Each week in my capacity as a life coach, I meet with a pro bono client whose mental illness has her relying on government checks. Last Thursday, after we discussed her creative, health and social goals, I broached the topic of finances and how she was doing with money.
Well, the Democrats and Republicans are fighting right now, so I may not get my check next week, she said.
Her matter-of-fact delivery and non-specific language told me she was not one who was following the debt ceiling debate closely, or at all. All she knew was how its outcome might affect her personally because she had been told so by advisors where she goes for group counseling.
Considering the national fever pitch that had been reached on this topic leading into the weekend, I found the moment remarkable for its calm. My client was obviously not entrenched in a party line. She was simply concerned about paying her bills.
Now that we know our country will not default on its obligations, my lingering feeling about that exchange with my client is envy. Yes, Im a little bit jealous that she has somehow missed the memo that one must pick a camp in this divided country. Its like were all kids watching our parents go through a divorce and were supposed to pick sides. The Tea Party is like the interloper who exposes the flaws of the tired, set-in-its-ways relationship.
Could we all just breathe? Ill start. Ready? Deep breath in. Now exhale. Again.
OK, then.With all we as Americans have on our plates, do we really want to expend time and emotional energy dwelling in these petty slugfests? Because, truly, that is not at all the stuff of life.
What is the stuff of life is video of a little boy singing Happy Birthday to his grandfather with some gentle prodding from his father. And the grandfather posting it on Facebook with the comment, This is what life is all about.
It is about a nine-year-old autistic boy whos never had lessons going to town on a keyboard while his musician cousin proudly shoots video and marvels because, amazingly, the boy taught himself by watching people play on YouTube.com.
While the country at large is worrying about what were leaving these children in terms of national debt, I am wondering what we are showing them on a behavioral level. A madman shoots up a camp in Norway and our focus is on whether he should be considered a Christian. Im hearing pundits declare that hes not a real Christian and to that I say, Well, duh. I think we all agree hes not following its tenets to the letter.
But we have this need to categorize everyone, figure out what camp theyre in, what side theyre on, what party they belong to or what religion they practice before we fully engage or before we decide how to engage. Labels now dominate the conversation and politicians are dragging us into the trenches with them as they mislead, double talk, jockey for position and line their coffers.
Lets acknowledge were nuanced, complicated individuals instead of surrendering to this notion we must be lemmings.
What a hoot that Im getting Gun Alerts and Second Amendment Foundation notices delivered to my FOX Business email account on a regular basis. The assumption, of course, is that because I write a column for FOX I must be squarely in this camp. Trust me, of all the causes in the world i.e., better education, cleaner water, feeding the poor -- nowhere near the top of my list is making sure gun ownership is protected. You know what they say about assuming. (Note to the gun folk: Please dont dash off angry notes to me. I am not against your cause, Im just not remotely passionate about it.)
Weve got conservatives labeled as racists, Democrats labeled as godless, Tea Party members labeled as uneducated. What tripe we engage in. Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the snap judgments based on presumed ideology or allegiances.
In response to a Game Plan column I wrote last week titled Our Lack of Empathy for Addiction, I received an email from a member of the United States Air Force who harshly questioned my admission that I sometimes struggle with criticism. I explained to him that it is ultimately more interesting for a writer to come from a place of authenticity, to cop to imperfections. Feeling like we actually communicated despite major differences in opinion, this is the stuff of life.
So is the excruciating moment I had recently when I heard a young man weeping on the front porch of my building. He and the young woman he was with were breaking up. He was distraught and almost begging. Real pain is the stuff of life.
And as maddening as it can be sometimes to hear the steady drumbeat from Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay and their ilk telling us love is the answer to every darned thing, it ultimately is.
Deep breath. Exhale. OK then.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.