Updated: Jul 11, 2022
Photo credit: Wix stock images
gran·di·ose (grăn′dē-ōs′, grăn′dē-ōs′) adj.1. Characterized by greatness of scope or intent; grand: a grandiose plan to save the world
I used to think I could change the world. Underneath a sometimes-pessimistic shield, I somehow possessed a secret, underlying positivity that some might argue rode the thin line of toxic wishful thinking. I actually believed if I could "be the change" then the change would eventually come, no matter the circumstances. Yes, I may have watched the movie, Field of Dreams a time or two. Nonetheless, this change-thinking was in everything I took on. And, if I happened to share my out-of-the-box ideas and goals, some would try to deter me by saying, "Ok, but is that realistic?"
My usual dismissive answer under my breath was, "Just watch me." Need kids to have better oral hygiene and less cavities? Here's me passing out color-changing toothbrushes and timers at Halloween. (Yeah, that was me. I was that house.) Need help with a T-ball team? No problem! I'll coach two teams, join three committees, and run a few fundraisers. See a need, fix a need. Right?
This filling-a-need period of my past life often risked the label of being sanctimonious, but by no means was that on purpose, I assure you. I hope that most see me today as I see myself, which is just your average but sometimes frustrated, change-maker by day, and conscientious thought writer by night. I may smile under my mask as you walk by but make no mistake: that word “frustrated” is the keyword right now and it's unfortunate.
These days I find myself a little more grounded realizing I’m only one person in the world. However, that doesn’t stop the irritation from sometimes seeping in, resulting in my overwhelming urge to try and solve the world's problems all over again. Sure, I could blast people online, get angry and spout off, or even use a personal journal like most. But why not throw my innermost thoughts into the universe as a quasi-coping mechanism and just see what happens? Hence, these blogs are a look into my always over-processing, and often overreaching brain that maybe reaches an audience of five readers. That is, if I'm lucky. But I do it anyway.
The Struggles of Grandiose Thinking
Changing the world is a huge undertaking and grandiose ideas are both good and bad, I suppose. When you accomplish something truly great and especially when it helps others, it feels amazing right? But if you care deeply about several things while living in a society that seems to care less and less about most things well, let's just say it can knock you down a time or two and make you feel pretty frustrated. I have to remind myself that some ideas just aren't realistic, some goals just aren't attainable, and a lot of people can just get in your way.
You can hope for the best in people, but sometimes they prove over and over again that being better (for themselves or for the greater good) really isn't a part of their personal agenda. So, what do you do? I mean what can you do? I can’t be the only one typing "SMH" in all caps on a regular basis. It's a struggle, but nonetheless I still choose to believe in the good while imagining a bright light at the end of this very, very, long, and dark tunnel we are all slowly making our way through. As for changing the world? I don’t know how realistic that is in our current climate and I'm sort of overwhelmed with the many forces at odds right now, but who knows what lies ahead.
Me, My, Mine, & I
In earlier blogs, I touched on conscientiousness, stubbornness, and openness, but lately I've been trying to wrap my head around the opposite end of the spectrum—self-pity and self-righteousness. Both can be very annoying and seem to be everywhere, especially on social media. Reading daily through countless threads is a form of escape in this weird world at least for me, but it can become a rabbit hole that leads to worse places than what is happening in our tiny little bubbles. So, why do we do this to ourselves again?
Like grandiose ideas, the internet can be both good and bad. It presents us with many social media options, which is good for the families separated by miles and time zones, especially for an isolated older adult seeking socialization and connections to family. But there are predators out there trying to harm others, angry people spewing untruths and hate, and influencers who have way too much power in possessing the ability to mold an impressionable psyche like that of a teenage mind.
From a glance, it's all amazingly idealistic, self-fulfilling, and sometimes shaming. But isn't that what attracts some of us to get immersed in it? On any given day we see posts with the words, "me, my, mine, I, not all, she, he did this, they did that," etc. a hundred times over. I guess we are all guilty... I mean, let's just count how many times I used those words in the previous two paragraphs! Oops, there's that "I" word again.
Social Media & Labels (Again)
In working with the public for many years I have seen but have also endured, a lot. More importantly, I have been a conscious observer of people, and although I don’t know everything there is to know about humans, one thing I do know is that if you pay close attention to your surroundings and to the daily social media posters, several types of humans seem to be represented, depending on the platform.
The profiles are widely varied from the meek to the overbearing, weighing heavily on the opinionated, but those who post regularly are usually categorized. (Here come those labels and little compartments I spoke of in a previous article.) You usually see the whiner, the bragger, the overly proud parent, the informer, the attention-seeker, the comedian, the mightier-than-thou, the jerk, the pushy salesperson, and a million other labels I'm sure people have also created for me, and especially if you pre-date The Breakfast Club generation.
Now, if you 're lost on that connection, this movie was an "in-your-face wakeup call" for teachers and other adults who pushed pre-conceived misconceptions of who teens were and where they would end up in life, without choosing to get to know them first. Have we forgotten not to judge a book by its cover? Yeah, from my observations, we have.
Knowing My Place
Thanks to heart and mean-face emojis, social media makes it super easy to instantly judge any post and any comment without repercussion. I’m on it less than I was ten years ago for sure, but if I do decide to cruise let's say Facebook, it's for a one or two-minute quick scroll through the home feed in order to catch up with classmates' lives or to glance at what my long-distanced family recently posted. Facebook’s Groups platform entices me from time to time to log on because I enjoy viewing art images or woodworking demonstrations on those days I just want something good and creative to look at.
I find myself a viewer more than a poster with most social media lately because well, it seems less stressful and much less risky. If I have learned anything these past two years, it’s that I really should avoid posting anything newsworthy. Why? Because it's obvious people either scroll past not bothering to read it, or they troll your post if it doesn't match their views.
Everything becomes politicized. Seriously, I can post an impressive funny TikTok, only to be labeled a progressive nut utilizing a risky platform two seconds later. Heaven forbid you have a hardship, because then you're a complainer. If something good just happened, oh now you're a bragger.
Adding Frustration to Frustration
So, in a note to self, the "formula" is: Facebook = nice + happy + white picket fence life only - bragging - complaining... okay I think I can do that, maybe. And I will make sure I watch every single word I post so it doesn't come back to haunt me later because after all, I am supposed to be a perfect human, remember? Ugh, it sure wasn't like this ten years ago.
Hey, if you've gotten this far it must mean you're shaking your head in agreement with all of this, or that you're intrigued where I'm going with it... or... you're just bored and have nothing else to do right now. No matter the reason, thanks for sticking it out with me. If you're relating, keep reading.
My current state has me silently dealing with all that surrounds the lying, the manipulation, the racism, the homophobia, the hate crimes, the stabbings, the shootings, the holiday smash-and-grabs, the active shooter trainings, the school threats, the health inequities… and OMG that’s just this past week!
I’m processing the numerous daily selfish acts, the fake news posts, the frequent denials of scientific and historical facts, and the hatred (that seems to spew into every facet of my life including who I am at my very core). I’m finally coming to the humbling realization that it’s well, sort of a lot.
So many feel the same walls closing in and the overwhelming suffocating that doesn't seem to ease up. We see and hear all about these nasty acts by other humans, but we also feel it on a completely different level as we listen and take it all in. As we witness what it does to others, and mind you, we gladly take on the burden, it begins to consume us. The pattern then continues into feeling utterly helpless because we just can't seem to form solutions needed to fix any of it. Again, it's beyond frustrating.
So, enough of that. How about a quick story? Come on, you've made it this far so indulge me...
My Life Outside of Privileged Picket Fences
My current neighborhood lies between two worlds. It's in an area that borders a larger community made up of multi-room houses, six-figure incomes, and fancy cars. But, it is also neighboring an area of smaller homes and apartments with large families who often share one or two-bedroom residences. Driving through, you can find fancy window coverings on one side, and worn painted siding with overgrown patchy yards on the other. A block away are large companies worth millions, as well as small family-run shops barely making ends meet. Being somewhere in the middle of this, I am hyper-aware of my privilege and often wish others would just simply realize theirs.
Thanksgiving week I drove by a bus stop in my neighborhood just before dark and noticed someone sleeping on the bench with a worn, lightweight jacket draped over the upper part of their body. One arm was sticking out with what appeared to be a freshly made cast covering it. On the other end were thin, oversized sweatpants covering small legs and improperly fitting shoes bearing worn-out soles. Struggling to determine whether I should approach the situation, and after seeing several cars drive by as if not to notice this person—a potentially dead or at least struggling human being—I decided to stop and find out if everything was okay. I happened to have some leftovers in a container with me, so I decided the least I could do was offer food and my unopened bottle of water.
I masked up and approached the bench. Standing several feet away I gently asked, "Hi there, are you okay and do you need some food?" Immediately she rose up and I could see she was very thin and exhausted. With her eyes wide and full of desperation, her tiny voice squeaked, "Bless you, I'm starving."
I handed the food to her, and she began explaining to me how she was released earlier from the emergency room with nothing but a bus pass. She had unfortunately fallen asleep and missed the last bus to a shelter miles away. She told me her name and that she was in her sixties, although life experience seemed to have aged her face beyond those years. She had lost her job and home and had no family to call on, though she mentioned attending a church from time to time.
"The clothes on her back and a bus ticket to nowhere? Wow. The small amount of food and conversation seemed far too little to offer her," I thought to myself. I handed her the food and she politely thanked me. I smiled as she spoke about her life and what life was like before losing it all. I felt myself entering into a tiny panic, as I held my breath facing my worst fear; homelessness. I held back my emotion as much as I could and finally exhaled.
She seemed quite astute, saying she recently began losing hair and weight, which was what made her light-headed and unsteady, resulting in the fall that fractured her wrist. She was hungry and tired, and simply did not have the energy or balance she once had. As she spoke, you could tell she was emotional. She kept calling me an angel over and over, endlessly thanking me for stopping to help and chatting with her. She said it was the first time in a really long time she felt "human." What a humbling experience it was to engage with her.
All I could think about was how could someone let this happen? What world do we live in where this is considered okay? There must be something I can do. Not having any answers and being somewhat concerned about her frailty, I asked if I assist her in any other way. She said that the food and water was kindness enough and that she would catch the next bus down at the next block.
At that moment I realized just how much of a shelter desert I live in, how ill-informed and unprepared I was about bus routes or places to send people in need, and how hospitals can only do so much to help those that are homeless. It hurt my heart that that this had happened to an older adult right in my own neighborhood. It angered me to think about the life she was being forced to lead and how society was also letting her down. Where was the help? Where is this church and its members?
In the span of fifteen minutes my emotions were all over the place. I went from scared to happy to sad to mad. More deep emotions to process, but… what a way to realize what a privileged life I lead and how my insignificant worries are just mostly first world problems.
An Epidemic of Excess + Lost Gratitude?
Of course, the story ends as we parted our ways, but my point is that this small experience led to my finding more gratitude for my extremely fortunate life. Helping her helped me in unexplainable ways and I continue to think about her every day.
My old frustrations no longer seemed that important, but new frustrations inevitably emerged. Where did gratitude go and why don't we see it more often? I can't comprehend why so many people seem to have so much stuff, but live life as if it's never enough. There is just this huge gratitude void in our society in my honest opinion. Shouldn't living through this pandemic be enough of a wakeup call for some sort of gratitude? I mean, seriously.
As fulfilling as it was to see her appreciate the food and conversation, the experience left me more saddened and frustrated than ever before. It feels like too many people care way too little about others right now. Many appear to have either become numb or have turned a blind eye to the atrocities happening all around our country. Maybe the numbing and the avoiding are coping mechanisms, or maybe it is coming from a place of pure selfishness... who knows? To be clear, that is not for me to judge. I am simply observing it daily and I’m really struggling to process it all. Many people and their actions are becoming unrecognizable, at least to me.
Who knows why people make the choices they make? I do not pretend to know the meaning behind their words, actions, or posts for that matter. I am not in their shoes, I can’t always relate, and I don't know their underlying motivations. I would like to think most have a heart with good intentions, unless they blatantly prove otherwise. Is that a naive way of thinking? Maybe so.
I continue to wonder if people are aware but just choose to ignore the bad. Are some frustrated like me, but don’t know how to cope with the frustrations? Are people no longer motivated outside of their bubble? Perhaps people have suffered so much loss that they no longer have space left for any other emotion or giving of themselves? I think all of those are solid possibilities.
All the Whys
My brain can’t seem to shut off since meeting her and so I am constantly asking "why" questions regarding food and shelter: Why do we even have this problem of food insecurities and homelessness when we live in a society that has an excess of so many things? Why do people ignore those living on the street? Why can't more people who have so much in our neighborhood donate or organize causes that may help our unfortunate neighbors living right next door? Why are more people not getting involved to help make real changes in policy for society's sake? Update: Read about ending homeless in Silicon Valley by 2025 here.
These are the questions that boggle my mind every single day, and it is because of that, I'll continue to be frustrated. I can’t be the only one feeling like this because I know there are good people of the world accomplishing amazing things by helping others. But honestly, it's just so flipping hard to see the good through the awfulness and I would love nothing more than to see that change.
My Gratitude, Wishes, and Thoughts for Change
You (my audience of five) has become my sounding board, so thank you and congrats if you made it all the way through this laundry list of questioning and venting without giving up.
My main point is this: we need to open our eyes to the world around us and begin embracing the good again. As naïve as it sounds, I still choose to believe all humans are capable of change. Watching the hustle and bustle of the holiday season in full swing, my hope is that others might make minor changes this year that may be seem insignificant, but offer an immense value to others. It may even lead to increased happiness and gratitude, so what a nice added benefit!
I don’t know about you, but I personally love reading about those types of stories. Stories like the family who sews masks and bakes holiday treats then donates them to a shelter or nursing home; the student who writes his teacher a note of gratitude; the healthcare worker going into areas of most need and donating time to help. Many don’t often share when they do something for the greater good, but modesty is better than embellishing, I guess.
Well, I say go ahead and share that good news widely because we could all use it! Spreading positive thoughts can’t possibly hurt us more And it may just be the turn around we need. Connections and posts like those are something I crave, personally.
It's up to Us
We must do our part. Let's be funny, but also kind. Let's be remorseful, but also grateful. Talk about things important to you, but also look outside of your bubble and don't forget to try on someone else's shoes once in a while. Learn how experiences can be humbling and how awesome others truly are. "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not." That is my favorite quote from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.
I hope we can consider this holiday season an opportunity for change, and we can do this by donating blood, money, goods, or time in our local communities if we have the means to do so. We can get to know the helpful people, the useful places, and the wonderful small businesses in our area instead of padding the pockets of those who use their money carelessly or donate it to causes that divide us even further. Perhaps we should share the useful resources and stories we hear with others more often. Let's spread the "good news."
Simply put... be the change. If you have the ability and desire to do so, why not influence, educate, or advocate? Learn something new, do something new... just start somewhere if you want to see change happen.
Lastly, don't forget to be open to doing something outside of your comfort zone. Being afraid of failure holds you back and fearing what others might think or say about you, takes away the potential for something truly wonderful and life changing. Couldn't this new thing be a much more rewarding experience than just sitting in a bubble hoping for someone else to change? If not us... then who? Let's start melting away our frustrations together by doing helpful, “feel-good” things. Create some joy... somewhere.
If you're up to doing something good and selfless, I want to know about it! If you know of someone else's good deeds, let's make it big news! Let's spread the goodness this season, my friends. Our lives need it whether we realize it or not. We just have to start somewhere because wishing or hoping for a change just isn’t enough. Be the change others want to see and maybe it will start a movement. How's that for grandiosity?