It's been a busy week once again in Aotearoa, New Zealand, with a tragedy still unfolding with whanau of a marae I have ties with after a boat was hit by a rogue wave and overturned in Foveaux Strait. Nine people, all extended family or close friends of each other, were heading from Bluff to Stewart Island for an annual muttonbirding expedition. As of this morning, one survivor had been rescued clinging to a petrol can, four to five bodies had been recovered (news reports often differ at this stage and I have not heard an official number) and the rest, including a 7-year-old, were still missing, in chilly, unforgiving seas.
Further north, here in Christchurch, a 27-year-old Somali-born man went on a 90-minute rampage during which he kidnapped and stabbed a delivery van driver then seriously stabbed a council worker whose car he jumped into after the van driver escaped. He is also accused of menacing a school caretaker and a teacher before kidnapping the driver.
I listened to the driver, Marteine Robin, yesterday morning on National Radio and read another interview with her this morning in the Christchurch Press and was struck by her earthy Kiwiness. She initially thought her attacker was a hitchhiker when she saw him walking down the road, "then the door flung open and he had a knife in his hand and he was pointing it at me, telling me to drive or he would stab me." (Press)
"I told him to get out of my effing truck," she told National Radio, softening her, "I said, 'Get the f*** out of my truck', " quote she gave the Press. She explained to the National Radio host that she had asked him why he was doing what he was doing, and he said he had issues.
"I said, 'We all have issues. Deal with it.'," she told the host, in a matter-of-fact tone.
Those two sentences to me epitomize the Kiwi spirit, and explain the cultural divide between myself and many American friends, one in particular who means much to me. If a Kiwi or Aussie friend is annoyed or irritated or mad or frustrated by something, I'll listen for a short while and often agree the situation/instigator is at fault. But before too long, if it's something out of my or my friend's control, I'm likely to say, "Yeah, life bites sometimes. Get over it." It's just a blunter version of the Serenity Prayer in a way - "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." In the terse, to-the-point and often taciturn culture I come from, we distill that prayer down to, "Get over it."
Probably not surprisingly, this often doesn't translate well when used with American friends. My blunt, "Get over it," statements (another is that all choices have consequences and, having made the choice, there's no point whining about the consequences) are taken as harsh and uncaring. They're actually anything but. To me, accepting and moving on is far healthier than continuing to be angry/frustrated/resentful/guilty/insert negative emotion. If you can change it or improve it, do so, but if you can't, don't allow it to negatively impact on your emotional well-being any more than it must. I'm not belittling the problems we all face, I'm merely refusing to let them dictate my happiness or unhappiness.
Having that attitude helps me immensely right now, as I visit with a dying friend for whom the medical community has given up intervention. "It would only prolong his life," they say. So his extended family, of whom I am privileged to be one, and friends gather to celebrate his life and achievements and the house is filled with light and love and laughter. We're all sad at what must come, but being sad does not prevent us being joyful.
Sometimes life bites. So we might as well enjoy every last second of it that we can.