About twenty minutes before the Divorce Support Group meeting started people began arriving. Some people come early because they are lonely and this group becomes a temporary family for them. Others are early because they hope to meet that special someone or at least have a one night stand to help them make it through the night. I didn’t see anyone from the days when I attended the group.
I guess there were about 15 people talking, drinking coffee, eating cookies when Manuel decided it was time to get the Meeting underway. He went up to the microphone, tapped it and said, “ Good Evening,” No response. “HEY, COULD I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE.”…. IF EVERYONE,… Could you PLEASE take a seat. We want to get the meeting started.”
Almost everyone broke off what they were doing and moved towards the rows of seats that had been set up. A few made a dash back to the coffee pots for a refill and another cookie.
“Because our leadership team is attending a seminar in Dallas we have a guest speaker. “Dick Jones was supposed to sbypeak tonight unfortunately he was thrown from a horse and broke his hip. In his place we’re going to hear from Fred James. Fred,was a past member of our Leadership Team and was an author of many of the pamphlets in our rack. Good to have you back with us Fred, you have the floor. “
“Thank you Manuel,” I said. “When Dick realized the extent of his injuries he asked me if I would take the meeting for him. He has put together a multimedia presentation drawing from movies, songs, literature and folk sayings. I haven’t had time to go over the entire presentation but what I have seems exciting. Fasten your seat belts! If I know Dick, we’re in for quite a ride,”
The lights were lowered and the projector sprung into action, Captain Jack Sparrow was being chased down the beach by a large group of angry natives. The scene changed and Captain Jack was being slapped by one angry woman after another. Scene after scene of the Captain in trouble was shown and then he looked at the camera and said, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand? “ Captain Jack’s face froze and then was replaced by the words” The Problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem, which scrolled across the screen. The words, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? Scrolled to the middle, stopped and then enlarged until they filled the screen from side to side.
I began reading from the second screen on Dick‘s Laptop. “Captain Jack Sparrow has asked us a question, one which for many years I would have answered, “Hell NO I don’t understand! If I Didn’t have the problem I wouldn’t have the BAD attitude. It has taken me over 80 years to understand what Captain Sparrow is asking…”
“Just so you don’t get the idea that I am related to Aragorn son of Arathorn, you know, one of the Dunedain, I think I will reread that last line.” I said. “It has taken Dick over Eighty years to understand that question.”
“It’s more likely that you’re related to Marty McFly and you just arrived using Doc Brown’s time machine. ” someone quipped from the front.
Someone else, using their best Biff impression said, “Come on McFly, Dick only has fifteen minutes to finish his talk. You wouldn’t want to get him in trouble by having his presentation go too long would you? ….WELL, WOULD YOU?”
“Okay, okay. I will just read what Dick has written. Let’s see….he writes, ‘It has taken me over eighty years to understand what Captain Sparrow is asking. At first the question itself made me mad as hell. However, the more I thought about it the more I thought he might be on to something.”
“My problem goes back to the year 1961. I was in Africa with John Wayne shooting the movie HATARI! I wasn’t there for John Wayne, travel to exotic places, or even the movie. I couldn’t care less about those things. At that time, the only thing I cared about was a beautiful brunette named Joy. We were madly in love and, for the first time in my life I wanted to get married.
The time we had together in Africa were among the best days of my life. That movie set became our honeymoon. Just to see Joy across a room, to catch her eye, would fill my heart to overflowing with a mixture of love, happiness and joy. I could have sung every love song ever written that cries out with the desperate longing, “Oh baby I NEED YOU, can’t live without you.’ If we’d fallen in love today, I would have proclaimed to the world that I had found my soulmate, the one person destined to make me whole.
Listen as Etta James sings of her experience in finding her true love…”
Etta James replaced the script on the screen as her sultry and soulful voice gave life to the words. “At Last, my love has come along, my lonely days are over, and life’s become a song.” We listened spellbound as she became the embodiment of a life transformed by love.
When the song ended, the words, “The Problem is not the problem…” once again scrolled across the screen, ending with, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” filling the screen.
I began reading, “We both dreamed of our future together. How could such a perfect love have anything but happily ever after ending?”
“There is a snake in Africa, the Black mamba, whose ability to kill people is legendary. Africans say that if it wants you dead it will not rest until you are. “People speak about the mamba as the devil personified: It can outrun a horse, it will track down a man, nothing can deliver you once this damnable snake has you in its sights.”
“I was helping Jack Barnhart work on the Range Rover when someone from the First Aid station came running up and said, “Joy has been bitten by a snake and is calling for you. ” She had been bitten by a black mamba and the antidote was missing. The medical staff was doing everything they could to find the venom, or get another bottle brought in. Joy and I were holding each other, crying, scared. I kept assuring her everything was going to be okay. She began having seizures, uncontrollable shaking…these went on for a long time,…the seizures stopped and her breathing became shallow, I could tell she was leaving me. I’m not a religious man but I began begging God, ‘Please, please, please. No. God, don’t take her!’ But,…of course…just like that, she was gone. “
“Well, Captain Sparrow, MY PROBLEM is, the woman I loved more than life itself was snatched out of my embrace and there was NOTHING I Could Do to stop her death from happening.”
“My problem CAPTAIN is that, our life together with children, and grandchildren, and all of the other dreams we shared died on that same day.”
“Tell me Captain Sparrow, you celluloid phoney, how wonderful would your attitude be when the great storms of anger, rage, and hatred have you shaking your fist at God one minute, and plotting to kill every snake on this good earth the next.”
“Come on Captain Jack, walk off the screen and into the real world and let’s see how long your flippant attitude lasts when the PROBLEMS of life push you down, down, down into the darkest pit of despair where there is no hope and no one can write you out of the problem.”
“We are all waiting Captain. Everyone in this room has days where we are just putting in our time, feeling nothing at all. But the next day a tsunami of sorrow has us in its grip and we’re too over come with grief to get out of bed. We cry over nothing or everything and we fear that we are losing our sanity. And you have the arrogance to tell us that our real problem is our attitude. Come on Man!!”
- Dick had written, (STOP READING HERE & ACT LIKE YOU ARE THINKING SOMETHING OVER.)
“Let’s have a show of hands. How many of you believe that our problem is THE PROBLEM?”
Almost every hand went up.
“And how many of you will agree with the Captain that our attitude is the real problem in our life?”
A few more hands went up.
“I’m an old man and a lot of years have passed since that day that Joy died. I’ve come to see that there are times when the Problem is overwhelming and your attitude has little to nothing to do with how your life is going. At such times your life is out of balance and your emotions are out of control and Captain Jack’s assertion is a bunch of Bull Shit. However, You should come through such times and gain some new skills for coping with life. That’s why this group exists to help you successfully pass through the mine field of divorce.”
“Then there are times when Captain Jack Sparrow is absolutely correct. Joy’s death was such a shock and caused such deep pain, that I carried a lot of baggage because of it. I became a real control freak and was so domineering that, in my desire to protect the ones I loved , I would make them feel trapped. Plus I was filled with so much anger and mistrust of life, the universe, God, and that anger spilled over into everything I did. It took a lot of years to see that my bad attitude was a poison that destroyed my three marriages, my relationship with my children and other important people.”
“In my remaining time I want to give you a few ways in which you can come through this time of life better equipped to deal with the slings and arrows of life. If you will apply what I am about to share you will take less baggage into your future relationships and be better able to receive the love people desire to give you.”
“I’m probably going to run way over my allotted time. If I do you can fire me, I’m too old to care. If you decide you don’t like what I’m telling you get a cup of coffee, there’s an empty room across the hall, do what you need to. “
Suddenly a thin blonde woman in blue jeans and a T shirt, stood up and said, “Just One Minute! This is supposed to be a support group meeting. “No one said anything about holding a seminar tonight!” She motioned with her arms to include every one around her. “I have some things I need to share with my friends; you know, to get it off my chest. I’m sorry Dick fell and broke his hip and I’m sorry to hear about the death of his great love. But, He’s already way over his allotted time, which means it’s our time to share.”
The woman sitting next to the blonde stood up and said, “I agree with Judy. We’ve had quite enough of Richard for tonight. As much as we love him the way he “mansplains” everything gets old very quickly.”
“MANSPLAINS? what the HELL are you talking about?” A tall, muscular looking, black man stood up turned towards the women behind him and said. “As a black man, I can pick up on white condensation as quick as the next person, I haven’t picked up ANYPLACE where he talked down to us.”
A Hispanic lady sitting in the front row said, “Above everything else, we must all hear Judy and Lolita go on and on about the same stories they’ve talked about every time they come to the meeting.”
“I BEG YOUR PARDON?!!!” Lolita said.
I raised both of my arms up and said, “STOP!!! The only thing we need to do right now is to vote on how to proceed. We are going to vote with our feet. If you are ready to move on to a regular support group, stand up.”‘
Twelve of the sixteen people in the group stood up.
“Okay, Let’s take a five minute bathroom break,” I said. “If you wish to listen to the rest of Dick’s presentation, please return here. If you’re ready to move into the support group session, please go into the room across the hall. Coffee, tea and various snacks are already prepared for you there, Finally, if you’re sick of the whole thing this is your opportunity to take off.”
I was really tempted to take off and go somewhere and have a beer.