The pig with the wooden leg

faded sand hills

We dig holes for ourselves, of comfortable living, and it’s hard to see just how deep down you are until you suddenly want to take a look at the world up there, some fresh air and realise you can’t get up. You’re too far down.  ― Charlotte Eriksson

My great-grandfather was a politician, and he liked to tell jokes – the kind that made people laugh even though they really weren’t funny. My grandmother recently recounted one of his jokes that goes like this.

A traveling salesman stopped at a farm one day and was puzzled to discover a pig hobbling around with three legs and a wooden peg for the fourth. Although strange, it seemed to get around just fine and was confined by neither pen nor lead. The salesman asked the farmer, “What’s with the pig? I’ve never seen a pig with a wooden leg.” The farmer beamed.

“Why that’s the best pig ever,” he started, recounting tales of bravery and loyalty the salesman could scarcely believe. “He even saved my life one time! A pile of rock collapsed right on top of me, nearly crushing me. That pig rooted under the rock until he found me, drug me clear of the rubble, and ran squealing for help.”

The salesman nodded thoughtfully. “I see what you mean. You’ve certainly got an exceptional pig. But what’s with the wooden leg?”

The farmer responded “Why, with a pig that good, you sure wouldn’t want to eat him all at once!”

I’ll admit, I laughed — more out of shock and surprise than any sense of humor. Yet later, in the safety of my aloneness, I cried. The bittersweet truth is I am the pig with the wooden leg. Are you?

I can’t possibly be the only person who has given 100% with the purest of intentions to someone who took it all for personal gain, with no care in the world for my welfare. Just like the pig, happily wandering around on his wooden leg, I was so pleased to be of service, to have a chance to demonstrate my love and generosity — even when I was being cannibalized.  I’ve given money, time, affection, energy, and loyalty to people who truly wanted nothing more than take every ounce of it and give nothing in return.

I wonder sometimes if it’s better to keep the purity of our intentions than to guard ourselves against abuse at the risk of shutting out everyone. Sure, it might seem naive, but it’s also not ideal to be suspicious of everyone. The pure of heart will certainly have a different experience accounting for themselves to God than others. And yet, there is no valor in being abused, manipulated, or used in such a cold and calculating way. There is no valor in sacrificing oneself for someone else’s selfishness or greed.

There must be a balance between our own white light and the darkness in others. I’ve tried to find it, although I sure won’t say “I’ve got this.” Our hurts as well as our healing come in ebbs and flows. Sometimes the grace of forgiveness and learning washes over us like a clean summer rain only to be followed by a tidal wave rich with the fury and debris of hurt and anger that destroys everything in its wake.

I recently chatted with a life coach, Michele Laine, who told me that it’s common for issues to surface and resurface again and again, in different forms and times and circumstances. I’ve found this to be true in my life — for instance, when I finally unpacked baggage related to my mom, the same issues popped up in my workplace. Around we go.

We might be able to deal with an issue in one circumstance only to find debilitating suffering and pain when it arises in other circumstances. We may be fine one day and not the next. Our growth and healing is a dance, not the sprint that a three-legged pig might hope to make when he comes to his senses and realizes he needs to get as far away, and as quickly, as possible.

Recognizing, and then embracing, your self-worth can be a journey in itself. The more you can learn to love yourself, the faster you can get to the destination. Only then can we hear our own inner voice. I only recently started to hear mine, and many days its still a whisper. I hope with time, effort, and love you can hear your voice as well. If you need some help getting started, I hope you’ll check out my 31-day guided journal workbook — Reflecting You.