Watching an interesting TED talk today about a young Arctic surfer (yes, you heard me right, that was Arctic surfer), he said something that really struck me–not about surfing, but about sacrifice. As you can imagine, someone who surfs in frigid waters does a fair amount of sacrificing. He does it in part to get away from the normal tropic crowds, but also to take these amazing photographs. To paraphrase very loosely he said something like: most things worth any kind of real joy usually involve some kind of sacrifice.
That gave me pause.
I began thinking about some of the things that take sacrifice but bring joy:
9 months of carrying a baby: the worrying, the weight gain, the hormone shifts, the vomiting, the swelling, the potential dangers involved…
being in a relationship: any kind really. It’s constant ups and downs, bargaining (with the kids, partners, co-workers, family members), tears, give/take, compromises, giving away parts of yourself at times
having a dream or goal: these can take huge amounts of time, money, changes in lifestyle and re-evaluating ourselves for the final outcome
moving somewhere new: leaving friends and family behind; leaving a career or job, doing something scary, taking a leap of faith
starting over (with a job/a person/or alone: leaving your comfort zone, stretching parts of yourself you may not know you had, or totally remaking yourself
helping others or someone else: living with less than normal, learning about other cultures (which maybe is uncomfortable), focusing less on “me”
giving up something completely: getting used to life “without”, feeling what it’s like when others perceive because we are now “different”
changing our point of view for the greater good: getting into arguments (political/family?), battling within ourselves over the old point of view, reconciling what’s right/wrong
coming out: about our sexual orientation, addictions, mental health, illness, abuse, political view or anything else we’ve been keeping inside for fear of judgement, shame or condemnation
sharing our home with animals: limiting our work day, getting up in the middle of the night, cleaning up hair, poop and vomit off the floor
Waiting: for anything you want, it can be excruciating at times because we are a culture of wanting everything now, having patience is like hot iron swirling in our bellies…the loss of precious time while we wait
standing up for what you believe when others around you don’t agree: this can be going to rallies or being a vegan, it can bring agitation or arguments from others, confrontations or simply tiresome questions
sharing our home with children: never having peace and quiet (or rarely); suddenly realizing you have to sacrifice so much and become a very good teacher when you hardly know yourself (or much else for that matter…)
There are so many more things…what can you add to the list? And it all comes down to mindset like anything else really. We give to get. Nothing comes easily really. It seems like many things feel like work these days, and trying to pick out the little pieces of joy can be tough. But when you think about the sacrifices we make all adding up to something beautiful–that it’s the wrapping surrounding the gift inside, then it doesn’t feel quite so much like drudgery.
So when you are climbing that next mountain and it feels like hell: the boots are giving you blisters, the sweating like a banshee and the mosquitoes buzzing around your head: remember that when you get to the top you will see this incredible view of the world below. Every step you took to get there was worth what lies before you as you look out. See it as you breathe the joy and try to remember that you couldn’t have experienced the splendor without a bit of pain.
Some parts of moving here have been hard: moving away from family and friends, leaving my home, making the decision to retire from a career. But one thing that I am really loving is the mix of people here compared to where I used to live.
Where I came from before, it was much more homogeneous. It was a rarity to see someone ‘different’ or unique or speaking anything other than English. Here it is an every day occurrence to hear a span of languages or dialects.
Even where I work, we are all so different. There are many people of all different colors. It’s not always easy for me to understand everyone and how they speak, so I must be more diligent in my listening skills–never a bad thing for any of us.The accents are tricky so I try hard to understand what is being said to me. It doesn’t always work and sometimes I fail miserably.
We all look different too. Many with beautiful dark brown skin and hair worn in all sorts of fantastic styles. Some with more light brown skin and the stories of their home back in Puerto Rico or Cuba. Many of these co-workers were immigrants and tell me their stories and have such interesting opinions during this political time. It’s fascinating to hear their perspectives.
Many have heavy New York accents or speak outwardly about their strong Jewish or Christian faith. Some are teased a bit: like when they want their cup of ‘cawfee’, but it’s all in good fun. There is an acceptance of the openly gay and lesbian employees also, something that probably wouldn’t fly where I used to be. Everyone is just out…no hiding. It’s comfortable and cool.
They might kid me about being a vegan and the strange drinks I bring in, but it’s not unheard of like before. I mean after all, this is a city! Yeah, most of them drink alcohol (not at work), but they understand the good stuff too. People bring in ethnic dishes to share, bake for one another and generally share cultures.
It’s viva la difference! Pretty much no-one cares….at least to your face. What they say behind one’s back, well, that I do not know. But generally I do get a sense, at work anyway, that the skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds, sexual orientations etc. really don’t get in the way of anyone’s opinion of each other. Maybe other stuff, but not those things.
This is quite a refreshing change. And for me personally, I completely love being immersed among so much color, culture and diversity!
Walking I had yet another moment of realization today. It was after another confrontational day at work. I ponder these moments and really wonder about them. But then I thought back to my last job in New England and realized that there were co-workers there that were difficult too, and that’s when I realized the difference. And it’s not just a difference at work, but in the people in general.
Back home, as I still tend to call it (and feel it is I suppose), the folks are often what one think as the stereotypical New Englanders–keeping their emotions and their lives mostly to themselves. It takes them a long time to get to know someone and trust them (and some never do), but once they do, you’re golden.
They can be a pretty silent people, and you as an outsider, which I always considered myself (even though I lived for 20 years in one NE state and 30 in another)– I was really from NY. And they never forget that either!
You may live in a house for years, but they don’t consider it yours until you move, then they refer to it as the old so and so house. Many are the salt of the earth, but are reserved in offering. In some ways, you must earn your place in the community, it’s not automatic.
And when they do choose to speak, they usually have something to say–it may not be much, and they won’t care if you agree, but they’ll hold to their principles and beliefs come hell or high water. Pretty much nothing will change their minds, not even reason sometimes. They just stand firm! But real New Englanders will do it over a beer or two (maybe more), and are used to letting others do their own thing. They’ll just think they are wrong.
If they are angry, they will stew and not talk to someone. Or maybe have some beers and have a fight. Get it over with and be done.
Then I came here to the south…not the polite south either. Initially I was shocked by the rudeness of people! Gosh, you couldn’t sit at a light for one second without someone honking their horn!
And at work too, of course I’ve mentioned the craziness. I attributed it to being the surgery department, but today I realized that this may not totally be it! It may be just living in this area and the personalities of the folks down here and how they are used to acting.
They are much more brazen: if they are angry, they snap and say it! It can shock you because you might not even realize what you did to them. And they get angry at the smallest things too. People are loud and have big personalities. I notice this in grocery stores too. It’s quite amusing actually.
I’m guessing the difference is because of a few things: there are more people for one. So everyone is vying for space and air time. You have to be loud I suppose they must think–but please not at work!! The grocery stores have loud music too. And there are cultural differences too, where in NE, everything is very homogeneous.
It is probably just more stressful living here? Although NE is cold and dreary so much of the time–wouldn’t you think that is stressful? But maybe that toughens them and makes them quiet and inward. There’s a lot more money here too, so maybe folks are entitled in some ways. And they are from all parts of the country, trying to blend with each other. Does it work? Well, sometimes, when everyone is yelling, talking over each other, beeping their horns and misunderstanding one another…. um, no–not all the time.
All places have their advantages. But I as of yet have not found the place I resonate with sadly. I am a mix of both these places in a way. I am outgoing in some ways and like a mix of people, loving the cultural stew. Yet, my quiet NE home was so peaceful and beautiful too–and the people there, while challenging could be the most endearing friends.
So where will I find my next home? How to find a combination of both–how to get a sense of community without the harsh edge of, well, stressed-outness that I find here? That close-knit days of old where neighbors helped one another and cared with a beautiful backdrop?