No Crystal Stair

Out of the blue one night last week I remembered the words to the Langston Hughes poem, “Mother to Son.”

She told him: “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” Those words popped into my head over 30 years since I read the poem in high school.

Lnagston Hughes, in my estimation, is one of the greats, not just of the Harlem Renaissance, but of all time. I’ve memorized his poem “Harlem–A Dream Deferred” and can recite it at the drop of a hat.

I wanted to write about this because it seems relevant to recovery. Life isn’t a crystal stair for anyone. Envy serves no purpose. I want to inspire people to dare to dream of having a better life–to go to school or to work, to live in their own apartment or to own a house, to do what anyone without a mental illness does.

If you reach for these things, others might be jealous of you, yet carry on. The stair might be long and hard to walk up to get to where you want to go, yet keep on moving. Another great, Martin Luther King, is quoted: “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

Taking the first step is what counts. Even when others try to cut you down.

And if you’re looking at someone else and think he or she has it easy, think again. Are you a mind reader? How do you or I or anyone know what’s going on in another person’s head and life?

Jealousy serves no purpose. Focusing on what other people have or can do doesn’t help you succeed. Strive to do the things you can do instead of harshing on yourself for what you can’t do.

Maximizing our assets instead of trying to correct weaknesses is the only way to live.

Instead of keeping ourselves stuck in a negative thought loop of envious thoughts, we can pick the brains of successful people to see how they did it. Truly accomplished people will harbor no secrets; they want others to follow along in their footsteps. They do this because they realized the secret to making yourself look good is to make the people around you look good.

I say: send the haters packing. Acknowledge that their insecurities come from a place of pain, and have compassion for them. Reach for the stars and settle for the moon. It’s just as easy to dream big as it is to settle for less.

Be grateful for the tacks and threadbare steps. Every effort to climb the stairs counts.

You can get to the top.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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