Thursday, April 4, 2013

There's being good, and then there's being Brian.

I've been gone for awhile. Symbolically "lost", if you will. I was stuck in a place full of miscommunication, heartache, anger, sadness, confusion, and bitterness. What happened that could have possibly brought me to such a state of being? Well, most people blame their problems on a streak of bad luck; one thing after another... but in reality, for me, it was merely a strong case of self-consumption. I blamed my problems on jerks, on the president, on the economy, on my upbringing, on my good heart, on the American educational system, on the snow, and on anything and anyone but myself. I became absorbed with the idea that this time in my life was "Nicole Time". I felt that enough was enough, I had paid my dues, been through all the toil and hardship I could take, and now life owed me big time.

Oddly enough, life did not get this memo. I was duped by acquaintances I thought I knew, let down by friends I trusted, hurt by loved ones, and I had no idea what to do about it. I found myself in a rut, asking the heavens above, "Why me?! What did I do to deserve all of these craptastic things? When will things start going my way? I'm a good person, I deserve good things!"

I ate A LOT of Oreos.

This thought has been pondered by many wise people before me: Why do bad things happen to good people?

And many wise people have responded with the ironically inconvenient answer of, "No one knows."

As I was laying in bed, day after day, wallowing in my own self pity... the world kept moving. Good things and bad things were happening to my friends, family, and the world around me. Kindergartners were brutally murdered, my little sister fell in love and got engaged to a boy who lives out of state, friends were diagnosed with illnesses, parents took well-deserved vacations, grandparents were in and out of the hospital, coworkers lost their jobs, and I was abruptly forced to recognize their lives realities, along with my own.

I have no idea if fate and destiny take a hand in our daily lives or if there is some cosmic power that controls everything in the world. Personally, I believe in God. I think God nudges each one of us towards a good direction in life; sometimes we go with it and other times we brush it off. I don't believe that God is the one striking some of us down in hard times, without rhyme or reason... or that God gives better luck to some people rather than others, just because that's the way God is feeling at the time.

Some people disagree with me, and that's okay because I cannot prove myself right or completely off-base. It is just something that I have faith in; an idea that my heart insists is true. It's a tricky subject to discuss because so many people have only known easy and simple lives, while others were forced to graduate from "The School of Hard Knocks". It's all a matter of opinion, of circumstance, and of perseverance and resilience. Therefore, it's no wonder to me that the world is diverse with those who are grateful and those who are jaded.

I myself have tried many different strategies when it comes to handling life, and here is what I feel pays off, rejuvenates, and in turn helps me move forward to happier times...


I fail miserably in my attempts to "Be good" more times than not, but I am trying to make it my highest priority. In life, I want to be good and do good.

What do I mean by this? What is this "goodness" I speak of? What are the stipulations?

Here's how I see it... If you are 64, say "please" and "thank you" to the 17 year old serving you pancakes at iHop, even if they seem unpleasant and moody. If you are 23, late for a meeting, hungover and impatient, help the elderly person who is struggling to use the ATM instead of honking your horn at them. If someone bumps you in a crowded hallway and doesn't bother to say "Excuse me", let it go. Smile at strangers, even if they look at you like you're insane. Release old grudges from your heart. Call your mom and tell her you love her. Think about what you are saying before you say it, and how it will sound to the person you are saying it to. Hug your husband. Learn from your mistakes. Help your neighbor bring in their groceries. Don't make excuses for your poor behavior and don't be so proud that you won't admit when you're wrong. Comfort a friend. Laugh with your siblings. Forgive sworn enemies. Be present and patient in your children's lives. Reflect on your actions daily. Cook your grandparents dinner. Pause when you are in a rush and allow yourself to feel grateful just to be alive.

Most of these things feel like huge hassles 90% of the time. When you start this life-exercise, you will begin by forcing yourself to do these tasks, then you will routinely remind yourself to do them, then you will start involuntarily doing them, and then after awhile... you will realize you are happy when you do them. Why? I don't know. I just know that eventually, the pain-in-the-ass of it all goes away, and you just feel good when you selflessly do good for others.

Bad things will still happen. Something will come along to spoil your fun, ruin your day, and attempt to bring you down. "It's not 'if it happens', it's 'when it happens'"
... And then what?

Well, I have an older brother. His name is Brian. Brian is a very good person. He was born with more health problems than I have fingers and toes. He has had more surgeries over the span of his life than the amount of birthdays I have celebrated. He can't see, so he can't drive. He has a bit of a mobility problem, so he can't play sports. He gets lost instantaneously in unfamiliar settings. He doesn't have many friends his own age. He struggled just to graduate high school.  Most of the time, he can't remember if he brushed his teeth in the morning or fed himself dinner the night before, which means he has to live with my parents, who he loves, but that in itself can be quite a tricky and unpleasant situation from time to time.

HOWEVER... I do not, nor will I ever, feel bad for Brian. Brian has the strongest grasp on life's mysterious and unfair ways out of any person I know. Brian has been knocked down and defeated, told no and dismissed by life's "elite", yet he still gets up and gets after it every single day. He works hard, he gives 110%, he never has ever given up. Why does he do this when he could be coddled, pitied, aided through life's tribulations? Because he knows that he, just like anyone else in this world, has the strength to survive them. This possession of strength is something he is aware of, yet his humbleness prevents him from fully understanding it's phenomenal rarity. I think for the most part, Brian goes to bed every night, just happy he made it through another day, safe and sound.

Brian often has frustrating days, full of inconvenient hurdles, and will come home, walk up to me, give me a smile and a big-bear hug... and he says "Thank you."

When he does this I say, "Brian! What are you saying thank you for? I didn't do anything, ya silly head!"

He shrugs, says "Oh." and walks away.

I always thought he was just confused or trying to be nice to me or something. Only recently did I understand this ritual of Brian's.

According to doctors, Brian almost wasn't.

No matter how good or how bad life is to him, Brian will always be thankful to be here; to be present and to be given a chance.

Some people might look at my big brother and think "Oh, poor guy... he's had such a rough life!", but whenever something negative happens to me now, I remember that Brian is my brother, and he is and has always been a total beast with a heart of gold aaaaaaaaaaand...

... we have the same genetics and he taught me everything I know, so chances are, I can probably be a beast and handle life too.
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