I believe that life is a learning experience; that each of us is born with baggage from a previous existence and each life is a chance to learn from it and correct it. If we choose to remain ignorant, we'll just drag it into our next incarnation, and so on and so on until we figure it out. It kind of follows my rather vague notions of Karma and reincarnation. (I'm not trying to preach some hippie Voodoo shit to anyone who happens to believe we live, we die, we enter Heaven or we burn in Hell... this just happens to be MY opinion. As the Good Book says, opinions are like assholes... we all have one. Personally, I have wayyyyyy more opinions than assholes, but perhaps that's just me.)
About 15 years ago, at a particularly horrible point in my life, I started to re-evaluate myself. I actually wrote a list of all the things about myself that could use a-changin'. The list was frighteningly long. (In fact, some might even say it was embarrassingly long.) A lightbulb clicked on above my head and I had an epiphany: I am an obnoxious pain in the ass. (No wonder so many teachers hated me when I was a kid... I knew more than they did and didn't hesitate when it came to letting them know.) I tried really, really hard to stop believing that I'm always right, to quit arguing just because someone has a different opinion than I do, and to stop appointing myself Judge, Jury, and Educator of All The World (complete with super hero cape and a uni-tard with a giant R emblazoned on the front for Captain Right Fighter) because dammit, I'M RIGHT, and I'm not going to shut up until you agree with me. (This was before Dr. Phil showed up and started asking people if they'd rather be right or if they'd rather be happy. I had to figure that out for myself. Thanks for nothing, Dr. Phil. Too little, too late. I've already had a changing day in my life.)
I was the child who was sent home from Confirmation, time and time again, for arguing with the pastor. I was asked to leave a Bible Study about Women of Excellence because I scoffed and snorted about God being the Head of Man and Man being the Head of the Woman and the Head of the Household. I would argue bitterly in debate class (I never actually participated in competitive debate... weird, right? I did dramatic interpretations and poetic interpretations but I never debated. As much as I loved to argue, I hated debate, mostly because I wasn't allowed to pick the topic and name calling and cheap shots weren't allowed. What a yawn) and get wildly butt-hurt if my impassioned diatribe failed to change everybody's mind. (I honestly expected everyone to stand and cheer, or do the slow clap, because I had opened their eyes and their minds.) I spent a lot of time in my room for arguing with my parents because dammit, I WAS RIGHT, and even if it meant sacrificing my freedom via groundation I was not going to step down or change my mind.
One of the most difficult things that I needed to work on was learning when to shut the hell up. "Pick your battles, Danielle!" I would tell myself, as I continued to argue and argue and argue (ad nauseum) until my opponent cried "Uncle!" just to make me stop talking. It finally occurred to me that I'm not going to change anybody's mind any more than they were going to change MY mind. (Why would I change my mind, for God's sake? I was right!)
I stopped talking and started listening. (Usually.)
I closed my mouth and opened my mind. (Really... I did.)
I stopped forcing my opinion on the masses whom I deemed to be wrong and accepted that their thoughts and beliefs were just as valid as my own. (Even though they were still wrong.)
When I state my position on a topic, I try not to argue the point and just say, "This is what I think" and leave it at that. Or (and this is where I'm sure eyes will roll) I just say nothing. (You have NO idea how hard that is.)
I've quit discussing politics and religion with people who have different beliefs than I do and actually will tell these people, "I refuse to discuss politics or religion with people I love and respect" because, as it turns out, most people get really hot and bothered when it comes to these topics. (Who knew? I thought it was only me.) I come from a family of die-hard Right Wing Christian Republicans (of which I am not one) and I can honestly say that I haven't discussed politics or religion with anyone in my family for the past 15 years.
(Those of you who've known me since the Dawn Of Time are no doubt skeptical, but I assure you, it's the truth. No, really... it is. I swear.)
Sadly, it took me over 30 years to figure this out, and I'm still branded with the title of "She loves to argue" (which seriously pisses me off at this point... Don't you hate it when you try to change yourself to become a better person and no one notices??) but fortunately, I learned it prior to death, so I can assume that in my next life, I'm going to spend less time bickering.
Today's Hot Topic is New York passing a Same Sex Marriage law, allowing gay couples the right to marry. I think this is fantastic, and I hope that the remaining 44 states also jump on the band wagon. I've been on Facebook reading posts by people on both sides of the issue and I am pretty darn proud of myself for only responding to one post that viewed this as a negative thing. I was respectful and polite and just voiced my opinion (and even tossed in a couple of Bible verses... who says I didn't pay attention in Confirmation?) and... *gasp* then let it go. I didn't even respond to the asshole who made the token "The Bible says Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" argument. (I know, right? Talk about showing heroic restraint.) I'm not going to change any minds with what I said, but I felt the need to say something. The Adam and Steve guy needs to die a slow and painful death, but since I believe that ignorance is painful, I'm pretty sure he'll get his in the end (and come back as a homosexual in his next life and have to try and explain to people just like him why he was born that way and how it isn't a choice. And the part where I said "getting his in the end" was totally an unintentional pun).
Shutting up now...