I wanted to write a blog post today because, well, I wanted to.
A friend recently gave me the idea to write about all the wonderful benefits of age – specifically, the fact that age gives you the extremely blissful ability and desire to say of most thing, “aw, blow it off and get you a beer, who cares?” Trivial stuff actually DOES seem trivial at this age. And that’s a great topic, but then . . . .
The Federal District Court in San Antonio published its opinion/order in Deleon v. Perry, in which it finds Texas’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional on the basis that (broad over simplification of the opinion to follow) it violates the 14th Amendment’s protections of due process and equal protection under the law. So I thought I’d write about that.
But then I read this article about over-achieving mom/parent culture at school (and how we parents – and the schools too -- should all just simmer down a little bit), which, paired with all of the crazy things I’ve seen on Pinterest, lead me to concur that we’ve all gone just a little bit overboard on, e.g., our kids’ Valentines cards and gifts.
AND THEN, I read a story about a new study – a single study – that found that, basically, if you didn’t breastfeed your baby, no harm/no foul. Your kid is not permanently damaged because you didn’t give him/her sufficient boob juice with all kinds of magical and beneficial hoosiewhatsits in it. And for those of us who had a hard time producing enough milk to fill even one bottle, this was welcome news. (It was also welcome news to those of us who have been milk-shamed for not breastfeeding or not “trying hard enough” to breastfeed.)
Then I realized something: all of these things have something in common.
I think that tolerance has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Some people hear the word, “tolerance,” and they think that you mean “approval.” And that’s not what tolerance is at all. Tolerance is the ability to accept that something you dislike exists. Think of tolerance, in fact, as endurance. Something may be painful to you, or distasteful to you, but you nevertheless endure it with grace and aplomb. I have tolerated many a continuing legal education lecture through the years....
You don’t have to like it. You don’t even have to endorse it. But humility, patience, and generosity of spirit can allow you to live in peace knowing that something you think is wrong exists in the world.
There are a lot of people who don’t want to tolerate gay marriage. They find it morally offensive. I get that. I tolerate that. I can even sympathize with those feelings and thoughts. Because there are a lot of legal things that I find immoral and/or distasteful, but I tolerate them because I live in this civil society that permits them. (Example: the death penalty.) And it seems clearer and clearer that the law of equal protection and due process will extend to the marriages of same sex couples throughout this land, and sooner rather than later. Not everyone has to like it. But trying to find a way to tolerate it while remaining true to oneself is a virtue for which we can all strive.
As for the breastfeeding and the over-achieving parent behavior, well, let’s try to give each other a break, shall we? Not everyone is going to make the same choices as you do, and that’s okay. In fact, we make the choices that are best for us. For some of us, that’s breastfeeding and making elaborate Valentine cards for our kids (sometimes simultaneously!). For others of us, it’s Enfamil and dollar store Valentine cards with Dum Dums suckers taped to the front of them. Whatever it is we choose, that’s okay. No child will be damaged by a non-homemade Valentine card, nor will any child be damaged by elaborate homemade ones. The worst thing that could happen is that the other grown-ups will talk behind their hands in judgment of your slackerdom or over-achiever syndrome. (Something I’m guilty of myself, I confess.) Rather than do either, we should gracefully nod, and tolerate the different choices of our neighbors. “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24. (I love Proverbs.) It’s good to remember that, when thinking of our neighbors.
All this being said, we should not tolerate everything. Some things are worth the fight. (For me, women’s rights, human dignity.) And, I suppose, that we must choose what battles we will fight and what things we can tolerate notwithstanding our disapproval. What is worth it to us? And are there things for which we can turn the other cheek, or drop our untossed stones, understanding that we are also not perfect?
Which of course brings me to the first topic I considered writing about today: the relaxation of care that comes with age. In my forties, it’s true that I just do not have the fire in my belly to become indignant or fight back about every slight. In my forties, I’m becoming more “live and let live” and less “you’re doing it wrong.” It doesn't mean I don't have passion or that I'm world weary. But my two-score-plus years have given me a lot of patience, gratitude and perspective. So here in my forties, I tolerate a lot . . . mostly gladly.
We’d all be a lot happier, I think, if, rather than seethe and gnash our teeth, we would just blow it off and get us a beer when something irks us. (Or a red wine. Boxed, even. I’m not picky, I’ll tolerate whatever you’ve got. Cheers, friends.)