Yow! I’m a whiny American!! Taking lessons from the people of South Sudan.

I’m one of those people who whines when something doesn’t go my way. I suppose this is because I was born to think things were actually supposed to go my way. Is this a rich, Western world thing? I wish I was born in some foreign country, or spent a sufficient amount of time somewhere else where the idea of life being easy is not a given. I’m not saying I want to go to some poor, unfortunate land so I can return to Boston and remind myself how good I have it. Not at all.  What I want is to reset my mindset of what it is I should expect out of life. I want to gain that optimistic perspective that things are the way they are, and they can get better, or worse – that there are no promises. Life wasn’t meant to be easy or fair. Nor was it meant to be extravagant. I want to enjoy life on a realistic scale where I don’t look to an ever-increasing salary to equal ever-increasing happiness.

Research often shows that people from African nations are more optimistic about the future than us Westerners. As a researcher I know I’m making a rather weak statement that can be interpreted in a number of ways. Just play with me here, okay?  This blog is “data-lite.”  From time to time I think about Sasha’s trip to South Sudan where he witnessed the liberation of a couple hundred people who had been living in slavery in the North part of the country to the newest nation in the world, South Sudan. These people lived in hell. Men and women worked tirelessly (you all know what slavery is, I don’t need to explain), women were raped, children were born into this life (some from slave masters), and  other things occurred that we have been thankfully spared. I was impressed by the photos of children smiling and laughing; playing soccer, following Sasha around cause he’s a funny white guy – and the women. What the women have been through is enough to kill one of heartbreak alone. So what do they do? Meditation. Beading and Breathing (PDF linked for your reading pleasure). They support each other. They smile. They carry their babies on slings and breastfeed. They move on. Forward. These people get a big bag of rice and a goat and whatever else Christian Solidarity International can get for them, or whomever else, and they start their new life.

I’m in awe of their easy smiles. And their hope. And I wish for them that the rest of their lives are peaceful, uneventful, and fulfilling.

I want the strength to deal with a really difficult manager, or a job where I feel “depressed” because I’m “underutilized.” I want to put it in a box at the end of the day (assuming that work ends at the end of the day) and say, damn, I’m lucky. Period. I want the perspective to realize every day when I wake up that I am so lucky. I don’t have a job YET, yet Sasha encourages me to go out on girls’ night, and chastises me for not getting a manicure. I am lucky to send Liron to a great school, and a really great one in the fall that is free, where she will get speech therapy and occupational therapy (off those toes!!) because we are tax-paying residents of Boston. My bank account is quickly draining, but I don’t see moving out of this great city any time soon. F*&K You Chick-Fil-A – I live in a city that isn’t perfect, but we stand up for people who love people who love chicken. That’s right. PEOPLE who LOVE PEOPLE who LOVE CHICKEN. And if you don’t love chicken. That’s fine too. Visit a local farmer’s market. Get some Kale. Roast it with sea salt and olive oil. move on.

Sure, I feel insecure that things haven’t exactly gone my way every step of my career, but a wise girlfriend of mine often reminds me “All roads lead to Rome.” And that must be true because my friend is a “wicked genius.” Oddly enough, and maybe it’s an omen, we saw To Rome with Love last night (my second time in a month). Hmmm. An omen? Hopefully.

Maybe right here from my desk I can work on my expectations for work/life and the future, and how I handle challenges. I know the future is bright, as is the present. I’m just one of those people who tends to focus on what’s not going right and any feelings about perceived failures or weaknesses drive how I feel about myself and my life. And that’s not necessary. I want to keep looking forward and not back. So maybe I’ll look at those South Sudan pictures some more and take inspiration from some true heroes, survivors.

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