Agony is watching someone struggle with the lid of a jar I know I can open. Every fibre screams ‘GIVE IT ME. You’re doing it all wrong’. Doesn’t matter if they’re a weight-lifter or coached by ninjas in the art of unscrewing. I’ll fix it and I’ll do it myself.
This gentle reader, is the clarion call of my life. You get what you earn. Nothing comes free. if you want a job done properly, do it yourself.
I’d like to say it’s served me well. But whether it’s practical or personal maintenance, I’m a DIY disaster. From the polka-dotted hallway where I repainted only the dirty bits (looked fine till we turned on the lights), to the body overhaul that almost killed me – ‘my way’ has been more of a funeral march than a show tune.
It’s a combination of pride and fear. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I’m convinced I know what’s best for me. I’m scared of losing control (even though I have none) and I’m terrified of dependence. I can’t bear to rely on other people. I can’t bear to live on grace. Give me what I’m owed, I say. ‘I’ll take the blame if I can be the solution; I’ll break it and I’ll fix it too’.
C S Lewis tells a parable about a bus-load from hell who are Ghosts. They come to the outskirts of heaven and the Bright Men from heaven come out to try to convince the Ghosts from hell to come in.
In this conversation a Ghost recognizes a Bright Man who he knew in life – and he knew him to be a murderer
GHOST: Look at me now (says the ghost, slapping its chest – but the slap made no sound). I’ve gone straight all my life. I don’t say I have no faults, far from it. But I done my best all my life see. I done my best by everyone – that’s the sort of chap I was. I never asked for anything that wasn’t mine by rights. If I wanted a drink, I paid for it, see. And if I took my wages, I done my job see. That’s the sort of man I was.
BRIGHT MAN: It would be much better if you wouldn’t talk like that. You’re never going to get there like that.
GHOST: What are you talking about? I’m not going on, I’m not arguing. I’m just asking for nothing but my rights. I just want to have my rights. Same as you, see?
BRIGHT MAN: Oh no, it’s not as bad as that. I never got my rights and you won’t get your rights either. You’ll get something so much better.
GHOST: That’s just what I mean . I haven’t got my rights. I’ve always done my best and I’ve never done anything wrong. And here’s the thing. Well, if you don’t mind my saying so – here’s the thing I wonder about. Why should I be put down there, below a bloody murderer like you? What’s a murderer doing up there? And what is a sort like me doing down there?
BRIGHT MAN: Well I don’t know where you’ll be put, just be happy and come.
GHOST: What do you keep on arguing for? I only want my rights. I’m not asking for anyone’s bleeding charity.
BRIGHT MAN – Oh then do – at once. Ask for the bleeding charity! Everything is here for the asking and absolutely nothing can be bought
GHOST: That may be alright for you – if they choose to let a bloody murderer in just because he makes a poor mouth at the last minute, that’s their look-out. I don’t want charity though. I’m a decent man, and if I had my rights I’d have been there long ago and you can tell them I said so.
… That’s what I’ll do – I’ll go home. I didn’t come here to be treated like a dog. I’ll go home. Damn and blast the whole pack of you”.
And still grumbling but whimpering a little bit the ghost picked its way over the sharp grasses and left.
Take the bleeding charity.