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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Somebody Else

(This is the second and concluding segment in a two part series under the title of Tolerance and Inclusion.  The first segment identified the cure for intolerance, specifying the need to increase the size of the tent.)

Do you want to be somebody else?  Are you tired of fighting battles with yourself?

Perhaps, the ordinary citizen’s more practical approach to transformation from who we are to who we might like to become involves merely changing the way we looks at things.  To illustrate this point, consider the following story.

A pair of strangers finds themselves together by chance as first time patients in the waiting room of the psychiatrist’s office, where each awaits her private session.  Invariably, the two strike up a casual but nervous conversation.

“What are you here for?” one innocently asks the other.

“Oh, I’ve got a ton of family issues,” the other responds.  “My mother is forever trying to control my life.  It’s bad enough that she can’t even manage her own.  My father got tired of trying to help her --- he just goes down to the local Knights of Columbus and drinks his sorrows away.  The poor guy.  Don’t know why he just can’t exist without that evil alcohol.  On top of that, my husband’s really stressed out at work.  With the recession and all, his boss is working him like a dog, and he’s accepting as much overtime as he can get.  But sometimes I think he loves his job, or should I say the money it brings in, more than he loves me and the kids!  Since he’s never at home any more, I have to do all the parenting, cooking, cleaning, caring for our pets, and all the other things that a mother does, while still holding down my own job.  The kids are no help, either.  When they get home from school, all they seem to want to do is play video games or get on that stupid Facebook.  And what is the business with that text messaging anyway?  It’s like they’re in some kind of trance.  I saw from the bill that our daughter had over 2,000 text messages last month, and our son was not far behind.”

The woman paused, and then continued, “My sister’s husband has a terrible gambling problem, whether it’s the football games, lotto or the online version.  My sister told me she gave him an ultimatum recently: It’s either the gambling --- or her.  My other sister moved down to Texas and became one of those born-again-whatever-you-call-them.  She gives all her and her husband’s money to some evangelical minister, who I swear is a crook.  Religion my butt!  What a sucker!  And she says the immigration problem down there is terrible.  The Mexicans are overrunning everything.  If that weren’t enough, my other sister just pronounced that she is now openly gay - and summarily dropped her husband like a rock.  What a great guy he is, too.  I feel so sorry for our niece and nephew.”

The woman then provided a short summary of her plight: “I’m going to need a lot of prescriptions for all of these people who are screwing up my life.”

Just then, the door to the office opened, and the psychiatrist called the woman in.  Well, it was apparent that this woman, who was eager to become the psychiatrist’s patient, had whipped herself into a severe frenzy.  But she had also succeeded in inciting the anxiety of the other woman, who had been listening intently.  And so, the second woman continued to sit there in the waiting room, fixated, trying in vain to read a magazine, watching the wall clock as the second hand ticked along.  She marveled at the spectrum of problems which the other woman was facing, wondering just how the doctor was going to navigate his way through and fix them all.

The woman’s session was done soon enough, though, and the door opened once again.  Expecting to see her exit with a pad full of prescriptions, the woman who had been waiting was quite surprised to see the other grasping onto but a single slip of paper. “Well, how did it go?  Only one prescription?” the second woman inquired in understated manner.  "I thought you’d have several."

“So did I,” the first woman countered.  “But, the doctor told me I couldn’t worry about matters beyond my control.  He said I only needed one prescription.  The only person who needed to change was me!”

Is there a moral here?  If you want to be somebody else, if you’re tired of battling with yourself, then change your mind.

-Michael D’Angelo


  1. Reinforcing the simple principle that changing ones attitude to the people around us, is the only cure for stress and worry

  2. My very good and wise friend, John, gave me the ultimate prescription for dealing with others. He said, "I just lower my expectations until they are met."