Thumb vs. Finger: What's Your Preference?

We have a favorite saying in this house: Point the thumb instead of the finger. Meaning, blame yourself instead of others. Real easy to say, "It is your fault...not mine," with just about everything in life.

Three moves ago, we quickly discovered we could not afford to live off base. So we swallowed our pride and found ourselves being squashed like rats in a cage, hunkered down in very tight, very close, on base housing.  Two things can happen in these close-quartered living environments; you either take to the "closeness breeds fondness" mentality, or you can just let yourself be miserable.  I am a glass half full kind of gal. While I let myself get very close to the bottom every so often, I usually like to see the bright side of things because I realized my moods set the temperature for the rest of the house.  My neighbor on the other hand, preferred to drain the freakin' glass and then complain how there was nothing to drink. Loudly. And often.

She yelled, cursed, berated, and demoralized her kids. She yelled, cursed, berated, and demasculinized her husband.  It went beyond the normal range of "they are driving me nuts" and crossed the line over into abuse.  She was not healthy.  While we reported everything to all the right sources, it was still unnerving to see someone that miserable.  Usually I tried to avoid any and all contact with her, but when doors are adjacent to one another, you inevitably will meet. During one of these meetings, she vented her frustration with a childhood friend who wouldn't drive down from a neighboring state to go to a movie. Can't say I blame the friend, but that would not be very helpful to voice out loud, so I kept quiet. She was beginning to really get worked up and began the upward spiral that had me worried about her mental stability for the rest of the day.  Then she asked my opinion.  Here was my opening but before I spoke...I thought...what can I say that might make a difference?

So she won't go to a movie with you. Big deal. You can't force her and yelling at her won't work either. You can only control how you react to things, and you have absolutely no control how others will respond.  That is the way life works.  The more you get pissed off-- the further you push everyone away.  You can only control yourself.

She was silent. After about 20 seconds, 20 painfully quiet seconds where I was fearful for my life and was determining how fast I could dart through my door before the onslaught began, she calmly remarked how she had never thought of it that way, and restated, "I can only control myself."

I don't know if it helped any or if it even stuck around her head longer that two hours, but I remember that story anytime I hear of military spouses who are unhappy with their lives.  It is so easy to point the finger and blame others when life sucks.  It is their fault.  It is his/her fault.  Blah, blah, blah. Unless you are one in two hundred billion, chances are you did not just wake up and find yourself in a miserable life. Especially those spouses who married someone  in the military after 9/11.  You knew we were in a time of war.  You knew what your spouses did for a living.  Or you made the decision to enter into the military together. This did not just happen.

But the questions lie in what can you do to change your life without physically changing your life? What can you do to change your mindset? How can you look at things differently? You can only control yourself and how you react to the military. Wake up and realize this is your life and you are letting it go to waste with fruitless complaints about things that won't change and are out of your control.

Life is not easy for anyone; military members, dependents, and civilians all face challenges in life.  Period.  Nothing is fair.  So are you going to begin to point the thumb, and see what you can improve in your life, or continue to point fingers and blame everyone else?

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