Rules For Life – Answers or Excuses
by Ken La Salle
Welcome back to my continuing series of Rules For Life.
Most of these essays are inspired by personal experience and this one is no different, because I spent my Christmas holiday… sick. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
My wife, Vicky, and I had a party to go to Friday night, before Christmas Eve. She came home from work with the first symptoms of a cold but still interested in attending the party. She quaffed much of a large bottle of water to help fight her illness before heading upstairs to change. Left with that open bottle of water, and being a thirsty sort, I made the colossal mistake of drinking every last drop from Vicky’s bottle.
I was sick as a dog within hours.
Vicky and I missed our Christmas Eve plans with my family and, instead of spending Christmas Day with her family, found ourselves unable to move, trapped within our sick bodies and horizontal all the live long day.
By noon, it occurred to me that neither of us had so much as moved. Vicky was upstairs, bedridden, and I was downstairs, sofa-ridden. (That’s a thing, right?) Not only were we motionless, our dogs had not been walked since the first thing that morning when one of us had… hopefully… taken them for a walk.
Someone would have to take them out at lunchtime.
Who would it be?
As I lay there, I found I could come up with one reason after another why that person shouldn’t be me. I won’t list those reasons here because I quickly discovered that each reason was more childish and less helpful than the last. With a flash, I realized what I was doing; I had been doing this same thing since childhood. I was looking for excuses!
I thought I had outgrown excuse-making when I reached adulthood… or my 30s… or my 40s… It didn’t matter how enlightened I considered myself to be; I was officially behaving like a child. I wasn’t concerned with solving our problems. I just didn’t want it to be me!
There’s nothing original in this, of course. Seeking excuses, blame, cop-outs, or whatever you want to call it is far too common in this world. It doesn’t help resolve problems. It doesn’t make our lives any better. Excuses are just our default method for pushing our responsibilities onto someone else.
And, believe me. I get it. Life can be pretty tough at times. You could get to feeling like a fighter in a ring. And when you get knocked down, it would be good to know if you’re looking for a way up or a reason to stay down. Either choice is equally valid, but which choice is going to help make us into the people we want to be?
I know that taking responsibility, finding answers and creating solutions, isn’t the easiest thing we can do. I also know we’re not always capable, either. But as I was lying on my sofa, I realized just how easy it is to fall back into excuses. I had convinced myself that I was impartial, that Vicky had it easier because she was coming downstairs, for instance. When we allow ourselves that kind of dishonesty, however, we’re not being honest in our relationships or with ourselves.
Knowing that difference helps us create better relationships and makes our lives easier in the long run. You can honestly admit when you would rather not do something, which is always a better solution than the dishonest alternative.
In the end, I texted Vicky—we were both too sick for shouting—and asked if she would like me to bring her some juice. I told her I’d walk the dogs. I rose from my lovely sofa cushions… and heard Vicky coming downstairs. Turned out, we would walk the dogs together.
About the Author
Author and Playwright, Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue-collar roots, which have given him a progressive and environmentalist view. As a result, you’ll find many of his stories touching those areas both geographically and philosophically. His plays have been seen in theaters across the country and you can find a growing number of books available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at www.kenlasalle.com.