As a parade went by, one of the horses pulling a float entry left a memento in the middle of the road, right in front of where we were watching from the sidewalk. From that point on, every band or group that came marching down the road marched bravely on, right through the pile of horse manure.

The image struck a chord in me, one that the band was not intentionally playing.

The parade of life does not always go smoothly. Any one of us can be marching along, happily playing our tune, and suddenly be faced with a little mess which is not of our making. Friends can be unkind, intentionally or not, and, as Bobbie Burns wrote “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, /Gang aft agley.” Those of us who can keep focused on the goal, and march right through, deserve applause.

My mentor, Rev. Denton Roberts often said “You are not responsible for what happens to you, but for your response to it.” In other words, you don’t need to feel guilty for problems in your life, but it’s important that you deal with them. When there’s a messy pile in your road, after you get through it, it’s valuable to consider how it got there, what to do about it and how to make sure you don’t participate in the creation of new ones. Rather than just dwell on the problem, move your focus to the solution.

Today, I was talking to a client, and the metaphor of walking through the "road apples" of life came up again. There’s no doubt about it, we’re going to encounter unpleasant obstacles in our path from time to time. Just because we have to walk through it, doesn’t mean it’s our fault it’s there --but, it is our responsibility to clean off our shoes as soon as we can, and do whatever we can (like getting the parade committee to put a bag under the horse’s butt) to make sure we don’t go through it again.

Above all, it’s important to remember it’s only a little pile. It has an end, it’s temporary, and we’ll probably survive it. Blaming ourselves or someone else never helped anyone get through it faster, it only makes the slogging more unpleasant. There is nothing to stop us from playing "Hey, Look Me Over" at maximum lung power all the way through. On the other hand, ignoring it won’t make it go away, either. Somewhere in there is a fine balance, between letting go and taking responsibility. Pretending that all is well, and the problem is non-existent, or pretending that we don’t need the rest of society, or that critical, difficult or angry people will go away by themselves, is foolhardy. Staying in isolation, so we don’t encounter hassles, means we’ll miss the parade. When there’s a problem we must slog through it, and then scrape the leavings off our shoes. Like it or not, we must take responsibility for turning our experience around. This means minimizing reaction and maximizing effectiveness. Taking an objective look at where we become part of the problem and where we succeed are part of the solution makes a critical difference in how life goes on.

On the other hand, self-flagellation and blaming won’t get us anywhere either. The key really is respect. To have respect for ourselves is the key to getting others to follow suit. I do believe that loving ourselves is the key. I believe that people who love and accept themselves will naturally do what is necessary to create a positive life, From there, it only takes being willing to project it to others.


Life is not always easy
It hums along, sweet and low-key
and then the tsunami—real or imagined,
wipes our smug snugness away.

Devastated by loss, we weep,
We gnash teeth, we grieve, we’re angry
At God, at life, at lack of control.
We regain calm, then lose it, lose it, lose it.

Slowly, slowly, normalcy returns,
creeping back in like the daily tide.
The dawning of another day, bereft of the old,
but blessed with the new,

First shows itself in the smiling eyes
Of dear friends, still here, still offering love.
Life, after all, is worthwhile
And love and gratitude trump grief.

I wish you minimal piles to slog through, and the patience and courage to keep playing your own special song. © 2005 Tina B. Tessina

Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

Dr. Tessina, is CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for, a website designed to strengthen relationships and guide couples through the various stages of their relationship with personalized tips, courses, and online couples counseling. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC News.