127 – May 7
“Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.”—Italian Proverb
One afternoon, I was complaining about all of my problems to a friend as we milled with a group, waiting for a meeting to begin. She listened patiently to me whining for about five minutes, and then she had had enough.
“Excuse me!” she said loudly. I froze in my tracks.
“Did you eat today?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, not understanding why she was asking this question.
“Do you have a place to sleep tonight?” she continued, looking at me coldly.
Now I was getting the picture. “Yes,” I said sheepishly.
“And do you have a car to drive you to that place you’re going to sleep tonight?” she demanded.
I was dead meat now and I knew it. “Yes,” I whined.
“And is that car a Mercedes?”
“Uhhh…” I was inarticulate with embarrassment.
“Then shut up!” she exclaimed.
We stared at each other for a moment and then we both laughed. “Thanks, Sandy,” I said. “Message received.”
I thought about this at the memorial service for my friend, Tom. Tom was happily married to Barbara for many years when his diabetes took a turn for the worse. First one leg had to be amputated, then later, the other. A wonderful role model and mentor, his motto was “No sniveling.” At the service, Barbara said that after the loss of his legs, when someone would whine in his presence, he’d say with a twinkle in his eyes, “Oh? Cut off both your legs and then come talk to me.” That pretty much shut everybody up.
And what are you complaining about? Take another look. Chances are, if that is the worst problem you have, your life is pretty good.
“I take time to be happy—and to know that I am.”
This story is one of my favorites, and I still tell it. We all get trapped in our limited perspectives sometimes and need a friend to give us a metaphorical kick in the ass from time to time.
One of my dear friends still remembers the day she changed the direction of her life. She had called me to talk because she was drawn to the idea of becoming a psychotherapist. But it was going to take years of study and then internship and she was agonizing over what she was going to have to give up in order to do it.
“How can I give up my acting career after all these years?” she wailed.
As gently as I could, I said, “What career?”
There was silence on the phone, and then “Ah.”
She really hadn’t been doing any acting except in community theater or showcase productions – all things that didn’t pay. She knew that, but all the activity kept the illusion of success alive, even though there wasn’t an income to back it up.
Old dreams die hard. One thing that keeps actors going is the eternal optimism that maybe today I’ll be discovered, maybe today I’ll get that commercial that will run forever and pay the bills, maybe today my agent will call with an offer for a TV series. You dream until one day your dreams come true or one day you wake up and discover your dream has changed.
My friend enrolled in psychology courses, got her MFCC, did her internship, and has been happily running a successful private practice helping people for many years. And on the side, she still acts in community theater and has a ball.
And that’s success, too.