This I Believe

Eleanor - Marina del Rey, California
Entered on April 22, 2007

I believe that we see things, not as THEY are, but as WE are:

When I graduated from high school, it was in the midst of the Depression, and although I spent weeks looking for a job, I couldn’t find one. I came home one afternoon, depressed, and in tears I complained to my father:

“Nobody wants to hire me, I’m not old enough, or pretty enough, and I have no experience.” He cut me off abruptly: “No wonder nobody wants to hire you if you go in with that attitude. You’re practically TELLING them why they SHOULDN’T hire you. You’ve got to go in with the idea that if they DON’T hire you, THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE MISSING!”

Well! That made me laugh, but it gave me confidence too, and I remember coming home a week or two later, still with no job, but laughing as I told my father, “An awful lot of people in N.Y. don’t know what they’re missing!” And it was only several days later that I GOT a job. Among other questions I was asked in that interview was: “Can you do everything?” With my father in mind, I gave a confident “YES!” and was promptly rewarded with the wonderful words: “You’re hired! Come in tomorrow morning at 9:00!”

I believe that “REALITY” differs for each individual, and we can CHOOSE what we perceive:

For centuries people “knew” that the earth was stationary and the center of the universe, and that the sun, moon, and stars all revolved around it. So in the 16th Century, when Copernicus wrote that it was the SUN that was the center of the universe, and that the earth was merely one of the planets revolving around it, that was HERESY. People didn’t like the idea that “their” earth had been downgraded, and they preferred to believe that Copernicus was not only WRONG, but DANGEROUS, and must be punished.

On a more personal level, psychologists tell us that beneath every display of ANGER is the hidden face of FEAR, and that when we can perceive our “attacker” as someone AFRAID of the consequences of OUR behavior, we can react with COMPASSION, rather than with RESENTMENT.

My step-son, Doug, was twelve when I became his step-mother, a relationship neither of us needed since he already had a mother, and I had a son. We clashed often because his behavior drove me crazy. One day, however, seeing him run to his father for comfort after I’d scolded him harshly for some minor offense, I suddenly saw him, not as a pre-teen intent on giving me a bad time, but as a frightened child running away from a threatening adult, and my heart went out to him. In that instant, our relationship shifted, and gradually we left behind the roles of step-mother and step-son, becoming friends as well.

I believe that “God” represents “X” in the universe, a mystery that no person or group can ever fully explain, just as no single religion has the ONLY path to “Salvation.”

One of my father’s favorite myths concerned the gods on Mt. Olympus who wanted to play a trick on Mankind, so they wrote “The Truth of the Universe” on a piece of paper, tore the paper into shreds, and let the shreds trickle down to earth. Then they laughed with malicious glee as they saw individuals picking up different shreds, each proclaiming, “I have the truth of the universe!”

And finally, I believe that we may not be able to control ALL the things that happen to us, but we CAN control what we let those things DO to us:

When I was about 12, one of my aunts was very ill, and my mother spent several weeks at her bedside. When Mother returned, everyone in the family did something special to welcome her home. I had planned to bake her favorite pie, but when I left the dinner table to get the pie out of the oven, it was obvious I had done something wrong: The pie was a BLOB! I was ASHAMED ot its appearance, and I began to cry.

My father came out to the kitchen to see what was taking so long, and he immediately sized up the situation: “No one but you knows what you were trying to make,” he told me. “Now, if you serve it in PIE PLATES, with FORKS, you

ANNOUNCE it as a failure, but if you were to serve it in DESSERT DISHES, with SPOONS….”

I took his advice, served it with spoons, and everyone RAVED about the new DESSERT I had created! At one point, my mother said,

“You know what this reminds me of? That lemon meringue pie I’m so fond of!” My father and I exchanged glances, but neither of us commented, and my “pudding” was the hit of the evening!

The Chinese have a saying that sums it up perfectly: “We may not be able to keep the birds of sorrow from flying overhead, BUT WE DON’T HAVE TO LET THEM BUILD A NEST IN OUR HAIR!”