Elephants. Showing up. Staying out of the way.

<drafted Feb. 4/10>

Ever since the phrase “an elephant in the room”  was introduced to me, I’ve been crazy about the concept. It’s so … useful!!

When Marissa mentioned the expression to me, she was referring to the phenomenon of being at a wedding involving a family of divorce. Everyone skirts around the underlying hostilities, baggage & inevitable tensions – as though there were an invisible elephant in the room. (Sure must use up a lot of energy, ya think?)

Gotta tell you, I’ve had way more experience with elephants than I care to enumerate.

Then too, & oddly enough, I am both a bit of an elephant myself, & sometimes (usually in different locales), an elephant caller. It is not only not particularly easy being in either role, it sometimes seems to make people around me a little uncomfortable too (my poor kids, eh??). Yet very often, people do tell me they enjoy my honesty & openness (I guess I sometimes say the things other people think, but are too afraid to say…).

It is also true, as I am only just now beginning to realize, that in a certain few relationships, when there have been rather large elephants lurking & I did not call them, things later blew up in very messy, unpleasant ways.

So, sheesh! I’m not sure what the lesson here is.

The other odd balancing act I seem to be ever navigating is the showing up/staying out of the way dynamic.

I believe quite passionately in “showing up” – which in my case takes the form of involvement in environmental activism, excessively honest blogging & trying to “be there” for friends & loved ones going through hard times.

Three writers I greatly admire talk about “showing up.” Joanna Macy spoke of the importance of our showing up with respect to the environmental crisis at a talk she gave in Toronto last June.

Elizabeth Lesser speaks of it in her awesome book Broken Open – How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow (the essay entitled 'For Hugo'). Joan Halifax says in her book Being with Dying – Cultivating Compassion & Fearlessness in the Presence of Death that there ought to be a sign saying “Show Up” at her monastery in Santa Fe.

Come to think of it, I’m certain Rachel Naomi Remen says plenty about it in her wonderful book Kitchen Table Wisdom – Stories That Heal – if not perhaps in that exact phrase. Dr. Remen is, after all, all about showing up…

I greatly admire these women’s thoughts & writings & the awesome work each is engaged in – & totally embrace the concept of “showing up.”

And yet, & yet…

My experiences as an elephant in the room – & a frequent elephant caller – but a sometimes not-courageous enough elephant caller keep landing me in sticky, messy, damn-near-tragic situations, relationship-wise.

What is a person to do??


Well. The clouds have blown away & the sun is shining brilliantly & my horrific cough has seemingly calmed itself down, at least for the moment. The act of writing down my thoughts has simultaneously lifted my spirits in the rather miraculous way it so often does. And I am recalling the words of two people whose wisdom often offers me so much comfort.

Elizabeth Lesser reminds us in Broken Open that we are all, after all, just fellow “bozos on the bus." No one has got it all together all the time. (Pema Chödron is also brilliant & sooooo compassionate on this score in her books The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving KindnessWhen Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times).

We are all works in progress, hmm?

I’ll have to keep right on wrestling with the odd dynamics of being an elephant in the room, an elephant caller, & when to “show up” & when to "stay out of the way.” (I have a horror of being “in the way” that I can only assume stems from my … challenging… childhood years. It’s an ever-present dynamic in my life. Still rassling with that one, for sure!)

Eckhart Tolle’s reminder that “This too will pass” will continue to offer its eternal wisdom, strength & wider sense of perspective.

(& then too, my own phrase “Cut your losses. Go where the energy is” will continue to serve me well – especially when I remember to follow my own good advice!!)


P.S. I’m a big fan of Eckhart Tolle & have mentioned him in several blog posts. If you know nothing at all about him, why not read the postings Pain Bodies on Parade (or Oh, To Be a Duck), Ducks, Unlimited; Humans?? Also Unlimited & Flap Your Wings.

'Quote of the day' with this post: "A dead end is just a good place to turn around." ~ Naomi Judd