Tag Archives: lessons

True Story!

In fifth grade, ecology was a big topic.  So that year, the downtown merchants association held a poster contest.

I was so excited.  My idea was to draw an example of road-making using recycled glass bottles.  It was something I had seen in one of the ecology films they showed us.

It was tricky artwork.  I had to draw a steam roller which was very difficult.  I planned to use colored cellophane for the broken glass in the blacktop.  And of course, there was a human figure sitting on the steam roller running the thing.

The girl drawing next to me admired my work but I was highly critical of it.  It wasn’t coming out as perfect as I wanted and I said I would probably draw something different for the contest.

She asked if she could copy my idea for her poster and I kind of scoffed.  Then she offered to split the prize with me if it won.  I didn’t really think it would win, but I agreed.  We made a deal.

She copied my work down to the very last detail.  It couldn’t have been more identical if she’d used tracing paper.

I went on to draw a very perfect and very ordinary picture of bottles being washed out in a sink.

Amazingly enough, when the prizes were announced, my “partner” had won second prize!  It was $5.00!  So, $2.50 for me!!  Not a huge prize, but woo hoo, it was money!!

When I noticed how proud and happy she was acting, as if the whole thing had been her idea alone, I reminded her that she had said we would split the prize if she won.  My expectation was that she would acknowledge our deal and let me know how I would get my money.

What she actually said was, “I did NOT!  You’re just JEALOUS!”

I wish I could go back in time just to see the expression on my face.  It must have been comical.

I did feel a little stupid as I realized what I had done to myself.  I guess I should have gotten it in writing!!  But I was not jealous and I was the opposite of a liar.  She was the liar.

So here we are in the year 2016.  How has each of us fared since grade five?

I am an unemployed civil servant who had a nervous breakdown and will likely never work again.

She is a nurse with a masters degree who was hired a few years ago to set up a brand new cancer center with all the decision-making powers to go with that job.  She hired a head-hunting agency who found this job for her.

On Facebook she likes to post heart-warming memes to boost morale.  She posts every time she gets a manicure or massage or goes on a cruise or meets someone famous.  She looks very happy and I imagine she is.

Maybe I’d be happy too if I didn’t have to worry about the impact I might be having on others.

We are both married, she for a second time, and have children and grandchildren.

I don’t want the same things she wants or has.  Except maybe for her supreme sense of self.

I can’t be the only person she has treated that way.  I think most people will take advantage of someone who doesn’t know how to take care of themselves.  They might even tell a little white lie to soothe away any tiny bit of guilt they might feel for taking advantage.  It appears she does far more good in this world than harm.

For me the most shocking thing about that story is that a ten-year-old girl was able to come up with such an ugly lie so quickly and naturally:  I did not, you’re just jealous.

At least she got $5.00 and her picture in the paper.  And I got the first of many, many life’s lessons.  And I still don’t know what to make of most of them.

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Abracadabra!

I receive a weekly horoscope via email and it’s actually a very well-done horoscope. It’s not a bunch of predictions, it’s actually a well-researched chunk of advice based on what the particular astrological signs are tending to point toward for the coming week, weeks or months.

A couple weeks ago the advice given was to say Abracadabra! in order to make good things happen. While the advice is always metaphorical and never to be taken literally, that one still seemed like a pretty dumb bit. Yeah, a magic word, that’ll work. Thanks for nothing. I hope you send a better horoscope next week buddy.

A few afternoons later on that week, I was lying on the couch wanting to sleep but not able to. The kittens I am fostering were sleeping but might have awoken at any time to be fed. I didn’t really want to start on anything since it would just have to be put aside once the kittens started crying. I felt deflated.

Then a thought popped into my head. “What would I do right now if I were happy?”

I’ve been puzzling over the concept of happiness for many years ever since I experienced it by accident in 2001-02. There have been many times in my life that were good or exciting or satisfying. But that year I was actually completely and joyfully happy. Unfortunately, that happiness left me the same way it came to me. It seeped in and seeped out quietly and steadily like sand in an hour glass.

Now I know that what I actually experienced was euphoria due to meeting a person who accidentally tapped into my sense of not mattering and made me feel like I mattered. When that person left, the euphoria left.

Euphoria is kind of like a drug. It did feel incredible. I felt like I could do anything I wanted. And I wanted to do anything that came along. Nothing seemed too difficult. Everything was satisfying. Even looking in the mirror and seeing myself looking back at me was good. I felt light, confident, worthy and beautiful.

When the euphoria came to an end, and I could feel every bit of it seeping out of me like sand, I knew I couldn’t hang onto it. But I hoped that since I now knew what it felt like, if it came along again, I would recognize it and be able to make it happen again on my own. I did not know how to do that. But I clung to the idea that it was possible.

So much time has passed since then that I have pretty much gotten used to how I now feel. I am used to feeling heavy, tired, dissatisfied and kind of plain when there are no other distractions in my life. I do still remember how the other way felt even if I do not feel it anymore. My memory of how I once felt is what led me to ask myself, “What would I do right now if I were happy?”.

That day the answer was, I would get off the couch and work on the bills and budget. It needed to be done anyway and if I were happy it would be an easy and satisfying task. It would not diminish me to get off the couch and act on it. Since that answer felt very manageable, I did get up and do the bills and the budget.

I always get annoyed when I hear people who don’t have depression say things like, just get going, just make yourself do it, think positive, blah, blah, blah. It makes me want to smack them!

I’ve spent my life making myself do things I don’t want to do, didn’t think of on my own, that only benefit others instead of myself and almost always trap me into a situation that puts others in control of my life. And I am so done with all of that.

But how to motivate myself has been a huge challenge. I’m starting so late on behaviors that should have been learned and ingrained in me as a child. Talk about heavy!

They say when the student is ready the lesson will come. And it did. That abracadabra horoscope sounded kind of lame and annoying. My new mantra is kind of the same thing except that it came from me and it spoke to me in my language.

“What would I do right now if I were happy?” That’s a really good question. I expect to keep asking myself that question until someday real happiness starts to flow on its own.

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