Lessons learned in unusual ways

Table of Contents

We can learn lessons in some very unusual ways. For me, it is a ball of string, a box of Twinkies, a small red bowl, and clouds.

I’ve been cleaning up some files on my computer. I came across this. I wrote this for my first book, but not all of it ended up in the final cut, so I thought I would share it today.

A Ball of String

ball of yarn on wooden surface/lesons learned

Some people are more vulnerable to the darts coming their way than most; like a small ship on a big sea, they are easily buffeted. As long as the sea is calm, they function pretty well, but when the winds of adversity blow, they are easily blown off course. For several reasons, their defenses are just not as well developed. Instead of allowing themselves to express anger or defend themselves, they internalize everything. They are easily offended and become unglued after a while.

They take innocent remarks and get all wound up in a gigantic ball of psychological string, and they never learn their lesson. Then they spend hours, maybe days, trying to find the end to unravel the whole mess! They often find the end of the string, but why spend days regurgitating when that time could’ve been better spent releasing? Yes, we need to understand why we react the way we do but only when we are emotionally equipped to do so. 

We all do it.

Don’t look askance. You’ve done it, too, got your gigantic ball of emotions all twisted up. It goes like this: things pile up, we get fatigued, innocent remarks bother us, we feel overwhelmed, we eat wrong, sleep badly. We look around and see all the smiling people and assume their world is perfect, making us feel even worse. We compare ourselves to them, our lives to theirs, and eventually, our mood comes tumbling down. But as Charles Dickens said, “There is always something for which to be thankful.” Sometimes that’s not much consolation, but it might just help with your perspective and get you jumpstarted on your road to recovery. It’s when we’re the only ones struggling anyway that those smiling faces bother us. Besides, smiles can be deceiving.    

But when we’re depressed, it’s hard to see those smiles and not feel envious. I know it was for me. Why was everyone else happier than me, especially when the circumstances surrounding me were good? We wrongly assume those smiles mean a lot more than they do. We figure the grass is greener on their lawn and the sun shines brighter on them than it does us. It’s just how we think sometimes. Besides, haven’t we all plastered a smile on our faces when inside we were hurting? We want everyone else to think we’re o.k. even when we’re not, so we smile and pretend. (Sometimes smiling when you don’t feel like it is a good idea, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.)

Don’t feel sorry for yourself

If we’re constantly feeling sorry for ourselves, we must take a long hard look inside. A familiar saying states, “If you’re always feeling sorry for yourselves, then you should be.” Depressed people often see a cloud hovering over their heads but think everyone else is walking in the sunshine. If you’re dealing with that oppressive cloud over your head now, please believe me when I say that that cloud will eventually move away from you and over someone else. We shouldn’t take any satisfaction with that, but it’s good to remind ourselves that we won’t always be the ones living under a cloud.

Depression is a most myopic illness.

Twinkies and the lesson I learned

box of Twinkies/lessons learned

Life isn’t always all good anymore than it’s always all bad. We need to be thankful for the good, but often we seem intent on finding the bad in every situation. My Twinkies story says it all.

I was checking out my groceries one day, and as I placed my items on the conveyor belt, I felt good. “I am really shopping smart today,” I said to myself. Fresh veggies and fruits. Hormone-free milk. Cheese. Peanut butter. Organic eggs. Organic catsup. (My daughter-in-laws idea) and scarce amounts of red meat. No soft drinks. As I watched the products meander down the runway belt, they looked like they were competing for the Healthiest Groceries crown. I was so proud of myself. Then I spied it.

Watch your thoughts

There it was. Its height overshadowing all others. It couldn’t be ignored. It was blue and white and screamed, “Bad, bad, bad.” A big box of Twinkies (Low fat, though terrible, I might add) was standing tall above all the rest. Talk about inconsistency. I was mortified. That one lone Twinkie’s box suddenly diminished all those good choices. Suddenly my good mood was gone. I dismissed all those good choices because of that one bad one. I wasn’t so proud anymore. “I’m weak”; “I have no willpower,” I reprimanded myself. That one bright blue and white box completely overshadowed all my healthy choices. (Are you wondering what I did? That’s another story.)

We focus on the difficult people in our lives and forget about those who love and support us in so many different ways.

The Red Bowl

red round fruit on red ceramic bowl/lesson learned

I have a red ceramic bowl on my bathroom countertop filled with small-sized stones purchased from my local dollar store. I’ve written one word on the stones, “Remember.” The book of Joshua (Joshua 4:5-7) tells the story of how Joshua instructed the Israelites to each take a stone out of the Jordan River. They were to keep the stone, and when their children asked them what the stone meant, they were to recount how God cut off the waters of the Jordan so they could cross with the Ark of the Covenant. “Remember what God has done for you,” was Joshua’s directive on that day.


From my experience, allowing myself to overthink my husband’s travel schedule could get me down. But God has proved faithful in the past, and He will in the future. When I see those stones, I am also reminded of how God parts the waters for me. My battle with depression often came down to the simple concept of “remembering.” Remembering that not every day was bad, that God had brought me through many troubled waters in the past. Remembering scripture.

Trusting God doesn’t just happen; poof, it’s there. It’s built one stone at a time. Somewhere a decision has to be made; I will trust God, or I won’t. I will step out with the little faith I have, or I won’t.

Trusting God is an action, and faith is the result. Every time we exercise our faith,  another stone is added to faith’s foundation, and we learn a lesson about trust.

Trusting God for our future is fortified by looking back and remembering all the times God has parted the rivers of despair for us as well. The Israelites always forgot what God had done for them, which is why he frequently had to recount their own history to them! I find I’m no better at times which is the reason for the small stones in the red bowl.

Clouds teach us lessons

grey white clouds/lessons learned

I have written before about clouds, and how we all experience times when dark clouds hover over our heads. But those clouds usually move away eventually and settle over someone else. No one escapes this world without some trouble, although I would be the first to admit that some people seem to have more than their share while others seem to have none at all.

No matter where we are on that continuum, we need to rejoice when good fortune lands on someone other than ourselves. Our selfish and self-absorbed nature is often revealed in our inability to be happy for the fortuity of others.

Be happy for others

Be glad when you see a life that is working, when you encounter a happy family, when you see a successful long-term marriage. When you see people overcoming great odds, especially if they’re ones you are trying to overcome, be joyful for them. When someone finds success, be happy for them. Don’t be envious.

Part of happiness is learning to let some things go, don’t be so hard on yourself, remember your blessings, and be happy for others. Don’t let one bad decision ruin your day. When you get all tangled up in an emotional mess, let God help you find the ends you can rewind.

Learn the lessons you need to learn. No, no one likes it. I certainly don’t. But a lesson learned is likely a mistake not to be repeated, and isn’t that what we want?

God bless and have a great day.