This morning I read a theory that claims puffer fish can only puff themselves up in defense for a finite number of times in their lifetime. Even if the theory isn’t true, it made me think (and yes, I am sure that this post reveals far too much of how my brain works).
If there were a finite number of times I could defend myself, I think I would be done by now. I would be forced to either be here in my sheer vulnerability or be gone from the picture entirely. I know that there have been legitimate instances where I’ve needed to protect, and I know that there are times I’ve sat in toxic environments for too long. I know there are times I’ve risen to my defense on trivial grounds because I was ‘too tired’ to be the one to hold the higher ground. We all have.
I wonder, if we knew we only had a finite number of times that we could defend ourselves, which battles would we let go? Which parts of our lives which we currently try to control would we release into the stream of life? Which annoyances over which we get our back up would suddenly seem irrelevant? I know that one thing I am trying to get better at is choosing what I see as a battle and what to let flow. It’s contrary to a lot of my life training but the more I do it, the more sense it makes. It gets easier the more time I take for myself to keep perspective on what is important to me. It gets easier when I remind myself that a lot of what is aimed at me is not to do with me. It gets easier when I choose to look at the love in my life rather than the strains. But it’s still the hardest path I’ve chosen to adopt.
Puffer fish are pictured most in their defensive, stressed condition. They are almost celebrated in that state. ‘Google’ them, and the majority of images are of the rounded, inflated ball of a fish. In our jobs, in our lives at home, in front of our friends, there is a tendency to define our day by obstacles overcome. We too are celebrated as our puffed up, stressed versions, being bigger than we really are, defending our ground and lives to any perceived threat to the life we have built. And we happily project it into others’ lives, asking them to validate what we do and why. Sometimes, we develop our entire persona around how much bigger we can project ourselves as. We spend so much time earning badges ‘doing’ that we forget to allow ourselves time to ‘be’.
If we have spent a day at rest, recharging, it is conveyed to others almost apologetically – “well, actually, I didn’t really do anything… It was a busy week‘. If we spend time working on learning ourselves, we appear to not be doing anything constructive, when really, we are doing the most necessary thing in the world. We envy stillness in others and yet see it as an unrealistic Elysium, quietly thinking that achieving stillness means sacrificing something which allows you to fully participate in the world, to be noticed and therefore contribute. But it’s these quiet times that allow us to not puff up at every stimuli in the world, to remember what is important to us and what we really need to bear arms against. We can’t heal to deadlines nor fix and fight things in the same breath. The quiet times keep us small, but the energy around us huge. And we pull better things into our lives for them.
The only thing I know for sure is that we can’t spend our lives in stress, in defence and in fight. My most favourite wisdom I’ve heard recently is this: “It is not just do do do. It is not just be be be. It is do be do be do.” (Amit Goswami)
Oh and if you are a diver, please don’t make a puffer fish puff?