Say Anything

say-anything-main-review

By Mark E. Smith

When you have a disability like me, you get used to some referring to you as “brave.” Yet, there’s nothing intrinsically brave about disability, in itself. You have it, life goes on, no place for bravery.

However, the human experience requires tremendous – sometimes, stomach-churning – bravery if we are living authentically to our best. My daughter, at this writing, has three weeks to decide if she’s attending Pratt in New York City to major in photography, or George Mason in Washington D.C. to major in psychology. Those are not only two completely different college experiences, but totally different life paths. Imagine the bravery it takes for an 18-year-old to make such a decision.

Bravery, after all, is an inner-feeling spoken – there’s nothing scarier than that. For example, while my daughter deliberates colleges, there’s little on the line. However, once she discloses her choice, she’s committed to it – it will take bravery for her to utter the words, “Dad, I’ve chosen….”

But, let’s go deeper, let’s think about the bravest moments in our lives, feelings spoken. What do they sound like?

I’m falling in love with you.

I love you, but I’m not in love with you.

I just had to come over here and introduce myself.

I’m sorry.

I was wrong.

I wish I was who you need me to be, but I’m not.

I’m scared.

I need help.

I want a divorce.

Will you marry me?

I can’t.

I’m doing it!

The list goes on, and the words are different for each of us at vital turning points in our lives. Yet, the definition is a universal truth: bravery is a feeling spoken.

Here’s the real question, though: if bravery is a feeling spoken, what’s its impact on our lives?

Authenticity to ourselves. If we want to truly be ourselves, we must… well… be ourselves. We must be honest with our feelings, honest enough to vocalize them even when so much is at stake, when our deepest, sometimes scariest feeling are vocalized – and that takes the ultimate bravery.

Sinking Ships Save Lives

By Mark E. Smith

I was at my boat dealership readying my boat for its summer launch, when I heard a commotion. It was a guy yelling about some issue with his $90,000 boat, dry-docked next to his Range Rover, with his blond, breast-implanted wife and couple of kids standing beside him. As I tuned in to his yelling, he was furious that the cabin on his boat hadn’t been vacuumed, part of the dealership’s summer launch package. And, as I waxed my boat, I thought, Oh joy – another A-hole who has no clue as to how blessed he is. I should go punch him in the face, and teach him a bit about appreciating life via a broken nose.

Now, there’s a good bet that a tool like him is in debt up to his ears. Still, life has to be a piece of cake when you have luxuries like a sport cruiser, high-end SUV, and breast implants. But, most importantly, everyone in his family seemed strikingly healthy – the biggest blessing of all. Yet, Mr. Tool seemed oblivious to all of it, where apparently his life is so easy – read that, so lacking of appreciation – that his only concern is screaming at a 19-year-old, who makes $8 an hour working his ass off – about his boat not being vacuumed. Again, I say that we tattoo A-hole on Mr. Tool’s forehead just to forewarn everyone he encounters.

Yet, Mr. Tool isn’t unique. We run into people everyday who have zero appreciation for all that’s in their lives. I was in line at Wal-Mart, and heard the clerk ask each person in front of me how he or she was? Each person had something negative to say, whining about this or that. I thought to myself, You’re healthy enough to to be shopping, with enough money to pay for groceries – life is great, so quit your complaining.

So, when I got to the check-out, I asked the clerk if anyone ever gave her an enthusiastic, positive response? Her answer, “Never – you’d be amazed at how miserable people are.”

No I wouldn’t. I know countless people with everything to be thankful for; yet, they make themselves miserable based on a looming lack of appreciation. People with committed marriages are miserable. People with great jobs are miserable. People with supportive families are miserable. People in great health are miserable. In plain terms, people who are blessed beyond belief will tell you how terrible their lives are – and I find it a repugnant mindset.

All of this led me to the question of, Why are people who are so fortunate so miserable and ungrateful?

It turns out that there’s a scientific basis for misery and a lack of appreciation by those who are truly blessed with love, success, and financial security. An article in the August 2010 issue of Psychological Science demonstrates that while the various forms of success in our lives can elevate us by class, status, and wealth, it simultaneously can impair our ability to enjoy or appreciate life, itself. It turns out that when we experience the success that life has to offer, it can numb us toward savoring the seemingly smaller – but ultimately important – parts of life, like being grateful for life, itself. As the study describes, it’s not unlike that “new car feeling,” where most appreciate a new car for a few weeks, but then lose gratitude toward it. Mr. Tool being pissed about his boat is merely emblematic that he’s lost the ability to realize how blessed he is in the most important ways, as with having a loving wife and two healthy kids. He’s allowed himself to lose humility and perspective by being blinded by good fortune.

The key, then, for all of us is to maintain a sense of perspective on our lives. Using myself as an example, I enjoy the material things I’ve earned – and feel blessed to have them, genuinely appreciating aspects like my career, house, boat, and van. However, truly, if I lost everything I have, I’d still be fulfilled as long as those close to me were healthy and happy, with my daughter being number one. You can fire me; burn down my house down; sink my boat; and, crash my van. Heck, give me a horrible disease in addition to my cerebral palsy. But, as long as my daughter is healthy and happy, I have no right to complain about anything, ever.

And, that’s what we all need to do at this moment: Remind ourselves of how blessed we are at the core levels of our lives, and approach the rest of life with a genuine sense of gratitude, right down to just being thrilled to be in line at Wal-Mart with a bunch of miserable people.