This is a story with a moral. And the moral offers one easy New Year's resolution that is guaranteed to make your life better. I mean it: easy and guaranteed. What more could you ask?
Years ago, I was in a very bad situation with my job.
My boss and I -- after years of satisfactory, amicable teamwork -- were at odds. Oh, let me make it even stronger. We were verging on mutual hatred. Marie was constantly berating me over the poor quality of my work, and the resentment and stress I experienced as a result was effectively optimizing the poor quality of my work.
I have never been really sure of the reason our working relationship fell apart. I've come to believe that I did or said something that displeased the CEO, and he must have told Marie he didn't like me. With Marie, that would have been enough. We had gotten along well for many years, but I had certainly seen that loyalty to her subordinates was not exactly her strong suit. Her loyalty always traveled in the opposite direction. She was way better at sucking up.
I job searched and transfer begged with a vengeance, but in the meantime, I held my breath, tried to keep my heart from pounding, took up yoga, and struggled through each day.
On one of those strugglish days (good term, no?) I went to New York to review forecasts with the company's minority shareholders. I met first with Marie at our corporate headquarters. I reviewed the forecast with her, and of course came under criticism, but it was too late to change anything, so she reluctantly agreed to present it. And so we set out to our partner's offices.
We were running a little late. It was about 12 blocks from our office to theirs, and on a good day, you can easily catch a cab and be there in under seven minutes. But there were no cabs. And it was not a good day. And we hadn't left ourselves quite enough time for a 12-minute walk.
So Marie set off at a trot with me scurrying behind her like a flustered little Scottie dog. Marie had spent many years in the city and could power walk with the best of them. I had a smaller stride and a stress-related pounding heart, and was breathless after the first three blocks.
I'm going to collapse, I thought.
"Look," I managed to gasp, "We have the financials they want to review. They can hardly start without us. Let's just call and say we will be a few minutes late."
But that was completely against Marie's type-A philosophy.
"Move faster," she said.
Easy for you to say, I thought. You're younger than me. And your heels aren't as high. I'm going to end up on the pavement.
But I didn't. Marie did.
Marie's heel stuck in a crack in the sidewalk, and suddenly she was toppling onto hands and knees. She fell hard, with all the momentum built up from her race-walk.
"Crap!" she said (or a synonym anyway), and I grabbed her briefcase and purse before anyone could step on them or snatch them.
Marie got up slowly. It was obvious she was hurt. Her palms were raw and red. The worst of it was her right knee. Stocking torn, gravelly blood covered her knee and was trickling down her shin.
"Oh no," I said.
"Forget it," Marie replied. "We're almost there. Run!"
And we ran the last two blocks to the shareholder's offices, me clacking awkwardly in my heels and Marie running and limping simultaneously.
As we approached the door of the luxurious offices, a raggedy panhandler intercepted us. But instead of asking for money, he pointed to Marie's leg.
"Lady, that looks really bad. You should clean that up and have someone look at it."
Marie quickly maneuvered around him and we ran to the elevator.
And in the elevator, I caught my breath and either lost or regained my sanity, depending how you look at it.
I said, "Jesus, how pathetic is it when the homeless guy feels sorry for you?"
And Marie's face turned purple and her eyes did this bulgy thing, like those dolls you squeeze and their eyes pop out.
And oh my god, we both collapsed. We howled. We shrieked and whooped and cried. The elevator echoed with our laughter.
When we reached the executive floor, we went into the ladies' room, not only to clean up Marie's leg, but to repair the damage our hysterics had done to our makeup.
Here's the point.
The best New Year's resolution you could make if you want to make your life better:
Laugh more. Laugh often. Laugh hard.
See the silly side. Appreciate the ridiculous. Lose your dignity.
We are all in this absurd life together. It won't end well. So enjoy it now.
I'm not saying that laughing in that unfortunate situation repaired my relationship with Marie. It didn't.
But we laughed for a moment.
And that moment was better.
And that's enough.
Illustrations by Nancy Roman.
Read more from Nancy at her blog, "Not Quite Old,"