Over the past few weeks, I have felt myself slipping into an ever-increasing, self-pitying state. The “poor me” syndrome is a chronic and highly contagious illness. It strikes sufferers in varying degrees, from the legitimately lamentable to the absurd.
Missives from two friends this week helped me to shake my blues. Both were written from a place of despair. One, was from a friend who is an incredibly talented artist, an American, who, like me, feels set a drift in sea of uncertainty in this green and pleasant land.
Also like me, she can recall with great ease a tremendously fulfilling and urbane professional life, recently left behind; wherein she felt valued, respected and rewarded for her achievements. Now, living in Britain, her “education, experience, street cred and accomplishments” seem to count for very little. Her applications to local charities and libraries, for jobs she could do in her sleep, go unheeded and unanswered. A sorry state of affairs, and I know how she feels.
I was humbled by the words of her message: “I know you want more from your life here,” she said. “But right now I'd be happy with a bit of what you have.” I was struck to the core but my own general lack of gratitude. It’s so much easier to look at what we don’t have.
The other missive can from the opposite direction. A plea for advice - from a friend best described as, “a woman who has it all”. No, she really does. She doesn’t realize it, of course. I love her to bits, but there are times when we clearly see the world in very different ways.
She was seeking my advice because a man, a work colleague in her office, has been consistently “ignoring” her. He’s not rude or mean. Just, indifferent. No matter how nicely dressed she is, are how she smiles, jokes, flirts, etc. he “pays [her] no attention at all”.
And, it bothers her. The other men in the office find her very attractive and amusing. As she describes it, they seem to hover around her in a “Mad Men” kind of way. And, her husband adores her, too, but, it is this one minion, who refuses to become an acolyte, who drives her to tears and despair. “Why doesn’t he like me?” she sobbed virtually, on email.
I sat perplexed, staring at my computer screen, feeling that I had suddenly slipped by time warp back to High School. I sat, watching my cursor blink incessantly, words utterly escaping me.
“Where have we gone?” I thought to myself aloud. “How has everything become ‘a problem’, even when it isn’t one?” As I lost myself in existential thought, I was rescued by a ping in my inbox…
“Hit the pool and make a difference! Join the 2011 Swimathon and support the work of Marie Curie Cancer Care” - the headline announced.
The thought of doing something good for charity struck a very deep and immediate chord for me in that moment. And, it suddenly lifted me out of the silly, hapless wasteland in which I was now rambling.
“I’m going to do this!” I thought, and before I knew it, I was ready to register! First, a short message to my darling DEB: “Wanna join my team?” Short, sweet reply back: “Yes!” So, the DEB and I are taking on the swim of our lives as part of the world’s biggest fundraising swim! The money we raise will allow Marie Curie Nurses to provide free care at home to people with terminal cancer and other illnesses.
We have decided to do a 10K swim, and will be doing it in my beloved hobbit-sized pool at the gym. It will take us ages in that tiny pool, but we think the Marie Curie Nurses are worth it! We are swimming in memory of two of our beloved parents, lost to cancer.
Our Swimathon mission has really propelled me this week. It is so, so, so, wonderful to have a goal. A clear, precise objective that can be reached. An attainable, sizeable goal.
And, a goal that is bigger than “me” and my needs.