Carmon, of Life at Star’s Rest, has tagged me for a meme, one she suggested in a comment on this blog would be “pretty easy.” I’m supposed to list six things I’m proud of.
On the surface that sounds easy: children, grandchildren, country, uh....uh...
That’s as far as I got before I realized this would be the most difficult meme I’ve ever attempted. It was Friday when I read that I’d been tagged, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, trying to evaluate every possible answer for its truthfulness. What I discovered, to my dismay, is that listing things I’m not proud of would be an easier task. That would be a longer list, too.
Nevertheless, after much soul-searching, here is my list of six things I’m proud of (sort of):
1. I’m proud that I have an innate sense of fairness that allows me to see and understand both sides of an issue. This has been an asset in my career, when I’ve been able to help one person understand another’s point of view, and in my personal life, when I’ve been able to step back from my own opinion long enough to learn from someone else’s.
Sometimes the fairness thing annoys people. When someone makes a sweeping generalization and waits for me to respond affirmatively, I rarely do, because my mind immediately begins screaming, “Wait a minute, that’s not always true; what about this or that?” Sometimes I can keep those arguments to myself and sometimes I can’t.
Fairness is not at the top of the list of things I’m proud of, but I listed it first because it’s the thing that made this list so hard to complete. As soon as I’d think of something to be proud of, I’d think, well, that’s one way to look at it, but the flip side of it is...
You get the picture.
2. I mentioned my children and grandchildren above. Because they, and probably you by now, already know how proud I am of them, I’ll lump them together with the rest of my family for the purposes of this exercise. Family includes in-laws, too, not just the folks whose genes I share.
I’m immensely proud to be part of this large group of people. They’re bright, funny, loving and giving. They know when to have a good time and when to get serious, and they make me feel wonderful in their company. I love these people deeply.
As individuals, we’re not without our problems. My father joked once that there’d be enough anti-depressants at our family reunion to stock a pharmacy, and he may not have missed the mark by much. For the most part, we’re normal, stable, compassionate, good citizens, but we’ve all had at least brief moments of heartbreak or melancholy that knocked us for a loop
As a family, we are perfect in our imperfections. Although we’ve traveled some bumpy roads, we’ve helped each other smooth out the bumps, and there’s been plenty of love, joy and laughter along the way.
3. I’m proud to be an American, even if I haven’t always been proud of the actions and decisions of our government. The thing is, though, I expect the French are proud of France and the Brits are proud of Great Britain, and I believe they have a right to be.
When I think about America, what I feel more than pride is great good fortune. How lucky am I to have been born in a land of such abundance and opportunity? By an accident of birth, I hit the geographic lottery.
Once again, in the interest of fairness, I realize that there are pockets of poverty and misfortune right here in the good ol’ US of A. I guess I’m most proud of America when I see our citizens working together to take care of the least among us.
4. I’m proud to be a good listener, I’m proud that I can keep a confidence, and I’m proud that I mind my own business. Most of the time. I’ve bundled these three qualities together because they often become important at the same time, in the same situation.
I can listen empathetically for long stretches of time without feeling the need to interrupt and turn the conversation back to what I’d prefer to talk about. I’m proud of this because there have been times in my life when being able to talk to a good listener has lifted my own spirits, and it makes me feel good to do that for others. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that my personal store of empathy and compassion is finite. If I hear someone complain about the same things over and over and over again, I not only cease listening, I may even begin to hide from that person. I’m not proud of that, but it helps me maintain my sanity.
When, while listening, I’m asked to keep a confidence, I do exactly that. Almost always and almost always forever. The exception to that rule occurs rarely, only if someone drops a bombshell that explodes into my own life. In that case I reserve the right to seek out my own good listener, one who can also keep a confidence, to help me think things through.
I mind my own business, and usually I’m proud of that. If you tell me A, B and C, I’ll assume that's all you want to say and that if you want me to know X, Y and Z, you’ll tell me in your own good time. Till then, I won’t pry. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that a lot of people aren’t straightforward about asking for help when they need it, and I, in the course of minding my own business, have missed some vital hints. Sometimes everyone would have been better off if I had asked a couple of probing questions.
5. I’m proud that I’ve had some long-term jobs, one for seventeen years and the current one (in one variation or another) for nearly ten. It pleases me to know that I stayed the course through various assignments and various supervisors, remaining flexible enough to handle changes and performing consistently to meet the expectations of those who depended on me.
There was one period of time when I defined myself almost entirely on the basis of what I accomplished at work. It is with great pride that I can tell you how good it feels to have gotten over that nonsense.
6. The last item on this list is one that almost didn’t occur to me, but I’m glad I remembered in time to include it. A few months short of twenty years ago, I began researching my family’s history. I’m proud of this ongoing body of work and of the patience and persistence that have kept me following first one thread, then another, through a vast maze of documents.
This has been a labor of love. It may appear to others to be nothing but thousands of names and dates sprinkled with an occasional relevant fact or legend, but I saw in each name an individual human being whose own life gave meaning to my own. Genealogy awakened in me an interest in history and geography, two subjects I found boring in school. Typing each new name into my database, I’ve imagined what life was like for that person in that particular place and time. In thinking about them, I’ve become fond of all of them.
Most of my family members are too busy living in the moment to spend time wondering about people they’ve never known, and that's as it should be. But I'm ready. If the genealogy bug ever bites one of them the way it sneaked up and bit me, I’ll proudly help scratch the itch.
I've probably overthought this challenge way too much, but that's my six.
I'll tag Alison, for whom I could list six things to be proud of in about a minute; Betty, who has a knack for wrapping up life's experiences in articulate tidy bundles; and Yajeev, who's always on the lookout for blog ideas and whose list will probably be as funny as it is inspirational.