Sometimes, I have a clear and direct idea of where I’m going before I start these columns.
I can see the way visibly laid out in front of me. Alas, those days are rare. Mostly, I stare at a blank screen until my muse makes herself known. Sadly, she might not stay. Other times, the column takes on a mind of its own. I start out going one way but end up somewhere else. Today is one of those days. We will commence in one direction, but — fair warning — will take a sharp turn. Fret not, however, I will bring you home.
That said when did answering the phone become an invitation for someone to sell you a car warranty, lie about an arrest warrant out for you, or threaten you because your computer was “messing up the internet”? We don’t pick up anymore unless it’s a number we sure-fire recognize.
Not paying attention, I made the mistake of sliding “accept the call.”
“How are you?” asked a heavily-accented man.
Yanked back into awareness, irritated by what I judged was going to be a scam, I indignantly replied. “I died last night.”
Waited long enough to hear his reply before hanging up; I heard him say, flummoxed. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
I find the delivered-without-thought question, “How are you?” to be disingenuous. Don’t get me wrong; when asked by someone who knows and cares about your actual well-being, it’s a sincere, kind query. Yet typically, we say it because, well, I’m not sure. I guess we don’t want to appear rude. However, asking a personal question when, in reality, you don’t want to take the time to hear the honest answer is indeed rude. Just sayin’…
Oft times, I’ll respond with an expression I learned from talk show host Thom Hartmann, “I’m great – but I’ll get better.” Some laugh, finding the retort clever, shattering the mold of what they expected to hear. Others have said, “Oh no! I hope you get better soon,” obviously not listening to the reply, but wanting to move on to their real agenda and avoid the unpleasantness of listening to someone’s ailments.
Yep, you guessed it; I’m a little cranky today. Shields up.
I appreciate the positive intentions; I’m not trying to be a jerk (well, maybe a little but I won’t admit that). I – at times – play with these routine questions.
At the end of my presentation, she approached, wanting to know more about my topic, “Can I ask you a question?” she said. Again, I get it; it’s meant as a way to be polite, not assuming I’m going to hang around until the wee hours being interrogated. I responded, “Sure, would you like to ask another?
[Pause. Processing. Chuckle.]
As one final illustration, we have all said, “I remember when I was younger…” Hit pause for a moment, please. Can one recall when one was older? I mean, it goes without saying that when one is reminiscing, it’s not from the future, is it?
I’m supposing as you read this that you either found my responses to be rude, clever, humorous; or some combination of the above. I will go a step further and assume you didn’t find them – nor this topic – to be boring or unimportant or you wouldn’t have read this far. You made judgments – as do I. We judge everything.
The question is, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Which is a judgment unto its own.
As humans, we judge. It’s hard-wired into us; a defense mechanism. We categorize without thought, “good” or “bad” to determine whether to approach or avoid. As we started up the evolutionary ladder, those snap evaluations could make the difference between seeing the next sunrise or not. Old habits die hard.
Judgments are the results of thoughts filtered through beliefs and values. Should I think of the plight of those less fortunate than myself, and my value is “I’ve got mine. Each to his own,” my judgment – and the resulting actions I take – will be worlds apart from if my belief is, “we are all here to hold each other up.” What we say to ourselves determines what we do to ourselves – as well as to others.
As we age, those beliefs and values become more locked in; neural pathways determining our direction as surely as the asphalt highways we choose. When what we experience is not as we desire nor expect, it can be due to our values; how we presume the world “should” work. From those values, come our actions. Actions shape our world.
As we celebrate our country’s independence, with so much tumult and animosity in view, it is important to amplify our gentler, more cooperative, inclusive, and grateful values, applying them to all we see.
Then, maybe, someday, we can say, “I remember when I was younger when we decided it was time to love each other again.”
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker, motivator, and the founder of the Facebook group: Intentions • Affirmations • Manifestations. He leads no-payment-required zoom inspirational, practical workshops on the first and third Tuesday of each month. Find out more via his mailing list at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com/signup