[COLUMN] Of charmed lives and weathering the ‘winter of our discontent’

Have you ever gone through a “winter of discontent” and wondered quietly if you could trade your life for someone else’s?

If you have, don’t flog yourself silly. You don’t even have to admit it to anyone else but yourself. It’s nothing more than a normal rite of passage that allows us to imagine what it would be like if we had someone else’s luck, genetic make-up, breaks, talent, connections, relationships, education, intelligence, looks, skin color, pedigree and other x factors that are supposed to tip the scale in our favor and make us happy and fulfilled. In short, these refer to those things that allow us to live a charmed life and drive our fellow men mad with envy.

The discontent hits you when you’re feeling most vulnerable: when there’s not enough cash to tide you over until the next pay period; your job stinks; you’re going through an extended rough patch with your wife or husband or lover; your car needs an overhaul; your kid hit a schoolmate and you need to see the principal; your sister in the home country, needs you to remit moolah fast, and lots of it, because your younger brother got into trouble and needs bail money.

Everything sucks. Well, you get the picture of a gothic novel nobody wants to read. You want to scuttle everything and trade up to a charmed life. But would you, if you knew the real score behind those deceptive, airbrushed images of the charmed lives we see on TV and the rags we read?

We are sitting ducks open to negative suggestions we receive non-stop. We end up unhappy and dissatisfied with who we are, what we have and our place in the universe. We’re too fat, too short, too poor, too old. We don’t make enough. We drive clunkers. Our clothes are passé. Our nose bridge needs a lift; the chest is too flat; hair is too thin; skin is too sallow; our eyes need to be lasered; our teeth need whitening; our ears stick out; our behinds, too saggy.

Picture the word REJECT stamped on our pathetic, little foreheads if we were in a conveyor belt in an assembly line, as we head directly to the recycling bin unless we undergo a drastic make-over that will cost us plenty.

We look and read about the airbrushed lives of celebrities on the red carpet. We see them parading and preening in their Pradas, Jimmy Choos, or Blahnik shoes, sheathed in thousand dollar Versace and Vera Wang gowns with décolletage showcasing ample natural or shored up cleavages, their gravity-defying faces tight with botox or nipped and tucked by a surgeon’s scalpel and dripping in Harry Winston gems, escorted by equally gorgeous hunks dressed to the nines in their Armanis, as media people buzz around them like flies around honey. And we’re hoodwinked to the vision of charmed lives.

Imagine that God sees how unhappy you are, takes pity on you and he gives you access to His Celestial PowerBook, with a database cataloging the lives of the past, present and future of the five billion or so people that inhabit the world. He permits you to type in the name of the person you would like to exchange your life with. You discover surprising twists and turns of character and fate. You discover dirt that has been airbrushed or little dark secrets edited out or given a new spin. You discover untold pain and suffering, the great equalizers, etched in every life.

That gorgeous, woman hiding behind a ready smile has a young daughter with cystic fibrosis and is going through a bitter divorce with a philandering husband. The good-looking guy you thought was to die for is a closet pedophile cum sado-masochist. The distinguished couple you met who lacks for nothing, has a son languishing in jail. That tall, reed-thin Victoria’s Secret lingerie model suffers from bulimia. That hottie celebrity is a wife beater and is in rehab for serious addictions.

You go through the entire universal data base frustrated and somewhat relieved to find out that your own life with all its warts, is just as bad or just as good as those of others and there’s no one you’d like to trade your life with, thank you very much.

In most cases, the life we have is the life we would choose all over again. We just need to realize that there’s always more to a story and an image than meets the eye.

Packaging can be mere illusion. What you see is not necessarily what you get, ergo, the need to dig deep. We are all programmed to go through great lengths to put up a deceptive front to hide the truth — either goaded by ego or the instinct for self-preservation.

A self-respecting gardener winterizes the grass and preps it for the cold, dark days of winter to give it a fighting chance to survive and thrive in the spring and summer. We ought do the same thing and winterize the garden of our soul to keep it young and hopeful.

I wish I could say it’s easy. But like anything that is worthwhile, it takes time, patience, work, persistence and gumption. But we could start with something basic. Upon waking up each day, we can psyche ourselves up with an unfailing weapon of choice — PRAYER.

Personalized and heartfelt, it is our instant connection with the God of our being. These can merely be secular, positive affirmations of our own worth and place in this life or it can be the simple act of prayerful acceptance and thanksgiving for all that was, is and yet to come.

Chances are, you’re already living one heck of a charmed life and you don’t even know it.



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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya writes for Asian Journal. Email [email protected] for comments.


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