“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.”
The shop in which Jodie worked was an old, quiet convenience store (convenient at this time only to a small handful of elderly folk), with an uncertain future. It was located on the corner of a residential street in a run-down coastal town – a town whose glory days were all but forgotten.
One day, when business was slow and the weather gray, Jodie was stacking shelves, deep in thought, while her colleague, Abby, swept dust off the floor.
“It’s not fair!” Jodie said.. “I’m a good person! I never break the law, I always pay my taxes … I work hard, day in day out! Why am I still stuck in this soul-sucking shop?! It’s not fair!”
“Well,” said Abby, “it could be worse… you could have no job at all!”
“True,” said Jodie. “That would be worse!” And so she continued with her day, thinking about how terrible having no job would be.
A week later, on a tired, rushed, rainy Monday morning, Jodie arrived at the shop, where her boss, Barry, was waiting for her to arrive.
“Good morning Jodie,” he said. “I’m sorry to say this, but business isn’t so good… I can’t afford to pay you anymore, so it’s time for you to leave – to move on.”
Jodie couldn’t find any words. She just stood there with her mouth gaping.
“Thanks for everything, Jo … and I’m sorry,” Barry finished. He handed her a final paycheck and sent her home.
On the way to her flat she decided to stop off at a local pub to drown her sorrows in booze, still dressed in her uniform. She sat at the bar beside a pungent old man, and her arms stuck to the sticky bar.
“This is the worst day of my life! I don’t have a job, so how can I possibly afford my living costs? It’s not fair!” Jodie said out loud.
“It could be worse, erm…” the old man (who, incidentally, was unemployed) said to her, then glimpsing at her nametag, “… Jodie! You could be homeless. Then you’d really be buggered.”
“True,” she said in response. “That would be much worse!” And so she finished her beer, got up, and went out to carry on with her day. All the while, she considered how fortunate she was to have a flat to call home, also thinking about how terrible it would be if she wasn’t so fortunate!
Jodie then spent a long week job hunting and feeling sorry for herself. One miserable morning, clothed only by a ragged dressing gown, she was eating breakfast, when there was a knock at the door.
“It’s Tim, the landlord!” cried the knocker; so she went to the door to let him in.
“Hi Tim, what’s the problem?” she asked. As Tim entered, he avoided eye contact, his gaze instead floating around the tatty carpet.
“Jodie, I’m sory to tell you this but I’ve sold the building – there’s been a good offer, and it could be my last chance to cash in. The buyer, though, wants to convert the place, so you’re gonna have to leave within a month… you better get packing!”
Jodie was lost for words. Her jaw was hanging by her belly button, while her eyes seemed to look straight through Tim’s head, through the corridor walls, and into outer space.
“I’m sorry, Jo… truly I am,” Tim finished, then quickly left the flat. Jodie closed the door behind him, and went back to the kitchen to sob into the remnants of her now soggy cereal.
After an unsuccessful month of job and flat hunting, Jodie was ready to leave her home of 3 years. She had sold all her furniture, decoratives, and excess clothes, with only a single suitcase of belongings left to her name. Tim eventually arrived to take her keys; and once they were handed over, Jodie dropped her suitcase off at the flat of Abby, her old colleague, who had offered to let her sleep on the couch while she found her feet. Abby, though, was still working at the shop, so Jodie went out for a few hours.
She wandered over to a park, where she sat on a bench beside an old lady; a grin like the Cheshire cat spread across the old lady’s distinct face, which was carved and rift with wrinkles.
“Why do you look so sad?” she immediately asked a forlorn Jodie, who was yet to even perch herself down.
“Because life’s not fair!” she said. after sitting back “I’ve paid my dues! I worked long and hard, always paid my taxes, never broke the law… yet I’ve lost my job, my home, and luck is simply against me! It’s not fair!”
The old lady turned to Jodie and said: “That’s too bad, sweetheart. But keep your chin up! Things will turn out the way they ought to.”
Jodie looked back at the old lady, pulling her face in such a way that appeared stuck halfway between a smile and a frown.
“Aren’t you going to tell me how things could be worse?” she asked the lady. “How I could have no friends? How I could be seriously ill?”
“Oh dear, gosh no! I wouldn’t want to tempt an ill fate like that for you, darling! Things could, and certainly will, get much better for you, I would rather say! You could yet find a new job, a new home – you might even meet some new friends along the way.” She smiled the warmest, most honest smile Jodie had ever seen – the old lady’s green eyes were glowing intensely out of her face.
Jodie, in turn, smiled back nervously. She thought of all the opportunities that were waiting for her, as well as all the infinite number possibilities that life could have in store for her. Then she stood up and marched into town holding her head high and her shoulders back, as the sun shone brightly above her.
After that meeting in the park, Jodie was determined. It took a few more days of further disappointments, near-misses, and ‘almosts’; but eventually her luck took a turn for the better. Within ten days, she had scored a job interview for a role in a busy yet quaint coffee shop, and she found a nice flat which met her budget requirements.
The next week, she passed her job interview, in which an attractive confidence oozed from her. She went back to Abby’s flat that night to celebrate, where something occurred to her:
“You know, Abby, when your mind is full of the things that could go wrong, things do go wrong … but when your mind is full of the things that could go well, they do go well!” When Jodie had said her piece, Abby smiled at her.
“It’s true! You know, something similar happened to me..” she replied, “I thought about an old friend from school last week, and how I hadn’t seen them in years! Then yesterday, they called me! How bizarre?! That kinda stuff happens a lot…”
“It sure does!” Jodie said – and they took a sip of wine together.
Jodie worked in that coffee shop for just under a year; but this time she left on her own terms.
Instead of spending the entirety of her spare time drinking or browsing the internet, Jodie began finding time to carve figurines out of wood – an old hobby from her childhood that she had stopped by the time she left school. It didn’t take too long before people started buying the figurines from her, so that she was eventually able to setup and run a successful business from her homely flat!
Every morning, to this day, Jodie reads a carved wooden sign that hangs on the back of her front door – she credits it as the cornerstone of her success. The sign reads:
“Be careful what you think!”