Before Hammer Down the Nail

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This is the speech I gave this morning in the toastmaster international speech contest in the club level.
My delivery is much better than the last contest, the contestants are strong, so this time I didn’t make it to the top 3.

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What is a happy life? I think each of you will give me a different answer.

When I was a little girl, in our big family, my father was the only one who had a job. With the miserable amount of money, not only did he support our family, he also helped my grandparents to raise my uncles and aunts. The heavy burden sharpened his bad temper. My brothers and I suffered a lot from his thunderstorms. I believe Money should be blamed for all of our family’s miseries.

We need Money! Money will improve our living condition! Money will provide us opportunities! Money will sweep the sky off thunderclouds and bring us sunshine! With enough money, we will have the happiest life we could dream for.

My husband and I have decent salaries, we have a house with plenty rooms, our kids have boxes of toys, we take all kinds of classes, and we have out-of-town vacations. That sounds like a happy life, doesn’t it? There is still something missing. Where is the happiness that should come along with all these?!

Besides the intense work during the day, we have tons of house work too. I feel like a top spinning around all the time, I have no time to sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee or watch the TV!

Can money solve this problem? Yes, of course. Hire a housemaid! My husband thought about cost and exclaimed: “I will help you.” He did this so that we could save hundreds of dollars each month for the future. We made a deal, I make the dinner and he cleans up the table. Sounds fair? But things could go wrong, especially when collaboration involves.

One day, I was stressed at work; I was running late to pick up the hungry kids. When we rushed home, I dashed into the kitchen, and I stopped dead, there was a stack of plates and pans piled up in the sink, the dining table was messy with syrup drops and cereal crumbs, and there was an army of ants enjoying their happy meal on the floor! “Whoosh!” my fire got lit up immediately. The flame got bigger and stronger while I cleaned up the sink and prepared the dinner.  So when my husband opened the garage door, even before he put his stuff down, I ran to him and shouted, “Can you do your part? Don’t you know the kids are starving, and I have to clean up for you before I can do anything?! ”  “H—– hold on! Could you put the knife down first? There is tons of work for me. I am busy as a worker bee every morning.” “Why didn’t you clean up last night right after the dinner?” “You girls were not finished when I was done.” “You always try to find excuses. Last week …” We shifted our topic from not cleaning up that night to he drove me crazy when he tried to teach me how to drive twelve years ago.  At the end, I ended up sobbing in bed, he
went out for a walk, and our kids were frightened into silence.

I called my friend, “I feel miserable. What should I do?” Instead of comforting me, she suggested I read a book called “Why we always hurt the ones we love most?”

The main idea of this book is the following: In such a busy-paced world, it’s difficult to be energetic every day. We treat our home as the place to relax and get recharged. It’s the safest place for us to expose our real feelings. Because we believe no matter what we do to our family members, they will always forgive us, they will still love us. But without
controlling ourselves, we could easily hurt them.

It turned on a light bulb: I am hurting my family! I am hurting the ones I love most! I am hurting the guy I want to spend my whole life with. Blames are nails; when we blame someone, we are hammering down a nail into their heart. The crueller the blame, the deeper the nail will go. We could apologize as we take our nails out. But it’s too late for a fragile heart, it’s already broken; for a strong heart, it leaves a hole.

Blames are troublemakers; I need to get rid of them. Every time I am about to lose control of my temper, I take a deep breath and ask myself: “Catherine, what do you want? A broken heart or a big hug?” I force myself to appreciate the part that has been accomplished and I realize that the happiness I am looking for is hiding behind the appreciation.

So next time when you are going to hammer down a nail, I would like you to ask yourself the same question “What do you want?”


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