A big life

part of my "big life"!

We had a case of fleas last fall. This is no small thing with 6 cats and a big long-haired dog. It took about 3 months of combing them all, many times a day, and treating them to finally get rid of the fleas. What was interesting about that “time of the infestation” is it gave me a good long period to work on my attitude and my mind. As I combed them, I would say, “Everything is fine and these fleas will be gone soon” or something similarly calming (calming to me that is…the cats did not seem to care one way or the other!).

One day, after about 2 months, I thought I finally had it licked….then I found one on Ben. I remember calling out to Jack, “Oh no, I thought that …….” I stopped mid-sentence. I was making it into a crisis. He said, “What did you say Mary?” …..”Oh, nothing” I said back…took a deep breath and kept combing.

Sometimes I would hit periods of discouragement and think, “Why do we have all of these animals? I am so overwhelmed.” Then I would remember that many years ago, I  wrote out a prayer for a “big life” which would include lots of cats, dogs, friends, fun experiences, meaningful work, love, laughter….and I remembered too, the wonderful words of Norman Vincent Peale about “problems”. He would say to people who came into his office complaining, “Do you want to be with some people who have no problems? And he would take them to a graveyard and say here you go. These people do not have any problems to handle”.

I am including his words below. The language is obviously outdated but I still love the “man-sized problems” statement! It really makes me smile. I think he must have been a very funny man as well as wise…I don’t think he really meant to invite problems..I think he was poking fun a bit at our fear of having them…that we think there is something wrong if we have a dilemma/problem to solve, because he would also say that the bigger the “problem” the bigger the opportunity.

“Problems constitute a sign of life. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that the more problems you have, the more alive you are. The person who has, let us say, ten good old tough, man-sized problems is, on this basis, twice as alive as the poor, miserable, apathetic character who has only five problems. And if you have no problems at all, I warn you: You are in great jeopardy. You are on the way out and don’t know it. Perhaps what you had better do is immediately go to your room and shut the door and get down on your knees and pray to the Lord, “Lord, please; look don’t you trust me anymore? Give me some problems!” Norman Vincent Peale from his book, You Can if You Think You Can.

11 thoughts on “A big life”

  1. Fleas! We had 4 cats, 2 dogs, and an assortment of other wildlife at one point. I remember the “Not again!” feeling that thudded heart and mind. When you live with animals, their certainty is death and fleas.

  2. Thanks,Mary. I once had a friend who told me “People pay good money to create the feelings you are having in your life!”, meaning that people go to movies and other places to create joy, sadness, fear, etc. At that time I was having an abundance of all of those feelings at once!

  3. Dr Norman Vincent Peale!
    The Power of Positive Thinking came out when I was a young girl, and I read it! So glad for that, because it truly influenced the rest of my life!

  4. This post takes my flea bitten mind back to the age of 13. Read a book Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Malz a plastic surgeon. This one book reading has guided my thinking in a positive direction for the rest of my life. A while back I did a search one day and there are a number of interviews with Dr. Malz on Utube. The book had a chapter on how to go to sleep for those who might have trouble. The book was written in 1960 but still has valuable life lessons that would apply today. I feel reading the book made my life a lot bigger.
    Thanks Mary

  5. Thank you, Mary, for helping put this into perspective. We have two cats and whenever I find a flea, I go into that “oh no” panic mode. Then I get out the combs and the pine essential oil. Dr. Peale must have had a great sense of humor.

  6. Thank you Mary. I was driving to work this morning feeling really grouchy about:

    * having to work today with my equally grouchy co-workers
    * having to borrow a car from a friend because mine’s still at the shop
    * being unable to garden this weekend because the weather has been too rainy – for the third weekend in a row
    * one of my cats left a hairball on my bedroom rug – again

    And then I read your post with Dr. Peale’s quote. I’m smiling now and beginning to feel grateful for my “problems”!
    Many thanks for the reminder.

  7. Great post, Mary. I love the Norman Vincent Peale comments. I’ve never read anything by him, but maybe I better look into it!

  8. Great post Mary! life’s problem’s do take on a new meaning when you use Norman’s logic and wisdom. I better get going, I think I only have 6 “man sized” troubles right now! That brings a smile…

  9. I once heard this comment: the only people who don’t have marital problems are those who are not married; the only people who don’t have worries about their children, are people who don’t have children. And I will add – the only people who don’t have animal problems are people who don’t have animals.
    I am grateful for my marriage, children, and animals. The problems LARGE & small come with the territory – and so do the JOYS.

  10. I’ve always thought of problems as coming from as well as building character. I have sometimes asked younger people, do you want to look back at the end of your life and realize you spend the whole time hanging out with people who have not met any challenges in life, not done any big scary/adventurous things, and spent their whole life worried about small stuff like whether their nails look good and whether their car is fashionable? Or do you want to know people who have overcome adversity, and traveled to interesting places, and gotten to know different people whom they were uncomfortable with when they first met? Sooner or later, you realize that if you are terrified of or lazy about taking on challenges, your problems are going to be small, but so are you. It’s definitely given some of them food for thought on topics like choosing a profession, putting themselves out to care for others in need, etc. and doing things that push their comfort level. Change is scary but it helps us grow!

  11. I know the value of the learning and changing that we can accomplish as we are solving problems in our life. I have come to define them as “challenges”, those opportunities to practice patience, to try to stay present to one reality at a time while also practicing trust that “this too shall pass.” And then there is the gratitude that I feel when, at last, I have either resolved the issue or come to a peaceful acceptance of what I cannot solve.

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