to Out on a Limb,
a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine
is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in
In the Clark household, I watched Dad become a hero when he unclogged the meat grinder, or fixed the malfunctioning toilet. I saw Mom’s glee when Dad completed his repair jobs because it meant she did not have to go out and buy a new meat grinder, or call a plumber. Saved money was always a big fix in our family.
Whether you are someone who derives joy from fixing things, or a person who cheers when something broken is fixed for you, a sense of completion can be so satisfying. If you fix stuff for others, you probably like it when the results bring relief, elation or happiness to others. Likewise, isn’t it a wonderful feeling when you are the fixer? If our lives contain enough promise of fixing, our joy multiplies. In contrast, up against something that is chronically broken, it is easier to dip into despair.
The abovementioned toilet was actually a chronic case. Dad’s repairs brought temporary relief and functionality but ultimately, the toilet was a bit of a lemon. The problem was not fixed, once and for all, until a new toilet was purchased. Now, I am not trying to suggest that a mere faulty toilet could bring about despair but if there is also a chronic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or irreversible dementia in the mix, it can be pretty hard to remain buoyant.
As each of our lives seems to contain some element of chronicity, perhaps we must raise and repeat a question: What can be fixed? With our attention turned to possible solutions, we might find a satisfying antidote to feelings of overwhelm or pessimism. Racism is chronic. Gun violence is chronic. Global warming is chronic. Other social and economic injustices are chronic. You may not agree with each of these statements but even if you only concur with one, does your mood darken when you reflect on any of these problems?
It takes very little for me to feel overwhelmed in the face of these challenges. But I come back to the question: what can be fixed? And more specifically, what can I fix? I want to feel the same satisfaction that Dad felt when the meat grinder was functional again. And yet, I have always been reluctant to enter the fray by weighing in on social or political issues beyond my perceived reach of influence. But what if one thing I say makes one person make a different choice? Would that bring a teeny tiny bit of satisfaction in the attempt to fix things? You bet. I, alone, cannot end racism, sexism, or any of the other issues that plague these times. But still, there is the possibility that one voice might change or soften another voice. Slow, incremental change may not be an instant fix, but it’s something. How can you be a fixer?
Presidential Election: A Fixin’ Operation
If you need life-saving surgery, and if you only have two possible surgeons to choose from, which one would you pick if the goal is to fix things? You cannot waste time lamenting the absence of that third surgeon you might have preferred. So, will you choose the doc who has sufficient credentials to perform this necessary operation? Or the doc who is not really even a physician, whose credentials are irrelevant, at best, and who seems to think he can perform the operation without a sizable crew of assistants in the operating room? Do you want to fix things, or face even more chronic issues than you already must address? #getoutthevote
Loud vs. Quiet Fixin’
Dramatic, disturbing events lead to calls for loud and drastic action. But here is the problem: not everyone is capable of going loud. Frankly, this month’s Limb is plenty loud for an introvert like me. The loud advocates might say, “that’s not good enough,” or just plain “that’s not enough.” Well, since the trend in our land is toward championing diversity, perhaps the quiet types can be appreciated equally for the role they play in changing and fixing attitudes, stereotypes, and rash or inaccurate beliefs. Their activities look different than the loud ones, but perhaps it all has an effect. Loud or quiet, we are all in the fixin’ business, aren’t we? I hope so.
Prompts for Joy: A Little Bit of Fixin’
Click here for a stirring message that reminds us to let love prevail.
(Kim Scala sent me this link, and it fixed some things for me on that particular day. Thanks, Kim!)
Click here to see a young boy’s reaction to his Mom’s exciting news.
All previous Prompts for Joy (PFJs) can be found at my website, unless the video url is no longer functional.
I saw this message on Facebook, and I wish I could give credit where credit is due for the words.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·