Bet on Me

To put it bluntly, this last year has been an endless buffet of shit. I am full to bursting with feelings of injustice, failure, anger, and anxiety. I am not sure if it’s the stars or cards, but the grimy lunch lady of life keeps ladling heaping helpings of pain on my plate. It’s enough to make me push back from the table and adopt a kind of anorexia to life. I would rather not have anything at all, thank you very much. It’s preferable to the emotional binge and purge of not quite digesting my emotions and spewing negativity back into the world. That’s terrible for your body and soul- bulimics die of heart attacks.

There is a great Fred Rogers quote that has been in my mind lately: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I am looking for the helpers now; people who have already taken their pain and transformed it into wisdom, art, or service to others.

Finding people with pain is the easy part. I have lived abroad for most of my adult life in places like Eastern Europe where people my age remember lining up for bread or China where people live under governmental control and censorship. I have lived in the Middle East where an entire servant class has been imported and people sleep in bunkbeds, 10 to a flat. Comparatively, I know my “Eat, Pray Love” white lady problems might not incite a call to action to protest any of my trauma of the past year (Stop Husbands from Sleeping with Prostitutes! We Demand Legally Protective Contracts with Overseas Employers! Excess Baggage Fees Should Be Fixed and Reasonable!) but pain is pain and I am full to the back teeth with it.

I am searching for my mentors now. The people who have been emotionally guts-on-the floor unzipped and now understand compassion. People who went all in and lost but are grateful for the experience. People who were betrayed but still believe in love. People who, like me, have been repeatedly redirected but have trust that there is a purpose and a plan. People who move forward and through their own version of hell without circumventing the lessons pain provides. People with strength, character, and perseverance.

I think there is a common spark in these people- a confidence and a willingness to trust themselves. There is freedom to losing everything- the worst has already happened and you’re still standing. I have started the self talk that I believe will get me through. It’s simply this: I’m a good bet. I bet on me.

It’s a start. It’s a mantra I tell myself when I want to stop the cycle of late night anxiety (and I want to save those Cambodian valiums for when I really need ‘em). It’s become my response to doubt and frustration over the lack of traction I have had in the last 8 countries and 7 months. It’s something I say out loud to people who have watched me go through some of the most stressful of human experiences in a short period of time. (Though I am afraid it can be a bit lost in translation- I had a long conversation with a Polish friend about getting through the difficulties in my life because I am a good bet and his response was “Why do you keep telling me you are good in bed?” Yes, friends, this guy listened to me cheer myself on for 10 minutes with the understanding that I was bragging about my sexual prowess- I will get through a painful divorce and a lack of a career direction at 41 because I am GOOD IN BED.)

I am still at the table. I will be slowly and carefully deciding what I need to nourish me and what are simply empty calories. I will make the choice to do the hard smart thing when the urge is to just order a bottle of wine and be done with it. I will take my lumps and eat my vegetables- and no one can take my plate and give me the bill until I am good and ready.

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