You don’t get out by your own devices. Contrary to popular opinion, if life has given you a beating, or several, your bootstraps were likely one of the weapons used against you and will therefore snap when you attempt to haul yourself up by them. Dorothy, and every other fairy story heroine, has proven to us we need helpers. We need friends along the way to help us be less afraid, show us how to do things, whisper magic spells, stop flying daggers and catch us when we fall.
There’s a Russian tale called The Doll in her Pocket about a girl whose ‘good mother’ dies and leaves her a handmade doll. The young girl finds herself flung out into a cruel world, an orphan who naturally wanders into dangerous woods finds some witch who plans to boil her alive and trick her into becoming a slave or garden fertilizer. But the doll in her pocket has somehow taken on her mother’s spirit and sort of jumps and yelps whenever the girl is near danger, essentially helping her outsmart the evil witch and save her life, despite the fact that she is small and can’t afford a therapist. It works. She lives.
I was having one of those long days at work. The store was empty. I’d cleaned and perfected every nook and cranny. It made no sense why it was so quiet…where were the people? I thought. Rich people have money and they shop, all summer from sun up to midnight. Either way, the light was very warm and glowing, like sunset and I felt all right. A man out of nowhere sat on the wooden front steps and looked in distress. His son said he had to run across the street to the hardware store and he’d be right back. Why are you telling me this? Is your father dying? I am not a nurse. I was certain I would be useless but I sat down next to the man anyway. He told me he had sciatic pain and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Despite the fact that he was a stranger, I was sitting close to him and generally emanating concern his way. Is there anything I can do? I asked. No, he replied. And then there was a long pause which felt, to a teenager, like a massive eternity. This was also before cell phones so there was absolutely nothing else I could do except sit with him while he felt his pain. After the agony of the long pause passed we both sort of settled in to the comfort of just being with his pain, together and that’s when it happened. He said, Sitting with me helps. I watched his face and body ease up. Being present, being with him in his pain actually helped. I would then be the best be-with-er he’d ever had from then on. I was all full of absolute, pain eradicating presence. Within moments from there his son returned and the man got up and walked towards their car before I could speak or think. The son said, as he wrapped his arm around his father that his name was Bill and I had the gift of Mercy and then they disappeared.