Paying It Backwards

I hear a lot about “paying it forward” or the idea that when someone does something nice for you, you should move along and do something nice for someone else. That’s an awesome way to spread good will and do good deeds. I strongly believe in doing random acts of kindness. You never know when you can make someone’s day with just a simple kindness. The world needs more of that.

But what about paying it backwards. Think back over your life. Think of all the people who helped you and helped make you the way you are today. There are the obvious people – your family, your parents, your friends. I hope that I have thanked all of them for all the love and support they have offered me in my life. They really helped me become the person I am today. The people I am talking about are the ones who didn’t know you and helped you or the people that passed out of your life. There have been complete strangers who have helped me when they didn’t have to and I never got a chance to thank them or return the favor.

I remember once when I had my first child – she was only like a year old. I had an old beat up car that I drove. I was driving from Virginia up to Pittsburgh and the car was having issues. I was on the side of the road, in the dark, with a young child. I had no clue what was going on with it. This was the days before cell phones. A trucker pulled over and got out. I was nervous as this tall dark man walked towards me. But he told me they called him the “Chocolate Snowman” as his handle. He looked at my car, fixed it, and then asked where I was going. When I said Pittsburgh, he said “so am I. Get in front of me and I’ll follow you in”. He did. He even pulled off with me when I had to make pit stops. He made sure I made it to the exit I needed safely. But I never got to thank him properly for making sure me and my daughter made it safe.

I also had an English teacher who taught me as much about myself as he did the subject. He was an amazing teacher who I absolutely couldn’t stand in school. As I got older I was able to appreciate not only what he did, but how he did it. He really changed my life. Unfortunately, when I had a chance to go back and thank him for what he did, he was gone. I was very disappointed that I never got a chance to go back and let him know that I finally got it. I understood what it was he was saying and doing, why he was such a jerk.

There have been many people in my life who have done small and big things to help me along the way. I have never gotten to return the favor. I sometimes wish I could pay it backwards, go back and do something nice for those people who helped me so much. But I have also learned that going back is often difficult or impossible. Maybe that’s because we aren’t suppose to go back. Maybe we are suppose to pay it forward and not backwards. I can only hope that somewhere in their lives someone did a great kindness to them that they were not expecting. Maybe that’s how the universe balances things out. I do know that all the stories of hate and anger and fear that I see these days, I sometimes stop and think of all the people who did a great kindness for me. It reminds me that there is a lot of people out there willing to do for others, help others, and lift others up. And often do it with no thought of payment or reward, because sometimes you just can’t pay it backwards.

Just the Way You Are

Do you ever wish that you could step outside yourself and see you how other people see you? I mean, it’s impossible to really see yourself as others see you. You can only have one point of view – your own. And that is influenced by everything you have experienced in your life. So there is no way to do it. But at some point in time everyone worries about it. Whether it’s as a little kid or a self-conscious teenager. Even as adults many people worry about what other people think about them.

So yeah, often times I wonder about how others see me. I have had some surprising moments where people tell me that they think something about me – like what an extrovert I am (I’m not!). Another time someone told me I was too intimidating?? I was amazed at that one since I think I’m very easy going and friendly. But, I have no way of knowing what they are seeing in me. Maybe somewhere in their life they had someone who looked like me or sounded like me and they were intimidated by them, so when they see me they are intimidated.

And you never know when something about you is going to strike a cord in someone else. It doesn’t even really have to be something you say or do. I had one child that seemed to warm up to me very quickly. They wanted to sit by me, hold my hand and came to me when they were upset. Then one day they told me that I reminded them of their mother. I asked if I looked like her and they shook their head no and seemed to think about it for a minute. Then they responded “You smell like her”. Hm, okay. I guess that’s a good thing. Saying I smell doesn’t have to be a bad thing LOL. Perhaps I wore the same perfume or used the same deodorant. But for whatever reason, I reminded him of his mother. You never know what is going to trigger something in someone else. Have you ever met someone who had the same name as someone you hated in your past? You don’t want to associate them with that person – but in some ways you do. Even if it is to not trust them right away. Associations in your brain is how  we learn. So your brain is constantly trying to make those associations. But it can also reason, so while it may first associate the person with the one you hated – as you get to know the person, if they are a good person, your brain will reason that this association isn’t valid.

Wanting to understand how people see you and where you fit into the world is something everyone wants to do at some point. Understanding yourself and your own self image is something many people struggle with. I know I use to worry all the time about what people thought or how I came across to other people. I was very self-conscious. It was very stressful worrying about what other people thought. So, I gave up doing it. I really just kind of stopped caring what other people thought. I adopted the saying I use often – those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. I dyed my hair blue. I started speaking up at meetings. I stopped apologizing for everything I said and did. I stopped living as if I was an inconvenience to people. I started living like my opinions and thoughts mattered.

Now maybe sometimes I go a bit over board. I can now be a little loud, a bit pushy, and if some are to be believed – I can be loud and obnoxious. But. Honestly, after living over half my life as a scared door mat, I think I’d vote for loud and obnoxious. It’s more fun.

You Should Be….

Every day we are bombarded with being told how we should feel, what we should think, what we should do, how we should vote. The media – from the news, to the radio, to the social media, to our friends, to our family. You should be afraid, you should be ashamed, you should vote for (Blank). There are constantly people trying to tell you how you should think, feel, and act. They are great at telling you what products you should buy, how you should spend your money, save your money.

Wow, with all these people coming at us constantly, it can get hard to decide what to do, how to think, and how to feel. We can easily be influenced, even when we don’t realize it. We can pick up on how others are feeling and feel the same way. Fear and anger can be spread like a wildfire. The media amps up a story, whipping people into a frenzy, making them angry and afraid for whatever and then moves on to the next story. Social media posts will make you laugh, cry, join, share, like.

But often times the one thing they don’t want you to do is think. Think for yourself, decide for yourself, be informed. Because if you do stop and think, do your research, find out the truth – you will realize that much of it is BS. That what they are saying isn’t true. That the information they are passing on to you is not the whole story or is complete lies. It’s being said to manipulate you, to influence you, to get you to do whatever it is they want you to do. That happens on a daily basis over and over.

But how do you stop from being influenced and manipulated? Well, you can’t stop it completely. We are social creatures. We listen to those around us and the media around us and we are emotional beings. But, there are things you can do. You can stop when you find yourself getting angry or afraid and think about it. Why are you feeling that way? Is there really a reason. Do some research. Is the president really a terrorist who wants to take prayer out of school? Probably not. Is there really a reason to stop eating a certain food or you will die? Probably not. Is the latest bacteria going to wipe out mankind in some type of pandemic? Probably not.

All of these things play on one big fear. Our own fear of our mortality. The fear that we are going to die. Big news flash. We are all going to die. Someday. No one here is immortal. So, when our time comes, we are each going to pass on. Whether you believe in heaven, hell, the after world, Valhalla, or reincarnation – we will all leave this realm for something else. We might get hit by a bus. We might be killed by an illness, or time, or choking on a piece of candy. But when our time is up, our time is up. We can’t know when that will be. But the fear is, we don’t want to go. We aren’t ready to go. It’s like the kid watching tv or playing a video game – Just 5 more minutes Mom!

But spending the time you have on this planet being afraid just takes away from the quality of that time. There are things you should be afraid of, things that do have an impact on your life. You shouldn’t eat unhealthy, you should do some form of exercise,  you should take care of yourself when you are sick. You should make each day count. But what you shouldn’t do is spend the whole time letting anyone else dictate to you how you should live your life or feel.