Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Ageing Idealist

     I was drawn to idealism at a very young age and that hasn’t changed much. I’ve clung to the tattered threads of idealism far longer than some of my peers. It was a virtue, something to be embraced and admired. At least that’s what I thought.
    I never considered that my idealism might have a negative side until it came up against reality during a faculty meeting.  Our administrator was looking for feedback about some proposed budget cuts. He didn’t get past the first item before I shot my hand into the air in outrage.  I railed against the proposal because it was in conflict with the way I thought things should be.  I was emotional and verbal. Let me assure you that it is not a pretty combination or a particularly useful one for that matter.  On the ride home I asked my favorite question, what if? In this case it was what if I didn’t know what I thought I knew? (It sounds nicer than what if I didn’t know what I was talking about.)
  I asked a few critical questions about the topic and did some research. The answers did little to assuage my concerns. In fact, they only made things worse.  I wrestled with the issue; you know the one I can’t do anything about, until I was all but mad with frustration.  It was when I took a break for tea that I finally realized something my principal tried to get me see during the faculty meeting. When it was all said and done it didn’t matter.
     I was going to do what I do the best I could regardless of the circumstances because it’s the right thing for me to do. With that thought in mind I did what I should have done from the beginning. I accepted something that I couldn’t change. 
     The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr is best known as part of the 12 Step programs. “Grant me the serenity to change the things I can and accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.  The full version has a little more to it.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity 
the things that cannot be changed, 
Courage to change the things 
which should be changed, 
and the Wisdom to distinguish 
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time, 
Enjoying one moment at a time, 
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, 
Taking, as Jesus did, 
This sinful world as it is, 
Not as I would have it, 

Trusting that You will make all things right, 
If I surrender to Your will, 
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, 
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

    The world is what it is, accepting that is the path to peace.   I know that, really I do. Sometimes though the intellectualization of an ideal holds me hostage and just won’t let go. I forget that perfection exists not in an ideal but in God.
    Idealism is all well and good unless it makes you a raving nutter. I’m not saying I was crazy but I will be the first to admit that my idealism served no one this week.  Melinda wasn’t the only one at our weekly faculty meeting who was silently telling me to shut up. I wanted to shut up. I tried to shut up. I couldn’t shut up. My idealism took a hit and I, by God and all that’s holy, was going to fight back. Why, I do not know.
       The Lance Armstrong Foundation, LiveStrong suggests that idealism may need to be tempered so that it doesn’t become negativity and create stress. I wish I’d known that during our faculty meeting. I have a feeling my principal and not a few teachers wish the same thing.   My idealism has served me well.   It has sustained me and given me energy to keep doing what seems impossible some days. Fortunately, I don’t have to give up my idealism and that’s a good thing because it’s still there, a little tread bare and ragged around the edges to be sure. However, to be of any real use my idealism needs to be balanced with reality and grace, grace most of all.  It’s either love or fear, baby and this week my idealism was fear. Grace, now grace is love, something we could all use a little more of especially if you’re an aging idealist.
                                                                 Tommy Emmanuel      
                                            This is his version of Amazing Grace. Make
                                           sure you stop by his web site. Your ears will
                                           thank you.



Diane said...

OMG! How I can relate to what you went through b/c of your idealistic brain-wiring. Sadly, I have been there waaaaaay too many times along my own path in life.

It may be true that sometimes as we age, we mellow and begin to realize that even though we feel as if things should be a certain way, the world has actually changed around us and our idealism may not fit the bill as in earlier years.

On the other hand, however, some people seem to become more rigid in their thinking as they age and will go out kicking & screaming, continuing to rant & rave against the machine.

I pray that I may eventually be counted in the first group - the ones who begin to mellow out and learn to enjoy the ride.

Debra said...

I've learned not to rage against the machine. I would like to think that I am leaving the world a better place but to be honest I'm even wondering if that matters as much as I think it does. Mainly, I want to feel a greater sense of peace and well being. Maybe that's enough.