Earlier today I read a blog entry that touches on the cliche of "I am a better person because of [insert any difficult, challenging experience or person]." I struggled with what was written because many times I feel I am in fact better from who and what I have experienced. I too get sick of hearing such trite phrases as "God won't give you what you can't handle." or "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." But I also understand the human need to rationalize difficult, challenging, or unsettling experiences in order to persevere.
So, with that on my mind, as I sat teary-eyed watching a movie on TBS--feeling silly about the way I was shuddering and sniffling at a movie about intense, spiritual love--one of the characters said something to the effect that the couple had shared more love in that summer than many people do in a lifetime. And I remember the words "I have" popping into my head--unscripted, uncalled for, words just there in truth. Not that I have any idea how other people experience or internalize love, but I knew that how I was experiencing it through the eyes of the characters is how I've experienced it my own life.
Anyhow, it was then that I realized that I don't know if I am a better person than I was last year or the year before or years before that. I know I am somehow different because of my children, my husband, and the struggles and triumphs through out my life. I know I am a different person because of the thousands of people--some close and some only whispers--who have entered my realm to comfort, guide, manipulate, or hurt me...or just those who just passed through as they navigated their lives.
I know that I am who I am because of it all and to try to separate the experience from the person is ridiculous. Some of me has grown, some of who I thought I was has perished to be replaced by parts of me that I had previously refused to recognize. I know many of my faults and many of my strengths...and on any given day they may switch categories, but they still shape me and guide me.
So maybe I am not a better person. I still get anxious over silly things I can't control like Bubba wanting to touch every squeaky dog toy and wind chime at the grocery store or Moose screaming uncontrollably when we are giving him a breathing treatment that is supposed to help him. I am easily irritated and have hot-flushed reactions when my husband can't stop pestering and teasing my friends even when it's not "appropriate." I still fret over goofy things like finding money to pay the gas bill and time to go exercise, when I just spent $20 and 20 minutes on burgers and ice cream earlier in the day. I still participate in petty gossip and have internal debates over things that most people wouldn't even give 2 seconds to. But I am sure that every experience I have had from this point back, from each gentle nudge of my husband to the look of innocence in my children's eyes, to the vulnerability and courage I hear in my sister's voice each time we talk, to all of life's irritations and challenges that push me inside myself and pull me back out create a new version of me second by second.
It is this that reminds me that if each slight shrug of a person and each breath of the wind has made me who I am, then I have more purpose than I could've ever dreamed. To think just one word, one glance, or the lack of any acknowledgement can shape one second of one person. To some that second is just a tick of time, to others it may be a pivoting point. The thing is you just don't know, do you? So it is not because of the people and experiences in my life that I am a better person it is because of the people and experiences in my life that I strive to be a better person. I don't think there is anything wrong with that.