The Haggard Generation

As many of you know who read my blogs, I love country music. Montgomery Gentry has a song called “Hell Yeah” where they talk about being “a product of the Haggard Generation.” Now, they may be talking about Merle Haggard and people who grew up listening to his music, but whenever I hear the line I conjure up a picture of many of us who are “haggard” due to running from work to school to sports to events for our children to work again. Many days we feel haggard and run down.

And with the demise of retirement savings for many people, we see “haggard” people who were hoping to retire but are having to continue working well into their golden years. This weekend I was away with my daughter at a dance competition, and all of the moms and dads there seemed haggard after dances that went on until 10 p.m. at night, and early morning rising for dance classes!

So, what’s being haggard got to do with understanding other people? Have you ever noticed how when you don’t feel well, are worried or fearful, haven’t slept well or are feeling generally run down and – yes – haggard, it’s so much harder to have kindness and compassion towards others?

Let’s face it, when I don’t have enough energy or don’t feel well enough to get through my daily requirements, I don’t have a lot of extra compassion lying around to extend to you. I can’t draw upon emotional resources that I simply don’t have myself!

But what happens when most of us feel haggard? What happens when most of us are tired and on overload? Many businesses are trying to do more with less, and many households are trying to do more with less. At the end of the day, we seem to have less and need to do more!

It takes focus and energy to listen to another person. It takes a strong will to decide I’m not going to dump my haggard feelings onto someone else’s haggard day! It takes a self-aware individual to say, “I’m going to set aside my feelings and allow myself to focus on someone else.”

How many of us decide each day that we are going to be this type of person? We’ve probably all been in the situation where we thought we couldn’t feel much worse for some reason, and then we learn that someone we know or care deeply about is very ill with a terminal disease. Or someone has lost their job or their home. Or has a child suffering from some debilitating condition. How come we can put aside our troubles when we learn of something so terrible happening to someone else? Most of us can readjust right in the moment to allow a focus on another person. We say things like “Well, that puts my problems in perspective” or as my mother used to always say to us, “Someone else always has it worse off than me!”

Let’s not wait for someone else’s tragedy to readjust our thinking. Are you haggard? Tired? Beaten down some days? Frustrated and worried? Well, join the game of life. Most of us feel like this at one time or another, and some feel like this every waking minute.

Try having compassion that your troubles are carried by others who experience many of the same ones. Try remembering that someone else is suffering right now and needs your focus and attention. Try remembering to fill your own cup, in whatever way you can, so that rather than being perpetually haggard, you can be rejuvenated to focus on others. Take care of yourself – and take care of the people around you. This week, choose to say “no” to haggard and “yes” to compassion.