Being Neither Frog nor Scorpion
Take notice of the picture credit for this post;
I’ve linked to her unusual and really neat blog.
Have you internalized favorite fables from your childhood or early adult years that prove handy now? I have. One I consider periodically is the frog and the scorpion.
As a brief refresher, lazily paraphrased: the scorpion asks the frog for a ride on its back across the river. The frog refuses, saying “you will sting and kill me.” The scorpion replies that if he were to sting the frog, they both would die (as the scorpion would drown). The frog concedes. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog, who with his last moment questions why his rider would do that. The scorpion laments that it’s unfortunate, but they both knew his stinging nature.
To mix metaphors, the scorpion simply doesn’t change his stripes. Unfortunately, all of us can display these behaviors – trusting unwisely, assuming things can change, or striking out, reverting to bad behaviors that help no one.
My Own Tale
I’ve always viewed myself more as the frog. Who doesn’t? I suspect most of us do. After all, the frog is portrayed ‘nicer’ in the story. However, recently, within a matter of a few hours, I grasped that I could play both roles.
Out of habit, I was visiting with a friend who only rarely do I find mutually supportive. One who frequently takes my meaning ‘the wrong way,’ and seems to enjoy being the deliberate contrarian in our relationship. I always look forward to spending time, but frequently notice I am disappointed and sometimes quite hurt. I was recognizing my frog-like victimization attitude. Inside, ruminating and sighing the thought ‘not again.’ Keeping with animal themes, it was the Groundhog Day movie playing over and over in my head.
Then, in my reaction to all this, just like a quick change of clothes and scenery behind the curtain, I put on a new face with my husband. It was definitely kicking the virtual dog. I lashed out just as the scorpion would have.
First, I was the frog. Then I was the scorpion.
What’s Your Role?
Not surprisingly, neither of these are admirable or healthy traits. One would think that with age comes wisdom. Considering such scenarios and this behavior, in my case, ‘one’ would be wrong.
In annoyance and distress, I contemplated how I felt for the umpteenth time. I mentally reviewed how I acted when it got difficult to take. What does it mean to my mental health – or anyone else’s?
I hesitated (resisted?) attempting to capture my feelings and thoughts here for a blog post. Finally, I realized that a productive goal for Aging-with-Pizzazz is being neither a frog nor a scorpion.
Admittedly, I suspect it’s a challenging and long-range goal for me. Still, how much “longer range” or many decades do I have to accomplish this? “If not now, when?” (as another dear friend is fond of asking).
The Way Across the River
It won’t be overnight that I defy my own frog or scorpion temperament. Not easy, not quick to get there. Still, I could slowly dog-paddle across the river to reach landing in a better place.
My thoughts are these:
- Being more aware might allow me to reduce the number of times I find myself in these situations. (For myriad reasons, they’ll never be totally eliminated.) In common lingo, being aware is ‘better than nothing.’
- Just recognizing the role I’m playing is a good step to ad-libbing. Instead of delivering my usual learned lines, perhaps I can adjust my character’s reaction. Tougher for sure.
- Simply accepting ourselves and others ‘as they are’ sounds grand. Frankly, in reality, it’s probably a bridge too far for me, at least for a true friendship where sharing freely is imperative and determines the quality of that bond.
In some relationships, where ‘talking it all out’ doesn’t change things, it might be time for transformation to polite, and sadly, more superficial engagement. It equates to not even attempting to cross that river in deep water. Still, it’s one way to avoid a passive-aggressive whirlpool.
What will actually work for you or me? It’s difficult to know for sure for any of us. Not the same for every person, not the same for every scene. What helps us survive the crossing? It could possibly be futile, maybe not, but these were my most practical solutions after introspection.
One more idea. If we can’t eliminate the frog or scorpion from our psyche, how about another way. Perhaps a helpful approach to Aging-With-Pizzazz is to picture ourselves in a simultaneous swimming situation. Envision ourselves as the carefree dog, drooling, panting, cheerfully and clumsily paddling alongside the doomed pair. The internal, healthy laugh at our own expense may bring us an inch closer to the bank on the other side. There we can climb out and shake off all the excess baggage we are carrying. Makes for a lighter trip.
Picture credit: courtesy of Lorianne DiSabato (who runs a great blog), Hoarded Ordinaries | Mundane musings from a collector of the quotidian (wordpress.com) Photostream can be seen at Openverse, link: Openverse (wordpress.org) The online home of Lorianne DiSabato