Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Bent Balloons and a Can of Beans

I'm camped out in my bedroom hiding from the heat and eating a can of baked beans cold... right out of the can... 'cause I can... and there ain't nobody here to tell me different. The only thing missing on this evening camping safari is a fire and some smores. I'm pretty sure the fire would be frowned upon. I'm out of chocolate anyway. All this and I've got “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” screaming in my ears. Hmm... don't have a horse either.
Bet you're wondering where this is going. Nowhere, honestly. None of that previous parasitic paragraph has anything to do with my post... I think.
I had a particularly stressful day. Truth be told, it's been an especially stressful week. I was “bent out of shape”, “not really myself” or any number of other idioms one might employ to describe not feeling one's self. Things have been fuzzy around the edges. Not all of the stress I've felt is external. Some of it is self imposed. It's pretty common knowledge that we put ourselves under more pressure than we could ever expect (or accept) from anyone else.
And the pressures are a grocery list of undigestible consumables: paying bills, looking pretty, going to work, family obligations, plans with friends, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, get the oil changed, feed the kids, cut the lawn, discuss important stuff with the spouse and on and on. We feel the push from external sources to the point we feel like there is something wrong with us because we don't conform exactly to what society had laid out as guide lines. We get so deep in what the world expects that we find ourselves wondering where the hell we went.
What? You thought you were different? Special? You feel pressure differently than everyone else? Umm... no... not really. 
We are all familiar with inflated balloons. We have all likely squeezed that balloon contorting it's shape. With a little pressure we can contort that balloon into many different shapes. After a while though, the balloon, which has a weak point, finally bursts. If we had released the pressure, it would assume it's natural shape... what it is really meant to be.
It's like that with ourselves, I think. When we feel pressure from parents, kids, bosses, bill collectors, getting it right, being careful, looking like everyone else... fitting in... we begin to contort into something we are not. Our personalities assume "shapes" they would normally not be. The pressures, both internal and external, contort who we really are. When we deform based on doing what we think will provide the least resistance rather than being who we are, we create stress.
Stress makes us ugly.
Pressure hardens us. It makes us defensive. We begin to create a shell to protect us from the pressure and eventually that shell hardens into a stone wall. “I can handle it”... “Bring it on”... “I'm independent”... “I am strong!”. The problem with stone walls is, like the balloon, there is always a weak point. When pressure becomes too great, the walls crack.
When we break... well... all the king's horses and all the kings men... ya know?
And if we don't break, one day, for each of us, we look in a mirror and wonder how we became so distorted. Make no mistake. We all find ourselves in front of that mirror. Whether we look into it early on or the day before we die, we all get there. How did I end up here? This isn't what I had in mind. Look at me! I don't even know where I am anymore. I'm distorted and cracked and pieces are out place. This can't be me!
I've screamed those words myself.
There is nothing like seeing a person who stops taking on pressure. They stop taking other peoples problems as their own. (It doesn't mean they don't take time to listen. We all need to be heard.) They stop pressuring themselves. At least not as much. They stop trying to fix other people. They stop trying to solve other people's issues. They stop worrying about what others think. (Again, it doesn't mean they stop listening.) They stop comparing themselves to some ideal which can never be reached. They trust other people to stand on their own two feet. They trust themselves.
The lightness in their faces is... angelic.
The only way I know to return to who I am is to find a place where the pressure is off. To cease taking on others issues. To stop criticizing myself because I burnt toast. To end the fruitless attempt to be like everyone else... and be liked by everyone else. To just stop...
And eat baked beans right out of the can.