Our son Zach is thrilled by large, animated decorations that sit outside for different holidays. I have written about this many times (see Santa Send Off for one!). The bigger, the brighter, the sillier the figure, the happier he is. Over the years we have amassed many such decorations. Our friends and family know this about Zach and have blessed us with varying characters for our yard.
We have a Santa on a John Deere tractor, for example and a Tigger holding a “Happy Thanksgiving” sign. We have come home to sweet surprises set up by neighbors, like a 6 foot snowman (Zach’s favorite) and an even bigger snowman fully decked out in camouflage gear, holding a rifle.
The newest addition to our collection came last week, when Zach’s Dad ordered at several foot high turkey, holding a big football. It was a huge hit. So much so, that a day or two later, another such turkey appeared right next to him. Now we have two huge turkeys for Zach to enjoy.
Over the weekend it was rainy and windy. The poor big turkeys couldn’t find their way to staying upright. They were inflated, but seemed to keep falling over. This would not stay standing and we had to investigate. Turns out, the weight of the water was too heavy, and at times the steady stream of air inflation was cut off. The turkey figurines were bending and falling to the ground.
Most people witnessing this would not have made the leap to see what this has to do with us as humans. But since I am always called to notice our humanity in the very little details of life, I DID see a connection. What I saw, was that even 8 foot turkey blow up decorations need sustenance. They need air coming in, and not too much weighing on them in order to stay standing.
We are no different. Humans need a steady stream of self-care and compassion to stay inflated. We can carry some weight, but at times, when it gets to be too much we fall over. Unfortunately, when we do, many of us tend to blame ourselves, rather than notice the obvious imbalance and make the needed adjustments. We question our worthiness, our strength, our ability to be “good” at what we are doing.
But falling flat on our faces, or over backwards usually has little to do with any of those character flaws that we are so agreeable to assigning to ourselves. Maybe sometimes we are inept, sure. But let’s conduct some due diligence before jumping to the conclusion that we are flawed. Instead, take a step back and look at the big picture.
Ask some questions: Am I getting enough oxygen, sleep, love, nutrition, exercise? Am I suffocated by the weights I am carrying? Are the wind and rain in my world so extreme that they might knock an 8 foot turkey down, not just me?
This is a silly analogy and intentionally so. Because it matters, that what we sometimes expect from ourselves, or allow others to, is far beyond the laws of gravity and what is realistic. Whether we are guilty of setting unsustainable paces for our lives, or allowing others to lock us into them because we fail to set boundaries is irrelevant. What matters is that when we carry too much, and don’t give ourselves what we need. We will fall. And only every time.
Next time you are tempted to own some mistake, lack of good judgment or poor decision as a character defect in yourself, remember the football turkey. Check the connections. Make sure there is power, and air and that the environment is calm enough for you to stay on your feet. And occasionally, remind yourself that once in a while, its ok to unplug, deflate, and wait for the rain and wind to die down.