Half a Notion

by Midge Houghtaling

On the day of my divorce I remember walking out of the courtroom with my attorney. In the hallway he took a moment to ask me if I was okay, and then suggested that we go across the hall to Domestic Relations and set up my child support case. We entered the crowded office and as we waited to be acknowledged, I looked up and saw a poster on the wall. The poster pictured three monkeys engaged in some sort of mischief and the caption read:

In this world there are three kinds of people – People who make things happen, People who watch things happen, and People who wonder ‘What the hell happened?’I nudged my lawyer, pointed to the poster and said, “You know… I think I’ve always been the third monkey.”

It has been almost thirty years and I have never forgotten that day or the poster with its profound analogy of life. Often I find myself wondering which of the three monkeys I am today. Yes, more often than not, I find myself in the asking the same question as the clueless third monkey.’

The first monkey is a go-getter. He knows what he wants and goes after it. He starts businesses and runs them successfully. He is the founder of huge corporations. He is an entrepreneur. First monkeys are visionary. First monkeys are highly motivated, success orientated and driven. They are adventurous and they are risk-takers. Not me. I am the epitome of safe, conservative, and overly cautious. I admire the person who “makes things happen” but I am not and will never be that person.

The second monkey is a keen observer. He watched others succeed or fail and learns (or at least tries to learn) from their mistakes. He is hard-working and diligent and doesn’t like to venture outside established perimeters. He is a great team player but definitely not a team-leader. He takes note of his surroundings. He waits and watches for opportunities and he is aware of life’s pitfalls. He advances when the risk is minimal. He is always at the top of his game. Not me. I admire “people who watch things happen” but I am not and will never be that person.

The third monkey is naïve and trusting. He is blissfully unaware or unable to comprehend how cruel and conniving, or just plain stupid, people can be. His life is precarious. He’s enemies consider him an easy prey. Although I hate to admit it, I am most like that third monkey. I skip along the trails of life stopping to smell the flowers or help a wounded sparrow and when the net comes down, I can honestly say, “You know… I just never saw it coming.”

When my oldest child turned sixteen and got a driver’s license, I thought, Wow, this is great! He can run to the store for milk! He can pick up his younger brothers from cub scouts, baseball, and soccer practice! Three teenage boys and several wrecked cars later I was (once again) picking my own milk up from the grocery store. The biggest jolt was the following phone conversation…

“Mom… aahh… we kinda had a little problem…” he stammered.

“What happened?” I asked. Then, following an awkward pause, I demanded: “YOU WRECKED YOUR FATHER’S CAR… DIDN’T YOU?”

“Why can’t you just let me tell it in my own way?” he shouted back.

“Okay, fine,” I said (notably calmer). “In your own way… tell me what happen.”

“It wasn’t my fault,” he blurted. “My friend said, ‘Turn here’ and we weren’t to the driveway, yet.”Later that day, I decided that I would be dropping the young’uns off at their ball practice; all the while wondering who ever thought that it was such a great idea to give a driver’s license to a sixteen year old.

What the hell happened? I honestly, do not know, but if I live long enough—I just may be able to figure the whole thing out.

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