why would we take back our own troubles?

I’m in the middle of packing to go to Israel for the summer. And we thought we’d get the house painted while we were away. So, of course, I am overwhelmed with stuff all over the place. But there is physical stuff and the metaphysical stuff, all of which I’m tripping over. Recently, someone mentioned the ubiquitous line, “If we threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.” I agreed and chuckled, but then I got caught on the notion and became a bit obsessed. Why would we? Is it simply because we recognize our mess is less awful than we thought? Compared to what?

So first, I had to figure out who said it and when. That’s actually a cute story, which I clearly enjoyed procrastinating finding, rather than taking care of my mess. Apparently, a wise woman named Regina Bretts wrote it as part of a feature in the Plain Dealer called “45 Life Lessons and Five to Grow on” .

Regina Brett, The Plain DealerBy Regina Brett, The Plain Dealer
on May 28, 2006 at 10:13 AM, updated April 03, 2008 at 10:17 AM
To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written.

Here are my favorites of the group:

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

Wise woman indeed.

Oh–just as an aside (and what made my procrastination get even better–her essay made the internet rounds as authored by a 90 year-old. She and I found that très amusant, n’est pas? This gave her a great title for another column– “Life’s lessons speed up on Internet; 90 years of living in 50“.

She also has a lot to say about how to survive  breast cancer.

But back to my query, for just a moment. As I look at the mess in my house, pictures taken off the walls in order to let the workmen fix our cracked walls and ceilings, I think maybe we just embrace our mess because we can’t even begin to approach anyone else’s. There’s comfort in our own messes and there’s fear in the unknown.

It’s probably just cowardice. Or laziness. Or let’s say laissez-faire. (I think my brain is trying to train me to think in foreign languages in preparation for our travels. But Why French?)

At MOMA, Yoko Ono’s exhibit. Captivating, no?

I know we are aware, when we do focus real hard (like what I wrote almost 6 years ago here as some things are hard to forget), on what we have as gifts, and what we complain about as inconsequential. I am tired of people wishing that on our upcoming travels back to the Holy Land, I should find peace from my family’s troubles. No, I just want to find peace for my family and for our big extended family. You know, everyone. In fact, I just wish we all could find a little peace.

Maybe we really do need to look at everyone else’s piles for just a little longer and realize that they are pretty much the same.


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