How do you respond to pressure? What comes out of you when the screws are tighten? How do you respond when the walls close in? What’s your instinct when you’re backed up into a corner?
I guess there are lots of factors to consider, but generally speaking, you would have heard of “fight or flight”. This means that some folks take their gloves off and start swinging at whatever is in their way of what they want, while others turn a scamper away as quick as they can.
And then there are some folks that sulk. They don’t fight, nor do they don’t run away… they just curl up and go grumpy inside. I can think of no worse curse to yourself than to harbour that stuff.
But more about that later.
Have you ever wondered how your own parents did it? What were they like in school? How did they think about the world around them without an Internet? What on earth did they do for entertainment?
Now, you could argue that ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know you’re missing out on won’t really hurt you.
But, on the flip side, how do you solve problems where access to information and resources is limited? There are still folks today who I work with who have this dilemma. And some of them flake, and some of them flourish.
I marvel at the generations before me. They had less access to information, and seemingly less tools at their disposal. Some folks had it hard, no doubt. And yet in their latter years, when I seem them smile or laugh, I notice the lines on their faces. “Damn,” I think, “those are well earned and way more beautiful than some photoshopped magazine cover of a young model.”
There are those in that generation who don’t smile. They lived hard and they look like it. Generally, when you do dig below the surface, you find that their sulkiness could be attributed (at least in part) to some loneliness. And you’ll probably find that the ones who smiled were able to share the load.
Some folks haven’t even lived that long, and they’re struggling to see the light.
So my question is: who is with you in those moments? Who is with you carrying that heavy thing you’re trying to carry on your own?
In some ways, it’s a spiritual question. But perhaps it goes to the heart of our human experience, which involves togetherness.
I like Sean Penn. The Oscar-winning actor has done a lot of humanitarian work and likes to do things “simply rather than being made complicated”.
He’s a bit rough around the edges, to be politically correct. He has a steely gaze and seems generally grumpy.
I watched an interview with him and Piers Morgan some years ago which shed light on his demeanour.
The two were enjoying a bit of banter, where Morgan suggested to him that he “could be more media-friendly” and “less abrasive”.
Morgan said, “You can be less in people’s faces. You know, there is another way of doing this.”
Penn went on to relay a story, where he explained his disposition with a brilliant line:
“It’s tough knowing this much.”
I chuckled. I often remember that story in moments where I’m feeling grumpy. But the truth is, the answer reflects a worldview. It’s not that it’s “tough knowing this much” – it’s tough if you have to deal with it on your own. So the issue is, who helps you deal with it?
No one should have to cope alone. And neither do they have to.