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Thursday, December 26, 2013

A life less shitty

Okay, last quote from Middlemarch, I promise:

"Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

I always felt if something was wrong for someone I love, I had to fix it completely. That there must be something that I could do to reverse the wrong thing. That if I could say just the perfect thing or give the perfect present, the sadness and hurt could be wiped away. I think others feel this way too sometimes. Sometimes, if they don't know the perfect thing to say, they don't say anything at all.

I guess its our narcissm that contributes to this. Our belief that we are powerful enough, important enough, to fix broken things just by wishing it. By getting some small thing right, we can fix everything. And become heroes, I guess, having commited "historic acts."

The thing that it has taken me my whole life to learn, and is so beautifully stated above, is that it doesn't work that way. The world is built on a few grand gestures, yes,  but also a million small ones. 

I think people feel overwhelmed sometimes by the largeness of everything, and how difficult it is to stand out. There are a thousand, or maybe a million, people in the world who are identical or very similar to me. The point that Eliot makes here is that it's fine. Not standing out is not a failure. Your talents can be put good use, and you can help many people in your own quiet way. And it means something.

Don't try to do it all. Instead, just do something.

If someone you know is going through someone rough, don't task yourself with fixing it, or even making it better. Just try to make it a little less shitty. Mom's dog died? Give her a hug. Neighbor lost his job? Buy him a cup of coffee. Friend's got cancer? Take her to a movie.  

The phone calls, the chocolate bars, the visits -- these make the difference between someone powering through and scraping by. 

This is my goal for 2014: Make things less shitty.     

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