Jennifer Danny | ‘Hugging the Kettle’ and Hitting Pause

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

There is the anecdote of the Far West that carries a wonderful lesson. It appears that a party of hunters, being called away from their camp, left the campfire unattended with a kettle of water boiling on it.  

Presently an old bear crept out of the woods, and seeing the kettle with its lid dancing on top, promptly seized it. The boiling water scalded him badly; but instead of dropping the kettle instantly, he proceeded to hug it tightly – this being a bear’s idea of defense. Of course, the tighter he hugged it the more it burned him; and the more it burned him the tighter he hugged it; and so on in a vicious circle, to the undoing of the bear.  

This illustrates perfectly the way in which many people hug their difficulties by constantly rehearsing them to themselves and others.  

Whenever you catch yourself thinking about your grievances, say to yourself sternly: “Bear hugs kettle,” and think about God instead. You will be surprised how quickly some longstanding wounds will heal. 

– From: “Around the Year with Emmet Fox”  

This is a wonderful quote to learn how to let go of longstanding grievances, feelings of hurt and things that although should not be a part of your life any longer, for some reason we still hold tightly.  

We all have experienced disappointments in our lives, and we tend to replay them in our minds. Recently I was feeling a small sense of being devalued, a sense of being deflated. And that darn old tape started to play in the back of my mind. I likened it to having something being taken away. Something that I had been given and/or been instructed that I was allowed to have and then the game changed midstream.  

I went back into the archives of my childhood. Yes, I do tend to go there at times. After all; I am only human. I remembered that on several occasions. material items that were given to me, I saw them as only temporary, not really mine. In fact, I would continue to go back to “hug the kettle,” because at that time I did not have the wherewithal to know that I did not have to do that.   

We tend to think that if I only do this differently, if I only behave differently then perhaps the outcome will be different. Ah, but that only works if the two parties who are in this “kettle game” are mutually exclusive in how they want the perceived outcome, it needs to be amicable to both involved, and not a situation where one person has won yet again.   

When we were growing up, I was the kind of person who wanted my sister and brothers to have more; I wanted them to know that they were special. I was happy when they were happy. After my parents divorced, our holidays were spent with both sides. When we were all grown up and had families of our own, my sister asked me was I ever saddened that I didn’t get a lot of Christmas presents like she did. I told her no, that I never really noticed nor counted to see who got what. In many ways I was happy to have what I was given.  

Flash forward many years later and I am in sales for medical software and computers. I have a company car that isn’t reliable, and after a few breakdowns on the freeway, I was given a brand-new car. I was on top of the world, and the fact that I had a sales territory that included Pasadena, Glendale, West Hollywood and part of Los Angeles, and quite frankly it was necessary.  

I loved that work-perk, and at times I wondered how long it would last. It’s not that I suffer from self-esteem issues, not at all. In fact, at my current job, I have a co-worker who recently told me I could fix anyone and help them to “believe they could achieve” and then I giggled and said “except myself.” 

She looked at me and said, “Yeah right, I doubt that.”   

Funny, the way others see you. It’s always nice to have someone who sees you in that “different light.” 

On to more of my vehicle musings. In 2006, I sold my minivan and bought my stepmom’s minivan from her. Blue Book price was her final offer. My sister asked me, “Why are you buying her car?” 

I said, “Well, she is getting an SUV and it’s priced reasonably, and it has low mileage.” I tap-danced with my hat and cane to plead my side and my sister rolled her eyes and thought “whatever.”  

Cars are such big decisions, so to me it was a good idea to buy one from a family member. I started to really think about my life with cars. OK, first car, a 1970 Toyota Corona, yes Corona, I paid $800 for it. 

It had no back seat, a fact my father was pleased with. After that came the Corolla — I paid a third, my dad paid a third and my mom paid a third. One night I loaned it to my boyfriend and, well, he was with another girl and they got hit by a drunk driver, which totaled the car. Rumor has it they were in the parking lot at our high school hanging out with everyone and she let herself in the car as he was getting ready to leave. At least everyone was OK, except the car, but the insurance company replaced it, making it Corolla No. 2. 

Then came the Sentra — a gift for graduating college — then the Celica. Then I traded the Celica for a backyard when we bought our house, then a company car, a van, a minivan — kids were in the picture by now, and then I bought my stepmom’s minivan. Whoa, even my head is spinning after that recollection. 

After about 10 years of driving the minivan, and oodles of traveling for our kids’ sports, and driving it more for work, and two transmissions later, a little bird told me that one of the guys I worked with was changing his company car and I should ask if I could use his old one. 

It was a bit dented, had been driven hither and yon, but it worked, and it was functional. When that vehicle could not go anymore, it was topping close to 250,000 miles. I was allowed to drive another one, same model, slightly newer. 

When they needed to let one of my coworkers use it, I was allowed to then use another vehicle. It was an awesome car, a nice hybrid four-door sedan. Imagine my surprise when it really was happening. I had tears in my eyes, and in the mini-break of COVID-19 early last summer, I hugged my coworker and said thank you a gazillion times…ah but something told me deep down it would be short-lived.  

I would go and visit my clients wearing my mask and gloves, and afterward use my hand sanitizer that I kept in the car. It was nice to have a little bit of normal in an otherwise chaotic time. I sang the theme to The Jeffersons show in my head. “I’m moving on up,” and kept a giddy smile of gratitude for being appreciated. The beautiful logo of the company was on the car, and when I would see other employees, in their company trucks or vehicles, I would do the nod and wave. 

I was cool, I would play my CD’s and groove to the tunes. And last spring during what was the only rainstorm I can remember that happened, I had gone to a client’s office, as I was stuck in traffic on the 405 North, I looked over to the lane next to me and saw one of our company trucks sitting in traffic, too. It was comforting to say the least.    

I found out recently that the car is needed elsewhere. It makes sense, and I am a team player. I’ve been doing my victory lap and, through all of this, I am trying hard to not “hug the kettle” anymore. 

I am beginning to realize that I am indeed worthy, and that perceived “value” isn’t contingent on material things. 

I guess sometimes it just takes a situation to occur so you can put it in the proper perspective so you can simply press “stop” for the old tape that started to play.

Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.

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