A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Hand of Cards

by Bill Lambert

by Bill Lambert

Life’s like a game of cards.  You get dealt a hand with some strong cards and some weak ones.  To win you have to make the best of your strong cards. Like the card game, the trick is to concentrate on your positive talents, and not to let the negative ones dominate your life.

The Greek philosophers found that there are four main personality types, and  most of us are born with a mixture of these with one predominating.  They called them the Four Temperaments.  You can look them up on the Internet. (Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic. Ed.) These will give you a better knowledge of yourself, and the opportunity to take advantage of your strengths.

I believe that in most lives, there will come a time when you will be challenged right to the balance point of survival.  How you have played your hand up to that point  is likely to decide the outcome – whether you go under or whether you carry on with your life with a strengthened character.

I’d like to tell you about the biggest challenges I have had to face, in the hope that it might encourage others who have met with similar crises.

I recall one occasion when I was under heavy emotional strain. Events had led up to me losing my wife, my house and my job, and I was left with no recourse but to start up on my own…  with my knees walking backwards.

Perhaps I fall over more easily than others – a weak card -  but I found depression crowding in on me. It was as though a balance had tipped in my mind,  and I felt I was mentally walking backwards..   As the depression deepened I lost my appetite for food,  couldn’t sleep… couldn’t even breath freely.   I was surviving  from one minute to the next. I felt I was plumbing the depths of grief.  Perhaps the most frightening thing was the knowledge that I was no longer in control of my mind.  I had lost the power to make decisions.

Anti-depressants like Valium didn’t help.  The effect was like drinking half a bottle of spirits… having a brief high… and then toppling back down to the depths.  I tipped them down the loo.

To enable myself to make even the simplest decisions I had to work out some rules.  And somehow I had to get outside myself with my negative mindset.  I dreamed up ‘George’, my secret counsellor.  And I invented three rules to help me make decisions.

“George, what am I going to do about such and such?”

“Well, Bill,  how important is this matter?  Do you have to make a decision at all?

“O.K. Yes, that is important and you’ll have to decide, but do you have to make that decision right now?   Does it depend on events which have still to happen?   Or do you need further information before you can reach a decision?  If that’s the case, when will you have that information?”

Fixing those criteria enabled me to face decisions.

Good chap, George..

The other thing I did was to force myself to sort out what I really wanted from life at that time. How I was going to survive.   I remember forcing my hand to scrawl:

Run a good business.

Make some provision for later years.

Become a more loving person.

Thirty years later, I can look back to success in those objectives.   I have a lovely wife, we have enough to live on comfortably,  our children all speak to us  - and I have learned to know something of the warmth of the love of God,  feeling it flowing through me to others.  Yes – life’s great!

And I look back to that time of crisis as the point where I really began growing up.

PS: A final tip…  When you feel depression or sadness creeping in, do something  positive at once,  Make a decision.

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