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Cancer chasing cancer (An excerpt from my journals)

In 2006 I was dying.  I was diagnosed with a voracious and debilitating disease that ate away at my mind, body and spirit.  I was diagnosed with cancer.  Upon hearing my diagnosis, I knew myself to be dead within 24 hours.  I had been forever linked to a new race of people, a casualty of a physical war upon my body with a stigma of epic proportions.  In a matter of moments my identity of strength, health and confidence was wiped clean only to be replaced by weakness, pity and fear.  Total strangers would sigh their pity as I passed them and even my friends and family would avert their eyes from mine as my last eyelash came floating down before them.  I was alone… alone with death.

 

A diagnosis of cancer brings together a combination of two unfortunate diseases in one – a double whammy of stress and strain.  Physical cancer eats away at your cells with the sole intention of your eventual death and emotional cancer attacks your mind and your spirit but is as equally dangerous and unforgiving. 

 

Not all cancers are the same, nor are all emotional impacts, but what I have determined to be true is that if left unchecked and ignored the emotional cancer can be your death… even if your body lives on.  Physical cancer affects you individually; emotional cancer is contagious and can infect those around you.  I have found this cancer, the emotional cancer, to be the most debilitating, the one that caused me the most suffering, and the most widely misunderstood and untreated cancer of them all.

 

We’ve been conditioned to fear cancer, and we do so dutifully.  We fear – we fear what cancer does, we fear the mystery of it, we fear loss of life, incapacitation and loss of control.  We avoid the discussion, we encourage those afflicted to think positive and we turn our loved ones into warriors insisting that they are not trying hard enough should treatment be failing.  Cancer causes suffering, not just for some, but for all who are touched by it.  There may be varying degrees but it’s not just some who struggle with fear and self-pity while others show courage and strength, everyone afflicted will have moments of each; its only the moments that you see them that you may pass judgement and decide for them.  The emotional cancer is a culmination of all the dark feelings as well as the courageous and hopeful feelings all rolling around together competing to come out on top.  Who wins one day is a coin toss really, and each day (or hour for that matter) can be different.  These dark feelings are where our fears are; this is the mystery of cancer. It’s important to know that the cancer itself is not the monster, it’s our perceptions of it that makes it our reality.  Recognizing our feelings and accepting that we will be engulfed in varying emotions from time to time is the first step in understanding the truth about cancer.  Emotions are raw and honest and there is no shame in being human and allowing yourself to feel.  When you understand this truth, then you can begin to teach hope. 

 

~uberscribbler

 

 

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