Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"


     I could tell she was upset when she came from the car.  Holding the tissue to her eyes, she stumbled and almost fell coming up my walk.  And after regaining her composure as best she could, made her way to my door.  She had that look on her face that people have when they have been bucked off in life.  That look that says all the breath has been knocked out of them, and they can’t go on.  Her eyes said, “I’m defeated and can’t and won’t recover from this.”  She sat quietly for perhaps ten full minutes on my couch, and just cried saying not a word.  Finally, she said, “They told me you were a psychologist before, and I thought maybe you could help me.”
     I wanted to tell her that was a long time ago, and in a former life - that I was never very good at it, that I didn’t do that anymore, but I didn’t say any of those things.  Sometimes it’s best to say nothing…so that’s what I said.
     And she spun me a tale heard many times, and at one time or another, one that we’ve all told. A story about our craving for acceptance, and our need to be a part of things - about how sometimes we would gladly sell our soul just to be part of the group, and sacrifice everything just to belong. 
     “As you know, my husband is a banker,” she began.  “His work is his whole life, and he expected me to help him in that regard, and for the most part, I’ve done that.  Some time ago,” she paused wiping her eyes again, “he gave me a…well, he gave me an ‘assignment’ that according to him was a most critical step and of paramount importance in our lives.”
     “And what was that assignment?” I asked finally thinking of something to say.
     “There was this club in our community – a supper club – and I know that doesn’t sound like much, but according to Bob, this club was the entire key to our social standing in the community.  He said that it was imperative that we be invited and accepted in this group.  I promised him that I would do everything in my power, and I did.  I tried so hard…” And she stopped, and she cried for the longest time.
     “I tried so hard,” she continued.  “I swept, mopped, vacuumed, and cleaned the drapes.  I used our best china, made finger sandwiches and punch, baked cookies, and invited the selection committee members into our home countless times.  Of course I never mentioned why, I was just trying to convince them we we’re ‘their kind of people,’ and after all that work, all those days, all those brunches, lunches and teas…nothing.  The invitation never came.  Bob was furious of course, and blamed me.  I tried again redoubling my efforts, but it was no use.  Clearly, they were never going to ask us to join their club.” And she stopped. 
     Turning to me with fear in her eyes, and a voice I could barely hear, she said, “Bob says I can’t handle things socially.  He says I’m a detriment to his career, and that I don’t have what it takes.” I knew how much it hurt her to say those words.  Then she hung her head and said, “He’s going to leave me.” With desperation in her voice, she said, “Do you know anything I can do?”
     “Actually, I do,” I said.  “You could tell them what Groucho said.”
     “Who? Groucho who?”
     “Groucho Marx,” I said.  And I told her.
     She stared for a moment, then with real anger in her voice, she said, “I come in here and pour my heart out to you, and that’s your advice?”  She grabbed her tissue, and bolted for the door crying much harder than before.
     I sat on the couch for a time feeling badly for her, and remembering why I never really made an impact in the counseling world.  “Some therapist you are,” said my self to me. 
“The poor woman is worse off than before.”
     “Well, I thought maybe some humor would help,” I said to the walls.
“Well, you thought wrong.”
     For the next few days and weeks, I moped around the little cabin on the river where I lived then thinking of all the things I should have said to a soul in need.  I took long walks along the water’s edge wishing I had said things like, “Don’t try so hard to please othersIt is a desirable goal to help, but don’t measure your self-worth by acceptance from any one person or group.”  Or perhaps I could have said, “Maybe old Bob needs to be grateful for his good helpmate, and be appreciative of all your work for him.  Maybe he should try to please you some of the time instead of some snooty supper club.”  But like most of us, I’m really good at thinking of brilliant things to say long after the opportunity to say them has passed.  The days turned into weeks, and I thought about Marilyn – that was her name – and I wondered how she was doing.   

                                                     One year later… 

     The shiny black Dooley coasted to a stop in my front yard, and I thought to myself, “If that’s one of my roping buddies, he must have hit a lick somewhere.” And Marilyn came forth from the passenger side.  Turning to give the young man in the driver’s seat a peck, I heard her say, “I’ll just be a minute.”
     The first thing I noticed was her tanned skin, shiny smile and long rich dark hair. It was hard not to.  She hugged me, and as I took her fragrance in, I thought,
“So…that’s what a million dollars smells like!”  Stepping back for me to look at her, she said, “Well?”
     “Wow!” was all I could manage.
     “I had some nips and tucks done with the divorce settlement, and I have a new hobby.”
     “You have a hobby?” I asked.
     “Yes, he’s out in the truck.  He’s a calf-roper, and he’s not quite thirty,” she smiled.  “And you’ll never guess what happened.”
     “Tell me.”
     “Exactly one day after my divorce announcement hit the paper, guess who showed up on my doorstep?”
     “The women from the supper club - and they invited me to join their group!  I explained to them that perhaps they didn’t know that Bob and I had divorced.  They said, ‘We do know.  That’s why we’re here.  It was never you we didn’t want…it was Bob!  We saw the way that jerk treated you, and we couldn’t stand him!’  And they presented me with an engraved invitation to their little club.”
     “And what did you say?” I asked.
     Marilyn smiled a little smile.  The kind of smile people have when they are finally happy in their own skin.  The kind of smile people have when they are happy with who they are.  And with that little smile, there came a wink, and she said,
“I told them what Groucho said.” 

“I would never join any club that would have me as a member!”                                                                   --Groucho Marx

Michael's latest release, Reflections Of A Cowboy, is currently available in audio book form. The two volume set consists of articles, essays and excerpts from radio performances about good people and good horses in the life of an Oklahoma cowboy. Approximately 8 hours in length. Reflections Of A Cowboy in printed form is scheduled for release in the summer of 2005. Order from Michael's website.

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