Happiness not for sale

To earn extra money as a 19 year old student, I got a job working on the customer service call centre at the Head Office of Edgars. We got all sorts of calls. People wanting more credit. People who couldn’t afford to pay for how they’d used theirs. One day I got a call from a heartbroken Mom who had run out of options. She gave me her son’s account number and as I looked at his details, I started on how he and I shared our birth date. Same day, month and year. She told me he wasn’t going to be able to pay his account anymore. He was on the wrong end of his battle with a brain tumor.

Policy dictated that I tell her I would put a note on the system but to advise that the account would still go into arrears and be handed over for collection. I bet she wondered why she’d bothered calling at all. Crying, she hung up. I told my supervisor and explained that I wanted to pay the account off myself. She advised me that, as per organisational policy, this was not allowed… but followed that up with: “If you do cash deposits with the account number as a reference only, no one will know.”

So I did.

Until now, only a handful of people knew about this. I’m not telling this story now so that you will know. I’m writing it here so that I will remember: There is good in chaos and sometimes we have to sail that ship ourselves.

Last Friday, while I sat around the dining room table with my Mom (65) and Dad (67), a stranger was in our home taking stuff from my bedroom. Another person’s hands were on my things, in my space, taking belongings they didn’t own or hadn’t earned. And just before anyone knew anything, they were gone – the thieves in the night.

What lingers is a dirt I cannot make clean. And even though it took a whole three days for me to unravel, I know it will take a lot longer to reboot.

It’s not what they did do that’s working away at me. It’s what my unquiet mind knows that they didn’t do that’s keeping my space unclean. The stakes are bigger than our things… our bodies… our home… my Puppy… and therein lies the lingering dirt. I’m not telling you this story so that you will know. I’m writing it here so that I will remember: Bad things happen to good people and that isn’t always something we will know how to recognise.

This isn’t the first time that this angry, hating helplessness has governed my gait. What turns a heart to stone is the idea that we have to settle into knowing that all this may very well come again.

Maybe very soon.

Always very sick.

Like the ruination of a brain tumor.

Policy dictates we’ll put a note on the system and our capacity to rise above it all may fail, fall into arrears and the sanctity of our souls will be handed over for collection.

But then follows the everyday.

Life carries on and with it varying degrees of perspective.

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Whether it’s a hornless rhino emasculated in its pressing for help, Jared Leto’s unmissable reminder that 36 million people have lost the battle to AIDS, that Ukranian men and women who just want to live their lives will be left at a loss by the whim and fury of Russia’s helm, or that the qualified teacher from Zimbabwe who worked as a security guard doing the night shift in the car park at our office made the decision to give his home one last shot and has gone somewhere we deem lost, but with hope in his heart…

Perspective is a funny thing.

Not always welcome, it is always surprising.

John Lubbock says that what we see depends mainly on what we hope for. So although down, if you’ve got hope, I guess at least you’re not in hell.

What can we do but continue with the kindest intentions so that we live life in the light of the sun rather than examining the shadows over our shoulders? Sure, there is a harsh reality in the reboot – no matter how long it takes to effect – but know this: the sun will set and rise each day and, whether you are angry or not, everything else will carry on.

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If happiness were something you could buy, it would never, ever be on special. In fact, it would sit in the middle of the store, on a shiny and sparkly display, marked up to three times its recommended price – just because it’s worth it. It’s not a commodity. It’s in you. The bad opens doors to the best, so all you can do – when you’re good and ready – is let that shit go.

I’m not telling you this so that you will know. I’m writing it here so that I will remember: Bad things happen to good people and that isn’t always something we will know how to recognise. But no one else should ever be granted the right to stop us living the lives we’ve worked for because even in chaos, there is good. Sometimes we just have to sail that ship ourselves.

© Dylan Balkind

 

 

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