By Ox Drover
I’m sure we have all heard the old saying, “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” This “old saying” is true, though I think it is made up to inspire some guilt in us for complaining about the small things we lack and make us aware that we are fortunate to have the many blessings that we do have, which many others are not fortunate enough to have.
Another one I remember is, “Eat your vegetables; there are children starving in China.” I always wondered why I couldn’t just send the hated vegetables there instead of eating them. It would solve two problems: I wouldn’t have to eat them, and the kids in China would be grateful for them. My son D has turned this phrase around to joke, “Drink your beer, there are sober children in China.”
All jokes and platitudes aside, however, the feeling of gratitude for what blessings we do have is, I think, an important concept for our healing. The encounters with sociopaths, sometimes for decades, have given us a feeling of destitution and emotional poverty. The thing that we prized and valued most—the love that we thought was shared between us and the sociopath—turned out to be an illusion. We have lost this vision of the relationship we thought was so important.
When my kids were very little, if one had a birthday, we would get the other one a “consolation present.” It was never as big as the birthday boy’s present, but it was a token to show that the non-birthday boy was not forgotten. One year when they were about four and three, we forgot to get the non-birthday boy something, and so my mother wrapped up a nice new shirt in a package, since the non-birthday boy did like clothes very much. When it came his turn to open his package he was all smiles, expecting some sort of toy I am sure. When he saw that his expectations were dashed and he had clothing, however, his little face fell. He had not gotten what he had expected. I was gratified, though, that he looked up, almost ready to cry I think, and said the most pitiful “thank you” that I have ever seen a child force from his lips.
Our expectations of our relationship many times turn out to be like my son’s expectations of what was in his package, very disappointing. Sometimes even devastation follows the exposure of the one-sidedness of the true relationship, with emotional, physical and/or financial abuse as well.
Walking down the street and seeing another couple holding hands, we may start to have a feeling that only we are alone, only we don’t have someone who wants to hold our hand. This feeling of “poverty,” of “not having” what others have, I think, fuels our feelings of worthlessness, abandonment and sadness, and the loneliness of wishing we had the relationship we thought we had. We feel deprived of what we deserve by someone else, or feel that maybe we don’t deserve more, or that we got what we deserved and if we had only worked harder, we might have managed to make it come true.
I think those feelings of deprivation, those feelings of poverty of spirit and soul, tend to drag us down further into the abyss of failure—a failure that keeps us from appreciating what we do have. A failure to appreciate just how important we are, and also a failure to appreciate that we have escaped the clutches of a bad relationship, even if that escape was painful.
The appreciation of ourselves, of our unique value and worth, is important to healing. To appreciate ourselves, I think we need to look at ourselves on this (U.S.) holiday of Thanksgiving and to enumerate and validate the many things about ourselves we do have to be thankful for. We need to count our blessings, and assess the many valuable characteristics that make us who we are.
Even if we have lost our “shoes” we still have our “feet” and while we may feel that we don’t have “as much as” someone else, we still have something that cannot be taken away from us, and that is the unique spirit that is ours and ours alone. The unique spirit that can be grateful and give thanks to the universe for new opportunities to expand that spirit in new ways we’ve never before explored.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!