The Truth behind the Curtains of What You See Will Make You Think

The Truth behind the Curtains of What You See Will Make You Think

Every once in a while, we stumble upon something in life that touches us in a profound way, carving itself not only in our memory but to our being, to who we become from that, and to the connectedness of the profound feeling that we had upon that event.

It may be something we saw, something someone said to us, something that happened to us, or something we read. It may be seemingly small to the naked eye—a non-event for everyone around you.

Yet, for you, that little thing shook your core and changed you forever.

We all have a collection of such meaningful/non-meaningful things in our lives.

One of mine was a book I read in high school. Not the whole book. I actually can’t remember for the life of me what the book was about.

The truth is, I don’t even remember the name of the book. I had mistaken it for a different title, which made for a funny confusion and quite a little internet digging to find the right title/book.

It’s old, out of print, and apparently it was never quite popular.

But this one small portion of it has stayed with me and shaped me in every interaction in my life ever since my eyes read it; the words are etched into my heart.

Action and Reaction Are Equal and Opposite

“Private Bokarev!”

“Present, Sir!”

“Come here!”

“Yes, Sir! Comrade Senior Lieutenant…”

“As you were! Private Bokarev!”

“Present, Sir!”

“Come here!”

“Yes, Sir! Comrade Senior Lieutenant! Private Bokarev reporting for duty, Sir!”

“About face! Mark time! Private Bokarev!”

“Present, Sir!”

“Sit down!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Stand up! Sit down! Stand up! Sit down!

Stand up! Sit down! Stand up! Livelier, man.

Stand up! Sit down! Stand up! Sit down!

Stand up! Sit down! Stand up! Sit down!

Stand up! Sit down! Stand up! Sit down!

Stand up! Private Bokarev…”

That night the soldier wept – quietly, so that no one should hear him. “It’s cruel! After all, I’m only human!”

The officer had a wife. “Misha, go and do the shopping,” she said. And he went. “Misha, I’ve a headache,” and he washed the dishes. “Misha, you’re as dumb as a block of wood,” and he cringed and looked like a beaten dog.

While his wife often went out, the officer stayed at home alone. He felt sorry for himself, and as he sobbed, he mumbled: “It’s cruel! After all, I’m only human!”

When his wife went out, she did not go to the theatre. She went to Private Bokarev.

The soldier made the officer’s wife give him money. He called her a whore. When she was with the soldier, she turned into a whimpering mongrel bitch.

When later she staggered home, head bowed, humiliated and degraded, she felt like bursting into tears; her lips trembled and she whispered: It’s cruel! I’m only human, after all”

From above, God looked down upon them. And wept."

Here it was, right in front of me, black on white, piercing my heart from the pages, a mirror of the naked truth about who we all really are.

I remember wanting to throw the book across the room with anger and defiance, while my eyes kept reading the lines again and again, like a magical spell. I couldn’t stop.

My heart was racing, competing with my speedy, fleeting race of thoughts; a ray of unknown, unwanted, new and unknown wanted feelings were lagging behind.

It was like the repulsive scene in a movie that you can’t look away from even though you know those images will haunt you for years to come.

The only difference was this was not a movie.

This was the truth of life.

It made perfect sense that God was watching us and weeping.

When it sunk in, I was crying too. What a mess we have created with our egos.

Flashes of my life past before me.

When I was in middle school, we had a new girl in our class. She came from Europe where her father worked for a few years as a diplomat.

She seemed like a nice girl.

She was all new to our school, but our dynamics as a group of kids had already been established throughout the few years we spent together.

I’m not proud at all to admit it, but my best friend and I weren’t very nice to her. Although not in the magnitude of what you hear on the news today, and with the innocence of the days before social media, we bullied her. That is, until she ran to the bathrooms, locked herself in one of the stalls and cried, sobbing her eyes out. That’s when we came running in after her to apologize and to make amends and become her very good friends.

Why did we do it?  I would have to admit it was fear. We were considered to be two popular girls, which meant we got a nice dose of attention and influence. Enters a new girl, who looks pretty good, and has the exotic history and mystery of living abroad. Eyes shifted away from us, attention was elsewhere and it 'threatened' us. We didn't like that. It scared us. So we attacked and 'shrank' our 'threat' into a little ball of tears and humiliation. How pathetic...

Why did we do it? Because we both knew all to well that place of shrinking and being 'bullied'. Each of us knew that feeling of being treated badly. We both had our own history of being in that place.

Let's face it, and admit it, all of us, and I mean you, me, and everyone you know, all of us have this history in our lives.

At my first job, I had a boss that was always making me stay late, dumping impossible loads of demands on me, and reprimanded me for the smallest unreasonable reasons with painful sarcastic remarks. I was afraid of him. I also ended up quitting.

Later, I heard his wife left him. He was devastated; she played him like the lieutenant’s wife in the book.

Events, actions, reactions, interactions—I saw my life in two parallel chains: the bully and the victim.

I keep wondering, why was the lieutenant so mean to Private Bokarev? Why did he treat him so badly? And the wife, what made her be so mean to the man she once loved? Why was her husband, the proud strong lieutenant, so afraid of her? What led them to be like this with each other? And why did the wife keep coming back to Private Bokarev when she knew that all she would get from him was humiliation and pain?

And then, what would the story be if the lieutenant in the book would have been respectful to Private Bokarev and treated him better?

Do you think his wife would still be so mean to him?

Do you think the soldier would humiliate her as he did?

I find this question vitally important when it comes to how we live our lives.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we have all encountered the painful treatment of an unfair, spiteful, mean, hurtful person in our lives at least once. Right?

We know these characters all too well—we are them. We see a mirror of ourselves in them, and we have been them all in different stages of our lives.

Most likely we still are….

We have all gone through the experience of being mistreated by someone unfairly.

We all share the power of our ego and the joy of revenge and of having the power to hurt somebody.

Because let’s face it, we think that by doing so, we regain our own strength back, healing ourselves from other painful experiences. When in fact, we are doing exactly the opposite.

“Action and Reaction Are Equal and Opposite”—through this little bit of a text, the choices become so clear. We choose who we want to be in each situation of our lives.

We can continue living in an “either/or” life of protection and fear, continuing this cycle of action for power, reaction to power and ebb and weave through being one or the other throughout our lives.

Or, we can change the game. Our lives are ours to play, ours to create the rules of how and who we want to be, and how we want to be.

We can choose to gently walk away from those who are paining us, and refrain from abusing our power over others.

We can choose who to play with.

We can choose how to play.

We choose our own story!

What Role are you choosing to play?

 What Story are you choosing to live?...

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  • Lian, poignant and beautifully said. We used to teach our kids ‘hurting people hurt people’ to try to help them understand that even the mean people needed compassion so we didn’t become them, try to break the cycle. It takes some space to look at our lives objectively doesn’t it? In narrative therapy we say, ‘You are the narrator up until this moment but from here out you are the author”… Choose your own story!

    • Thank you Charlotte 🙂 I love the quote you shared. It is so true. It’s amazing how much power our awareness and choices have in either stopping the cycle or continuing the cycle…. All it takes is one ‘break’ in the chain to start creating the change…

  • Lian, this brings to mind for me what I’ve been working on – writing my own story – and finding ways to get through old thought patterns. I am learning more and more I need to practice faith in a greater plan and a higher power and do so on a regular consistent basis! I’m tired of fear. I am embracing my faith so I can experience joy! That is my next chapter! Thank you!

    • Kathy, our old thought habits and emotional patterns were taught and engraved in us since birth. It takes courage, patience and a lot of self compassion to release them and create new, better thought patterns and emotional habits. I commend you for taking the road of creating a more gratifying and supportive life for yourself from the inside. It’s a wonderful rewarding journey of triumph. 🙂

  • Lian, What a great post! So many great lessons to apply to our own life. I went to a Meditation Workshop over the weekend and it was incredible at the end, we all shared our experiences and what came up for us and “The stories we make up and live by” was one of the BIG themes! It made me think about how to rewrite my story of victim-hood, of where I’ve been led by ego, etc! Love this! ==> “Choose your own story!”

    • Thank you Maritza. Yes, we do get to choose and create our own stories, from both sides of the spectrum of how we treat others as well as how we allow others to treat us and how we respond / react to those who mistreat us. Meditations, awareness and mindfulness are great places where we get to watch and observe ourselves.