The Calgon Copout
I believe in the importance of putting life circumstances into perspective. A sense of perspective helps us reflect on how our own personal stressors compare to those endured by others in our world. Empathy is the end result.
I grew up in the 60’s, a time when television commercials were warm and wholesome. No talking geckos or boardroom monkeys. Just real people helping you solve your real life problems, like shirt collar stains and lingering household odors. I especially remember the Calgon lady. Let me refresh your memory. She was the main character in a bubble bath commercial made famous for her stressed out visage, while in the background, dinner was burning, the dog was digging up her newly planted rose bushes and her kids were annihilating one another. Her mantra was: “Calgon, take me away!” Any mother can identify.
Having grown up in rural Maine, my childhood was nothing short of beautiful. I had the good fortune of sharing it with three siblings, of whom I am the youngest. Childhood spats well behind us, we are a loving extended family that enjoys spending time together. My brother is a talented custom home builder. His work is an art form. He epitomizes patience and loyalty to his wife and boys. My eldest sister helps Somali refugees assimilate into their local community and consistently champions the causes of the underserved. She is simultaneously tough and tender hearted, qualities that make her an excellent community leader and a great friend.
To be certain, my youngest sister is my greatest source of inspiration. For years, she has quietly shouldered the burden of mental illness. Her mental health is in a constant state of flux. Through all the medication changes, inpatient psychiatric hospital stays, and the lowest of low times in her life, she has never felt sorry for herself. She has met her mental illness head on and weathered the constancy of her condition with strength, grace and perseverance.
Recently, she developed colon cancer which required surgery and chemotherapy. She has endured near constant nausea and vomiting, lethargy so profound as to make it difficult to get out of bed, and the loss of her independent living situation. I am certain that she has been through hell in the past 6 months. She would be totally justified in wanting to yell, “Calgon, take me away!” She has chosen not to. Instead, she has shown an unending determination to finish her chemotherapy and to get on with living.
She has always maintained a healthy perspective on her circumstances. She has approached every hurdle not as an obstacle but more so as challenge. Through her steadfast endurance of both her physical and mental health difficulties, she has maintained an attitude of courage and fortitude, at times I believe as much for her own benefit as for the benefit of those around her. Unlike the Calgon lady, she has boldly faced her challenges head on. It’s a perspective we can all learn from.