I Got 99 Problems

Today I need a little help — just a quick discerning eye and a shoulder share to help me sort out a few things. So, sidle up and help me figure out how many of these problems are actually mine.  If you’re anything like me, and I suspect you are, people come to you with things they want you to fix.

Disclaimer — I do not fix things.  I have never been handy. I’m a good listener, but I usually just want the abridged version of what’s on your mind — the Tweetable, 140-character version — not the novella.

I got 99 problems, and I need help sorting them into three groups: mine, yours, and those perceived to be mine (but they’re really yours). Allow me to set the scene of a 30-minute snapshot of my day.

This morning I arrived at work, parked my car, and entered through a side door. I typically encounter two – three people immediately. I always say, “Gooood morning (in my sing song voice)! How’s everybody?” Because I was raised right, I wait for a response. If this were a video recording, I’d pause here for reflection.

What I realize now as I reflect is that I’m a walking invitation to take on other people’s problems. Seriously, I am. By caring or showing all the signs of someone who cares, I am inadvertently emitting a signal that attracts primates –specifically monkeys. Stay with me; I’ll explain.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

We all have monkeys on our backs — a burdensome problem, situation, or responsibility– and it seems that I am a one woman show who travels with a troupe of monkeys. As these three shift monkeys from their backs and hurl them at me, I catch one in mid-shift, and even dive for the other two so they don’t hit the ground.  Those monkeys are now mine, and I haven’t even made it to my office yet. I walked in with zero problems, and now I have three.

As I walk across the cafeteria to get to the main office, I see a spill in the foyer, a door ajar, and a small pile of trash–six problems in all, and I still haven’t opened the main door. I enter the office, and everything looks swell. My co-workers are chatting,  and they greet me as well, but I walk past them quickly to open my door and discover another small mess on the floor. My back starts to ache though these monkeys are small.  If I don’t shift quickly, then one of them might fall.

I hang up my coat and put away my purse, log into my e-mail and things suddenly get worse. Seventy-four new messages since the last time I checked. Ten are marked urgent; now my morning is wrecked.

I swivel in my chair to survey my desk. Three distinct piles have created a mess. I step out for a minute to sign in and get tea, but my steps aren’t too steady; I now have 84 monkeys.

En route to the break room, I meet a few friends. Only one is standing upright, so I turn around to flee. “Not so fast, Michelle. You just got here!” said one friend. She’s nearly doubled over from the monkeys she’s taken in. She becomes more erect, the longer she speaks, and what had happened to her is now happening to me. The weight is unbearable, so I look for a seat. I suddenly remembered all I wanted was tea. Now 94 problems are traveling with glee. My temper and fears are getting the best of me. Add those two to the others, and I’m now at 96. It’s only 6:30, and I’m already in a fix. I crawl back to my office with my tea in tow, three ladies are at my door, and I have no place to go. Welcome! Welcome! Come one, come all. Three more problems–99 in all.

What I’ve learned from this arduous journey is that sometimes I am the problem.  I take on things that aren’t even intended for me, but I see an opportunity for growth in these divine appointments — a gift that I don’t often use — the gift of discernment. I always ask God to use me. I said, “I want to be a beacon for Christ.” Well, what does a beacon do? It guides or warns of impending danger.   As a beacon for Christ, people will always come toward me, but I must discern my purpose right away. Do I just listen, or do I give input? Do I take on these problems, or assist with resolving them? That’s part of what it means to live for Christ. You will sometimes battle the enemy and sometimes battle yourself. No matter the struggle, put on your armor and keep fighting the good fight.

17 Thoughts

  1. Here is what I know, though we all take on more monkeys that are not ours, I am thankful to share a journey with you and be able to know there is support and encouragement and I pray you know I offer the support, listening ear and hopefully encouragement for you friend. It is a journey and it is not meant to be travelled alone, it is about relationships.
    Side note, I know I don’t sing the morning greeting but hope you recognize I’m sparing your ears and keeping the good morning in words and with a smile. So will leave it with each morning is “Great” being on the team.

    1. God’s plan is perfect. I’m so glad he steered you in my direction. You are a constant source of encouragement, and I like the way you think. I also admire how you love our kids. By the way, you told me a while ago that singing isn’t one of your gifts. I’ll take your word; no need to prove it. 🙂

  2. I barely know you, only met you this week, but I feel like you’re my new best friend. Your piece is so sharp and clear, I felt the weight of each monkey, as I typically do each day I encounter other people. While I left the concrete jungle of corporate America long ago, I still encounter that circus daily. Prayer is the only light. What’s more, you linked the perfect song to enhance the experience.

      1. Thanks. I got that. I blasted that out and posted it ‘unseasoned’. I hope you got that I meant After reading your post I feel like …” Have a wonderful, God blessed weekend!

        1. I’m a LA girl, and I usually like “seasoning,” but your message was seasoned to perfection — a delight to behold and savor. Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

  3. How about this; people are not monkeys – they are puppy dogs. They come to you for comfort and because they trust you – I know I do. You are needed everyday by the people you work with because you are smart, insightful and powerful in your thinking your opinions are valuable. Woof Woof

    1. Thanks for reading and for your beautiful words, Sandra. Keep in mind, most of this message is fictional–at least the part about messes. Those e-mails really did exist. 🙂

  4. I loved reading this and completed related, I often carry a few monkeys around as people naturally gravitate towards me with their upsets. I would say, sometimes just listening is enough for them to work out their own solution! But more importantly, as well as the content of this post, I loved your internal rhyme and your analogy of monkeys! xx

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