Humanity has done a lot, haven’t we? We’ve discovered fire, the wheel, soap, created the combustible engine, put a man into space, created the computer, then found a way to communicate with other computers (which involves dropping a very large cable across the entire ocean floor, which still baffles me to this day), built structures that are almost too large to be believed (I’m looking at you, Great Wall of China) – the list goes on. But, for as many feats as we’ve accomplished, we are still human, and our humanity comes with some baggage. Quite a bit, actually – but today, I’d like to focus on one of the worst. Forgetfulness.
Forgetfulness in itself is not all that terrible of a quality. We’ve created technology to try to assist us with this shortcoming. Pencil and paper first, then digitized lists, then Wikipedia, then brain-computer interfaces to store information from our brain and feed it back into our brains whenever we need it (this technology is still pending, but I’m told it shows some great promise, if you don’t tiny wires all over your brain). However, I think the greatest flaw we’re granted from our forgetfulness is forgetting where we come from, and forgetting what we have.
There are plenty of examples of this. Remember the last time you were sick? I mean good and properly ill, the kind where you can’t do much of anything except lay in bed and feel miserable. I know whenever I’m sick like that, I say to myself, “I just want to feel better. I will never take my health for granted ever again.” A few days later, I feel fine, and what happens? I start complaining about bills, being too busy, not having enough free time, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. All the thoughts I had just a few days before are completely gone. My newly gained state (the state of wellness) has become my new normal, and all memories of being miserable, laying in bed, are now gone.
You might be asking me, “Steve-O, is that really forgetfulness?” Well, to be fair, no, not exactly. I definitely remember being sick, and I think that if I were to remember my miserable state just a few days early, I would nod to myself and think, “Yep, I’m glad that’s over with.” But does it change the way I was thinking before I got sick? Do I look at life in a new perspective, with new appreciation for my health? No, not really. I’m tempted to call it ungratefulness, but I feel like using that term is a little too harsh, and I don’t want to be harsh to anyone (myself included), so let’s just call it forgetfulness. I think, if a magical fairy were to come along and make me feel the exact same way as I felt a few days early, I would go back to thinking the same thoughts I had had when I was ill. “Once I’m over this, I will never take my health for granted again!” But, within a few hours of being well, I’ll likely be back to complaining about what else is not absolutely perfect with my life.
Forgetfulness about being sick is probably a pretty minor issue in the grand scheme of things. However, unfortunately, it seems to me that we humans do this for pretty much everything in life. We forget how lonely single life is after years of being married. We forget how much our children mean to us when they’re kicking us in the head while we’re trying to sleep. We forget how much our loved ones mean to us until they’re no longer with us.
I think we tend to fall into a particular cycle. Let’s just say that we are a person who is hoping for a promotion at work. We work hard for several months or years, and finally, after our hard work, we get the promotion we’ve been looking for. We rightfully consider it a huge step in our lives, but after a few months, the new thing in our life becomes the new standard. We now are looking for the next big thing. Maybe it’s another promotion. Maybe it’s getting married. Whatever it is, the latest thing we’ve added to our lives becomes the old thing, and we are looking for the next new thing (which will soon become the old thing). This in itself isn’t a bad thing. We should try to set new goals for ourselves. However, with most things, there is a shadow side to this thinking. We forget about the things we’ve gotten so far, and we look for the next new thing. The trouble is, sometimes we don’t get the new thing. What happens then? We become distraught, ungrateful, forgetting about all the things we already have.
Every year around this time, my grandparents take our entire family to Frankenmuth, which is a small town in mid-Michigan. It’s a cute place with a deep-rooted German history. We stay at the Bavarian Inn, and enjoy the all-you-can-eat chicken dinner (which is overpriced but delicious). Then we go on the waterslides with all of our children and play games at the arcade. This is paid for in full by my wonderful grandparents. The older I get, the more and more I appreciate how important and precious this time is for everyone, perhaps especially my grandparents. They are so generous to us, and it shows the love that they have for their family. I have a wonderful family. However, since I’ve always had a wonderful family, it does get so easy to start taking them for granted.
Today, I want to encourage you. Don’t take things for granted. If you’re frustrated by the things you don’t have in your life, try to focus on the things you do have – things that you’ve fought hard for, or waited patiently for. I think you’ll find quickly that we have so much to be thankful for. If you can’t think of anything, I was told once, “Be thankful for the air in your lungs”. I couldn’t agree more.
Happy New Years, everyone.