The Thief Within

It’s time to call a meeting of the troops.

“Gather around, everyone.  We need to talk.”

The air is cool in the cave, sheltered from the hot August sun.  A small fire provides light and a focus for our gathering.  I, Self, am seated where everyone can see me clearly.  I want to make my point.

“I have called you here, because there is a thief amongst us, and I am angry.”

“Oh!”  the exclamation echoes around the circle, then a mumble of agreement – this is serious.

“I woke up this morning, full of anticipation and plans for a wonderful day – the kids are coming for dinner, and my granddaughter is staying overnight.  I planned to make goodies, and soup, and a special dinner.  As I made my shopping list, Thor added to my excitement booking a flight for our next big excursion abroad.  I couldn’t have been happier, then…..”  I paused for effect, “….one of you came in and stole my joy, leaving me in this state of raw anger.”

The nervous shuffle of feet was accompanied by a shifting of eyes and lowering of heads.  No one wanted to fess up, I could see.

“We see that you are upset,”  a kind old woman stepped forward,  “and in the interest of inner harmony, we would like to get to the root of the problem, but we’ll need more information.”

Heads bobbed in agreement.

“When did you first notice that your mood had changed?”

“When I was baking.  I noticed that my happy thoughts were missing, and I was ranting inside my head.”

“Just like that, all of a sudden?”

I thought about it.  “Well, I did start to feel really tired just before it happened.”

“What do you suppose made you tired?”

“I was up early this morning, getting work done so I could enjoy my family, so I was thinking that was catching up with me, but then I realized I was probably hungry,  which……”

“Would effect your mood,”  she finished my sentence.

“Well, true.  So, that is no one’s fault.  But then I started to eat things that weren’t good for me, and I knew I only do that when I’m trying to bury unwanted emotions, so I started to think about that, and then I realized my happy thoughts were gone, and that’s when I got angry and decided to call this meeting.”

“Was anyone else present when all this was happening?”

“I was,”  a little voice piped up.  “I was excited that we would get to play with the granddaughter.  She’s so cute and fun and makes me happy.  But then Mae called, and she called again, and again, and someone started pushing me out of the way.”

“Really?”  The women turned towards the others.  “Does someone have a problem with Mae?”

“No!  Well, yes,”  said a shadowy figure huddled in the back.  “She can’t help it that she is mentally ill, I know, but she stirs me up.”

“How does she stir you up?”

“She reminds me of all the times I was pushed aside for the others.”  I recognize her now; it’s my twelve-year-old self.  “My parents only had time for those who were broken, never for me.  They never helped her;  they encouraged her to be that way.  They liked their children to be victims so that they could rescue them over and over again.  It makes me angry.”

“So you stole my joy?”

My question seemed to jolt her out of her self-indulgence.  “No!  I mean, I had to protect you.  You’ll just get hurt again.  You should know better.  Just when it seems that everything is good, and going our way, someone will destroy it.  You know it!  That’s how it always is.”

“Oh dear,”  the little one plopped down, head on her hands.  “Here we go again.”

“What!  Why are you all looking at me that way.  You all know it’s true.  Why won’t you admit it!”  Twelve was getting hostile, almost hysterical.  “I hate it that life is unfair.  I hate it that we work hard, and try hard and always get the short end of the deal!  I hate that other people don’t have to work hard and life just gets handed to them and everyone caters to them.  I hate it that my sister wasn’t strong enough to fight them, like we did.”

“Amen to that,” said a large, blob of a character, who didn’t look very bright, but was happily stuffing his face.  Ah, I thought, you’re the one I feed when I feeling emotional.  If I’m not careful, I’ll start looking like you.  

“Can I say something,”  a slighter older teen spoke up. I recognized my independent self.  “I don’t mean to sound cold and radical here, but if you keep venting over what you can’t change, you are going to die an unhappy soul.”

“What do you know about it?”  Twelve was on the defensive.

“I know that life is full of many opportunities beyond the limitations you experienced in your home life, and I believe that while we can’t change where we’ve come from, we can make new choices for the present and the future.  Do you want to be unhappy all your life?”

“Well….no, but don’t I have the right to be heard?  Don’t I deserve justice?”

“We all deserve to be heard, and while we’d all like justice, it doesn’t always work out that way.  I’m just suggesting that you are robbing yourself of the joy of life.”

I could see Twelve wrestling with herself.

“Twelve,”  I offered, as kindly as I could.  “You say you hate victims, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, you are kind of acting like a victim yourself, no offence.”

“What do you mean?”  her fists balled up instinctively.

“I just mean that while you rage and wait for someone else to deliver justice, you are like a victim – giving the power to someone else.”

“What do you suggest I do?”

The Wise Woman stepped up, putting her hand on Twelve’s shoulder.  “Express your feelings, certainly, because we all care.  Can I ask you something Twelve?”

“Fire away.”

“What would help ease your rage?  What do you need?”

Twelve fell silent.  I don’t think she’d ever thought of that.  She shrugged.

“What could anyone possibly do to make you feel better?”  the young woman asked. “Do you think everyone is suddenly going stop being themselves, see the predicament, and apologize?”

“Maybe they’ll stop being nice to your sisters and spoil you!” the little one chirped in.

“That’s absurd!”  Twelve scolded.

“Is it?  Isn’t that what you want?”

Twelve thought about this.  We all thought about it.  Then one of us started to giggle.  I’m not sure who, but soon the whole room felt the relief.  It was a ludicrous thought.

“I feel like a fool,”  said Twelve.

“No hard feelings – you’re only a kid!” said the slightly older one.

“And you always look out for me,”  said Little.

“None of us blame you,”  another added.  “We all went through it, you’re just the one who held out for justice.”

“Is there never any justice, then?”  Twelve asked, confused.

“Oh there is justice:  but you need to look for it in other ways,”  Wise Woman offered.

“Like embracing life’s blessings despite the strains of the past,”  Independent Self offered.

“What she’s trying to say, I think,”  I added, “Is that if you continually refuse to be happy because you don’t like what happened long ago, then you rob all of us of the joy of the present.  Can you see that?”

“I can, but I just feel so angry sometimes.”

“I know, I know, so do I, obviously.  That’s why I called this meeting.  And Twelve, I suspect you’ve been hanging out with someone else, who is the real thief here.”

I could tell by the look on her face, that Twelve knew exactly who I was talking about.

“Jealousy is not a friend to any of us,” I addressed the crowd.  “I suggest we do our best to keep her out of our circle.”

“Here!  Here!” came the cry of approval.

“What about me?” said Emotional Eater, pausing mid-bite.

“Wouldn’t hurt you to eat a little less” came the unanimous response.

“You should try therapy,”  added Little.  Everyone laughed.

“Thanks for talking this through,”  I concluded the meeting.  “I hope we all feel better.  Little, Twelve, we got some things to get ready, our guests will be here soon!”

(Image: dymir.org)

 

 

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