Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Donkey and Dragon

If I could be the me you wanted me to be you’d see I’m only scratching at the surface. I’m so much deeper, understand? Like you, an enigma.

I have thought about so many different topics for this month; patience, changing gender roles in society, focusing on goals, living in the moment, or maybe just having an open forum where you all tell me what you would do for a Klondike bar, but in the end I settled on a mish mash of God only knows what,
and came up with . . .

FINDING FLEXIBILITY WITHIN RIGIDITY, I think . . . or maybe maintaining self while also growing and compromising . . . or not compromising, per se, so much as being open while still being yourself and not being a shrinking violet . . . something like that.

At a party several months ago some friends and I were discussing how your name can affect who you become and even how successful you are, or are not, in your chosen field. For instance, if your name is Candy Sugarwalls, you should start pole dancing lessons when you’re about five. When I revealed that my sister wanted my parents to name me Pebbles, it was determined that I would still be the exact same person I am now had she won out. I love being me. So, does that mean I can’t change? Yes and no. Read on for a ridiculous analogy.

If you have known me for any length of time longer than, let’s say, fourteen minutes, you know I love sweets. If you have known me a bit longer, maybe thirty seven minutes, you know that one of my favorites is lemon bars. If you were to say to me “Laura Ellen, I know your true and abiding love for the lemon bar, but I would like you to try a new taste delight that features strawberries and dark chocolate coupled with powdered sugar and love”, by golly I’d do it, that’s just how flexible I can be when necessary. HOWSOMEVER (a word my daddy made up and I love), if you say to me “Laura Ellen, I know your true and abiding love for the lemon bar, but I would like you to try a new taste delight that features coconut”, then you will see the “stop in the name of all that is sacred” palm of my hand and I will adamantly say “OH HELL NO”. You gotta be willing to bend a little and you gotta know your boundaries. I.Hate.Coconut. And yet, things can change. I didn’t like watermelon when I was young, but once I was taught to put salt on it then, KABAM, my life and watermelon’s presence in it completely changed. I was willing to compromise, I learned a little something, and thus my evolution in life continues.

It’s a tough road to hoe sometimes though, knowing when to really stand your ground and knowing when to be chance-y. You don’t want to be rigid, but being a doormat’s no good either.

It’s been said many times by people smarter than me “You can only change you”. So, you can only change your reaction to a situation, you can’t change the other person. This, for me, is one of those things I have heard over and over again in life (along with “Hey, pay attention”) and one day, for whatever reason it finally lit the bulb in my head. I was listening to one friend advise another friend on a spouse spat she was having and she pulled out this time honored bit of wisdom. But then she went on to say how she does this. At some point, she said, you just have to take care of yourself by letting it go, “it” being the situation at hand, not the person. To me this has always been tantamount to being a wimp and accepting, and even encouraging, bad behavior. But I was wrong, oh yeah I was. It’s not accepting another persons bad behavior, it’s just not getting too caught up in it. And it bears pointing out; what constitutes bad behavior to one person may not to another. Our good buddy, Goethe, tells us “if we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming”. It’s an ok theory, but a little didactic, wouldn’t you say? After all, who is Goethe to say what anyone ought to be? Having a disagreement is almost never about one person being completely right and the other being completely wrong. Maybe one person did something dumb, but then if the other one handled it poorly then both people contributed to the unraveling at hand. There’s a big difference in walking away for the moment and walking away for good. You can wash your hands of a situation, but that doesn’t mean you want to wash your hands of the entire relationship.

Life provides us with lots and lots of opportunity for growth. Sometimes growth involves doing things differently than ever before, and it may involve knowing exactly where you have to stop and say “this is it, I am at my limit.” I am reminded of this all the time in my yoga class and it’s a good thing to carry off the mat and into real life. Bump up against your boundary and try something that’s a little hard, but stop when it’s time. In yoga and in life you’ve got to be patient and be able to laugh at yourself. I fall in yoga a lot, and I also do pretty damn well at times, but I always show up, I always try, and if something is beyond me I am completely happy to fall to my knees in childs pose but I never, ever, just quit and walk out. This is a class though. If you are in a bad situation and reading this please do not think I am urging you to stay if you really must leave. Don’t be a push over. Don’t be an asshole. Where’s the middle ground? Only you know yours.

What does it take to find your middle ground happy place? Lots of practice, unfortunately this sometimes comes at the expense of others; lots of mistakes, again, at the expense of others. Lots of successes, lots of positive feedback, lots of peace, lots of love, and all these things can be shared with others – even with the others that had to live through our mistakes. I’ve been focusing on patience in my life, not my strong suit. You know what happens when you focus on a weak point that you would like to strengthen? You get bombarded with situations to flex that muscle. My patience is being put to the test, but I have a plan and that plan helps me to focus and have patience. And patience, I am learning, saves me a lot of headaches and helps me find my middle ground.

In our quest to find who we are as individuals we sometimes dig up the ghost of relationships past and foist these terrors out on others. My dad did this, or my ex-boyfriend did that, or my family sucked at communicating. Oh listen honey, I feel ya, but grow the hell up and take charge of your own life. I’ve done it too, I’m not pointing a finger. It’s pretty horrifying to find yourself doing the exact thing, and I mean exact thing, that you hated having done to you as a kid. And it makes perfect sense, that’s what you know so you think the whole world operates that way and then you move around with other people in the world only to find out you were raised by a clan of well meaning psychos. I get it. I love my Rogers clan of psychos but holy hell, straight up crazy folks. And for better or for worse, I got some of it. We’re good people, just completely impatient and pretty Goddamn sure we’re always right. (Sound familiar? Do you know me?) And I can’t stand it about myself. I have learned to apologize with abandon. Next on deck is learning to calm the f*** down, exercise some patience, and perhaps not say every blessed thing that pops in my head. I think of Dragon in Shrek. She’s so scary, until you get to know her and then she purrs like a kitten, but you still wouldn’t want to threaten Donkey – she will kill you. This is me. Pebbles is me. Laura Ellen is me. And maybe all of too. You’ve got to know who you are, all the who’s that make you who you are, to be able to find your happy ground, to know when to balance on one foot, to be ok with falling, to know when to put your palm up and say “don’t tread on me, respect my limits”, and to know when to give watermelon, or maybe even coconut, another shot.

You can always grow. You can always learn new things. But that’s YOU. And that’s ME. I don’t care what Goethe says, you can’t force it on others. As another wise man, Nigel Tufnel, reminds us “it’s a fine line between clever and stupid”.

Ok, so really, what would you do for a Klondike bar?