I recently found the Oprah channel on my Sirius radio and have been listening to reruns of her life lessons series it is really fascinating the amazing people and their stories I have heard since tuning in. One guest really resonated with me, Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Randy was 47 years old at the time of the original airing of the show, it just so happens I am 47 years old too. He was talking about a tradition at Carnegie Mellon where a professor is asked to prepare a lecture guided by the question: “If it were your last chance to give a lecture to students, what would you say?” The interesting thing is that his lecture actually was going to be his last lecture, he was dying of pancreatic cancer. His upbeat and brutally honest approach to his impending death is absolutely inspiring. If you haven’t heard his lecture I strongly encourage you to do so, there are so many amazing things that he conveys, I could not begin to do them all justice here. I do want to discuss one thing he said during his interview on the radio though, he said, “I don’t choose to be an object of pity.” The absolute power of that statement practically knocked me off my feet, thankfully I had just pulled in to my parking spot so I grabbed my journal and scrambled to get those words written down quickly as if they would fade to black from my memory if I did not write them down fast enough. Wow, I was so inspired by this brilliant man with three young children and a wife whose life was going to end shortly, he was strong, so strong in fact while I listened to him I absolutely forgot he is dying. How powerful! How marvelous!
One thing I found very disempowering during the last year, while all hell was breaking loose in my personal life, was pity. I know the definition of pity is kindly sorrow for someone, however, what I am describing is that thing that people do when they feel sorry for you and convey a sense of, wow your life is really crappy I am not sure how you carry on. When I experience someone conveying that kind of pity for me, it feels as if they are sucking all the energy from me and I find myself trying to separate from them. Instead I want to experience people who empowered me through their love and confidence that I can and will handle my circumstances.
I feel the same discomfort when talking to people who seem to want me to believe their life is crappy or a constant struggle. It’s almost like they are asking me to be their accomplice in some sort of unseemly undertaking. I am not talking about feeling sad or empathy for another person, I am talking about walking a path that carries that person down further into the abyss instead of lifting them up.
I saw a very clear example of this common dance in both my family and my husband’s family. My husband actually referred to one of his relatives by the nickname “poor little,” I was taken aback the first time he called her that, but I soon found out why. That is how so many people in the family would refer to her, it was very interesting, they would say “did you hear what happened to poor little (insert name here)?” Or they would just say “poor little (insert name here)…..(insert crisis here).” It was fascinating and even now looking back, poor little always had some calamity, crisis or chaos going on in her life which played out like a modern-day tragedy. It was always one thing after another and she was often needing to be rescued, at least according to the family. I did not recognize it then, but now I see how this kept her down, how the expectation was that she could not help herself. She and the family were unwitting partners in her doom loop.
I used to be quite the martyr myself, I threw my own lavish pity parties all the time. I guess what finally changed for me is understanding the power of accepting responsibility for my choices and realizing every situation I find myself in I attracted through my thoughts and choices. I now see the power that is manifested when I take responsibility for my feelings and my actions. Where I am now and what I am doing is a direct result of my choices. Sometimes our thoughts manifest things we may not have intended, that is why we have to be clear about our intentions and thoughts. While listening to Oprah radio I heard Oprah talk about how she no longer prays for courage or strength because she kept finding herself in situations where she needed to be courageous or strong, when what she really wanted her true intention was peace and happiness.
Pity to me means you are not capable of dealing with your circumstances, you are weak, and so we are going to engage in a collaboration that is going to keep you anchored to this problem. I want to empower others to rise above their circumstances, they do not define us, they are actually an illusion for the ego to focus on.
Even as I navigate some of the rougher waters in the flow of my life, I know God is in charge and I need to find my still point, so the murky waters clear and I gain clarity. When I simply trust, and I mean trust enough to release my circumstances to God’s will, I experience far less fear and far more love.
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life, … If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.”- Randy Pausch
Posted on August 20, 2012, in Humor, Life, Spiritual Journey and tagged carnegie mellon, empowerment, intention, last lecture, Oprah, pitiful, Pity, power, randy pausch. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.