I struggle with how to describe this project. I realize in midlife that writing helps me process the world and myself in it. It’s helpful to vent and follow my thoughts ‘out loud’ to avoid exorbitant therapy bills and to fully absorb the lessons of life. I view life as school, “To live is to slowly be born,” as the saying goes. Above all else, writing keeps me honest. Is it then a diary, a series of essays or a blog? A blog to me seems about self-promotion; a written selfie. This makes me cringe.
I worry that the rampant selfie culture is a little dangerous. One of my favorite thinkers, David Brooks, has written about how our world increasingly promotes a ‘resume self,’ over a ‘eulogy self.’ We all say that the most meaningful things in life are the profound, higher drivers: wisdom… grace… love. A ‘eulogy self’ are the things we want to be remembered for, these BIG things. But we spend most of our time each day chasing ‘likes,’ applause, and material achievement. That’s a ‘resume self.’ The irony is that the more we strive to achieve for the purposes of outside recognition, the lonelier and emptier it can feel inside.
Last Sunday morning, a new friend, Jennifer, suggested we volunteer together to collect Thanksgiving donations. I loved the idea of getting to know this very cool chic better and doing some good. The week before I had been periodically grumpy and less than civil with Jack . Shane had been travelling for work, Jack had a lot of commitments and I was dealing with the hangover of emotions leftover from this mammoth move. I figured ‘doing some good,’ would do me some good and help make-up for the fact that I yelled at my 9 year-old over something as minor as forgetting his homework.
Over the course of 3 hours, a group of volunteers collected hundreds of reusable shopping bags full of Stovetop, Del Monte green beans and Trader Joe’s cornbread mix. A handful of times, some donors asked to take pictures with their donations, presumably for Facebook, and such. Please understand, these people were clearly generous and self-less. They were doing something charitable by waking up at the crack of dawn to lug bags of food they’d bought for people they would never meet. But at the drop-off point, those selfie moments felt hollow. The pictures became distractions — recording transactions.
The majority of donors who brought bags full of food introduced themselves, smiled, shook hands — a few even gave hugs. They were happy to have help ferrying the goods from their cars and called out with glee to our volunteer group, ‘Happy Thanksgiving!’ Those exchanges were personal and heartwarming. I think the selfie-takers missed out on that. (Or at least I missed out on that– maybe their social media ‘likes’ provided them love I didn’t witness.)
Jack has a book called, “Fill a Bucket.” The story is simple: all of us have ‘buckets’ (thinly veiled hearts) and when we fill other people’s buckets with love, appreciation, and kindness, our own buckets grow too. When we tear down others, we are really dismantling our own buckets.
I have a terrible habit of over-reacting negatively to something in a split second, tearing down someone else’s bucket, then in my immediate remorse, I attempt to replace the guilt by overcompensating. I praise, lavish the victim with loving words or apologize excessively. While the apology is good, the net result is 0, at best. I dipped, then I re-filled but both buckets would have been fuller if I’d just not caused hurt in the first place. I am working on that here.
Journaling about my experiences helps keep me honest and reveal my bucket publically. But my goal is really not about my own bucket. It’s about helping to form a world where all of us can look honestly at ourselves and our buckets. Are our everyday decisions mini-selfies or are they honest attempts to connect with others? I love this time of year and I think the generosity of the holidays can last if we chose every day to donate to others’ buckets. Who’s with me?