I don’t like going to unnecessary funerals.
You know the kind of funeral I mean. I’m talking about going to a funeral where the person who has died managed to kill themselves from overeating, undereating, drug abuse, alcoholism, or refusing to seek medical care.
Unnecessary funerals for people who threw their lives away are a drag.
However — and here’s the truth of it — each and every one of us makes choices each and every day that waste pieces of our lives.
How do we waste our lives? Here are a few examples I’ve seen, as well as a few examples I’ve practiced.
1. Nursing resentments over our childhood.
Freud taught our whole Western world that childhood is a minefield of damaging little bombs that our parents usher us through as they lead us to adulthood.
In Freud’s misogynist view of things, our mothers are the cause of just about every problem we will ever have. Most of what Freud thought has turned out to be tripe. In this case, it was sexist tripe. However, we have latched onto the notion that childhood is a time for us to re-visit ad nauseam throughout our lives and that we can blame anything we do or don’t do in the span of our days on those musty memories of our littlest years.
Done this way, childhood is the ultimate cop-out. It is also the ultimate life-waster. I know people in their sixties who manage to turn every conversation back to the supposed wrongs of their childhoods. These are miserable, unproductive, resentful people that nobody who has anything going on wants to be around. Don’t waste your life like this.
2. Nursing resentments over things that happen on your job.
Making a living is a hard deal. We talk all the time in our society about “loving” our work. Well, I’m here to burst your bubble and tell you that even if you have managed to find some sort of work that is challenging, interesting and significant (lucky you, by the way) you are still going to find out that it’s also competitive, (and not always in a good way) ruthless, unforgiving and downright mean.
Making a living is hard.
For most people, who don’t have jobs that are challenging, interesting and significant, it can also be drudgery. However, bringing all this home and letting it inhabit all the rest of your time is a good way to waste your life.
Leave your job at your job. On the days you can’t do that — and we all have them — when the misery of your job crawls all over you and you can’t leave it there, remember that your family is support, not your enemy, and your home is your refuge. Don’t misplace your anger over your work onto the few people who truly love you.
Once you get past those total downer days, leave it there and go on. Earning a living is tough. Accept that and stop wasting your life on the fantasy that you are cursed because you have to earn a living and it’s not always fun. That fantasy leads to life-wasting resentment that can destroy your family and drain your days of happiness. Making a living is hard. Get over it.
3. Nursing resentments about your failures.
My Grandfather told me once, “There is always some guy out there who can whip you in a fight. There’s always a horse that can throw you. That’s just the way it is.” What he meant is that if you get out there and mix it up with the world, the world is going to knock you flat from time to time.
You can waste your life running and hiding from every challenge. You can hide inside your house and not come out, or you can hide in the slow suicide of drugs and alcohol. But if you chose to live out in the world and walk free, you are going to get knocked down from time to time. Sometimes you eat the bear. Other times, the bear eats you.
Again, I know people who make their lives utterly miserable by picking at every failure until they turn it into a festering boil. They never admit that the failure was at least partly due to their own mistakes. They wouldn’t consider looking at it honestly and determining what they can change to not get knocked down in the future. No. They blame everyone and everything, often indulging in what are flat-out fantasies of supposed wrongs in order to keep from acknowledging the simple fact that this time the bear ate them.
Not only do they waste what could be a valuable learning experience that will help them figure out how to overcome these obstacles in the future, they waste the only thing they truly have. They waste their lives.
I’m going to stop with these three life-wasters. Three is enough for now. However there a many others. Notice that all these focus on one thing: Nursing and nurturing resentment over the inevitable vicissitudes of life.
If somebody told you that you will get through this life without having your parents make mistakes in how they raised you, without the drudgery of work, without humiliating defeats and embarrassing goofs, they were either deluded or they were lying to you.
Life is beautiful. It is wonderful. It is worth every single bit of drudgery and pain, failure and betrayal we encounter as we live through it.
But it is not painless. That is not a bad thing. The tough times often turn out, in retrospect, to be the most productive times. You just have to learn from them. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn what not to do and how to do it better the next time.
Life may be hard at times. It is hard at times. But it is always worth the struggle. Because the good times outnumber the bad, and because this brief life is a preparation for the eternal life on the other side of it.
Don’t waste this life God has given you on the three resentments I named.
Once childhood is done, live your life and love your parents. Forget about the rest.
Remember that work, even if it seems meaningless and filled with back-stabbing nonsense, is still an honorable activity that provides the stuff of our physical existence: food, clothing and shelter. If you are supporting a family, then your work has the immense dignity of homemaking and family making. Do not let resentment over work poison your whole life and destroy your relationships with the very people you are working to support.
When — not if, but when — you get knocked flat, go ahead and cry about it. Cry your little eyes out. Punch out a couple of walls. What you should not do is indulge in blaming everything and everyone else and building up resentments. I’m sure there are people you can point to who let you down, betrayed you, or just walked away from you when you were in need. It’s ok to be mad at them. But it’s not ok to make them the center of your life or of your analysis of what happened that led to your defeat. If you trusted the wrong person, you trusted the wrong person. Been there. Done that. Lots of times.
What you should do is take some time to grieve, making sure the time you give is commensurate with the loss. Two weeks of wailing and moaning is not enough time for a major flop, but it is excessive for a bad grade on a test. Then, straighten yourself out, sit down and figure out what you could have done to get a different result. Think it through with a mind to not make the same mistakes again. Then, get back out there and rejoin the fight.
I don’t like unnecessary funerals. I also don’t like being around people who are constantly angry and miserable about ordinary things that happened five, ten, even thirty years ago. I’m not talking about massive traumas. Those things usually need professional help to heal. I’m talking about the pits and scars of everyday life that happen to every single one of us.
Don’t waste your life using resentment to avoid reality. The reality is that your parents did their best, making a living is hard and everybody gets knocked flat from time to time. These things are not the meaning of your life. They are opportunities for growth. Overcoming them to lead a full, productive life that is filled with love is the challenge and the opportunity of living that everyone faces. Not just you, everyone.