Eventually, this is exactly what begins to happen. Slowly the plentiful supply begins to lessen each day. Although, there is less cheese, both mice continue to go to the same place to eat and are reluctant to go in search of new cheese. One day the inevitable happens. They go to the cheese station and there is no cheese at all. One mouse goes home and waits for the cheese to reappear while the other mouse puts on his running shoes and goes in search of new cheese. He tries to convince his friend that together they can find new cheese but alas, the complacent mouse decides to just wait and see if more cheese will reappear. The assertive mouse valiantly goes in search of new cheese leaving behind messages written on the walls as encouragement should his friend decide to follow.
Like the two mice, most of us want to believe that our “gravy train” will last forever. As long as life is providing what we need, we also become complacent, content in the belief that all the cheese we need will somehow continue to be there for us. Few of us dare question our bounty when life is good. After all, why question a good thing? The very act of questioning is considered to be bad luck. That’s why when things begin to change, we are resistant to noticing, which means we are resistant to preparing for a change..
It is not necessarily what happens to a person but rather how he reacts to it that determines the seriousness of any situation, even the loss of a continuous supply of cheese. I once listened carefully to a man share his unpreparedness for what happened in his life. He owned a thriving car business with more than enough money flowing in. Without question, he was living the good life. Then, due to economic changes in his community beyond his control, many lost their jobs and purchasing food and paying for shelter became the major concern of most. A new car was out of the question. Within months, he was bankrupt. When the money stopped, his wife left and he sat (understandably) dreaming of how it was and wishing that somehow, someway, the “cheese” would magically reappear.
As he told his sad story, tears were streaming down his face and I was moved. Who wouldn’t be devastated by such a turn of events? He needed time to get back on his feet–to venture out, to put on his running shoes, to talk with others who had been there, to look for “clues on the wall” as to how to rebuild his life. How much time did he need was the real question. An intense crisis such as this one often takes six months before enough emotional energy returns to set out again, to rebuild any hope of a positive future. Since the timing of when this crisis happened was important to understanding how he had dealt with it, I asked how long ago did all this happen. “Seventeen years ago,” he muttered. My sympathy evaporated. He had used the crisis as an excuse to remain stuck.
I am convinced (because I have been there) that when life takes an unexpected turn, when the cheese supply stops, that we have choice. We can become stuck, living in days gone by, or we can put on our running shoes and use past experiences to find something equally worthwhile or perhaps better. It’s a matter of choice.