OK. Things change. Economies change. Families change. Mailing addresses change. Futures become present; or even past. Uncertainty. Look around and we see deep trouble…serious threats…a deep sense of betrayal or maybe just being bone-tired of being lucky enough to be just getting by. Things change.
But some things don’t.
Think about that ‘thing’ you do. You don’t even really know why or even if, you do it. But you know you do. And if your brain just clicked? Then I get to say, “B-4, I sank your battleship”.
In fact, think about it. It may be precisely our quirks and idiosyncrasies that enable us to build unique and meaningful lives from otherwise shared and common DNA.
All my aunts knew how to make chocolate chip cookies. But not one of them was the same. We kids could tell whose was who’s with unerring accuracy. It was the ‘thing’ each woman did to her cookie that made them special. To paraphrase a past president, “It’s the quirks, stupid”.
For as long as I can remember, I have had an abundant collection of quirks. For example: 1) I always step into the tub and then, turn on the shower to let it warm up. And once the showers running, I always turn and back into the water..rarely will I go in face forward. Why? I have no idea. Have I always had that routine? Yes.
Let’s move to the other end of the day, bedtime. 2) I can not go to sleep if I don’t have one foot sticking out from underneath the covers. Have I always had the quirk? Yes. Do I understand it? No.
Quirks influence something as simple as sitting down. 3) Whether it is taking a seat on a bus or on the couch in front of the TV, I am a ‘plopper’. Once I’ve taken position in front of where I intend to sit, I drop in like a load of lead brick. Do I have sturdy chairs? Yes. Have I always plopped? Yes.
Why? I have no idea. And goofy or not, all three exhibits remain true to this day.
As a species, we can say the same thing about the human race. Go back and listen to what Aristotle, Kerouac or Homer Simpson said. It’s like reading this morning’s front page.
Like them and so many others, I have accepted the fact that there are parts of me that have and will always be. When I’ve done something particularly ‘goofy’, I now note the occasion by saying, “Oh well, what can I say? It’s the glory that is me”.
But wait, there’s more. It may just prove that being seemingly genetically predisposed to having ears tuned to the beat of a different drummer has essential survival value.
Exhibit A: It was our turn (as a 5th grade class) to be the featured entertainment at the monthly PTA meeting at the small Lutheran school I attended from K-8. We’d been studying the Underground Railroad in class so it was pretty cool that we were going to sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Wallis Willis, < 1862). We had studied the song as we prepared for our world premier. We knew where the Jordan River was. We knew about the Prophet Elijah. And while I and most of my classmates had been fascinated by chariots, I couldn’t help but day dream about how cool it would be make Elijah’s trip in an English Wingback Chair-iot (EWC). Why else would they call them wingbacks, right? While it seemed perfectly plausible to me, a few classmates wasted no time in shredding me, calling out my ‘goofy’ at recess.
I never mentioned it again.
That’s the first time I can remember being really worried about not being like everyone else…not fitting in. “Why can’t I look at things the way everybody else does?” Now I understand that every one of my classmates was having the very same conversation with themselves. Now being able to appreciate several perspectives on anything, I realize what a valuable survival skill came out of the wake of my humiliation.
Robert Bly writes in his 1980’s essay, The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us about little kids being naturally filled with energy and light, but quickly learning to stuff things that upset their world into a figurative bag. Bly proposes our ‘light’ diminishes as a consequence of time and the rough-and-tumble that comes with Life. The less light we hold, the fuller our ‘bags’ become. It goes on and on until the pressure comes to a point of crisis. It’s at that point where we either give in to everything we’ve ever been told about ourselves – or – where we reverse the process by beginning to pull our emotional stuff back out of the bag. The Author didn’t say this, but I always condensed it down to ‘light bag, happy life‘. Carl Jung says much the same thing when it comes to facing our shadows.
Chairs. They know who they are and how they are constructed. Chairs exist whether their purpose is ever utilized or not. They are true. Chairs, as a concept, have been around for a long time. You can burn the chair in your neighbor’s house, but the idea remains and he can find another one. What did you gain?
The flavors may change, but the concept doesn’t. I can just as easily plop down in my deeply tufted leather flying machine as I can an upside down milk crate. Either way, I’m sitting down. Sometimes I wonder if everything we are ever going to need in this life isn’t already in us at birth.
So let’s take this down to ‘local’.
Let’s call the him or her you live with a ‘chair’. Do you get exasperated when they don’t act more like a table (aka ‘you’)? How many relationships hit the rocks when one or both insist on changing the other one into a mini-version of themselves? Here’s a clue. If they are a chair, they are a chair. It was what they were meant to be. Have you ever tried to eat with your paper plate perched on a folding chair? How did that work out for you? Chairs don’t make very good tables, but they do make it easy to sit down to dinner. This earth-shaking revelation may well be why most furniture stores now sell tables and chairs.
If your significant other is a chair, then pay themselves the respect of being well named. Chairs come in all shapes, forms and finishes. Every chair is meant to serve as a place to be off your feet. What kind of chair we decide to be is up to us. Carved legs or bent chrome tubing; crushed velour or woven fabric; stackable or flanking a fireplace? The options are endless.
And let’s not forget our manners, let’s hear it for the Tables!!!
Table. Strong. Capable of bearing the weights of dinner for twelve with ease. Regardless of form, they form a solution to having a platform. Stable. Patient at waiting for the fog to lift…wise in the meantime. Beautiful stuff.
Old white-haired relatives telling me their hope for me was to find out what I was really good at and then, figure out a way to make a living doing that.
It was also in 5th grade, I remember peeking at my report on my way home and finding the following thunder clap in the comments section; “Dan is not living up to his potential”. If any of you is nodding your head right now, you remember your own grade card Armageddon. As my mom and dad put me through the post-report card bombshell conversation, I can remember thinking to myself, ‘What ever happened to me being able to be anything I want to be’?
Newsflash: Nothing. Redefine. Reboot. Reroute. Renew.
You’ll be fine. Go love your furniture.
Attribution: Robert Bly’s essay, “The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us” (Part 2 – Page 15, A Little Book on the Human Shadow – HarperCollins (1988)) http://www.harpercollins.com/book/index.aspx?isbn=9780062548474
Photo Credits: Yeeehaaaaa http://gregorbucik.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/yeeehaaaaa/ Gregor Bucik is a blogger living in Slovenia. I really like some of his stuff.
No White Chairs http://www.deletetheweb.com/unstuck/archives/001302.html
The flying chair by IngelaS http://www.worth1000.com/entries/516464/the-flying-chair
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