Metaphorically speaking…

Is that phrase overused enough for you? As a novelty for my 9 year old son, it’s another sign of his impending maturity and grasp of the intricate machinery of his native language. Metaphors are useful and definitely have their place in illustrating a point which may be otherwise hard to grasp by the listener. Their value is lost however, when the metaphor has no significance to the listener. You can’t tell someone who enjoys classical music as their passion, that someone rocked like the Scorpions in Gorky Park! Where’s the reference?

I constantly seek meaningful references in my own life. Having traveled so much of the world at such a young age, most of my references mean nothing to anyone in the current country I am residing in, or so it was for many years. Now, although I am in the same country, and indeed only slightly further North of my original position and in the same state, I find I am still constantly readjusting my vocabulary and reference points, or metaphors to reflect where I live. The amusement, along with sweet memorable moments, comes when I cross paths with someone who is from one of the places I lived and, I automatically fall into verbal rhythm with them. I “mispronounce” words subconsciously, I refer to shoes in some odd way, or put an emphasis on a different syllable, as is appropriate for the geographical location it is associated with, thereby linking myself to my fellow speaker and instilling a comfortable pace to the conversation. I find I even change the content of the emails I exchange and without knowing it, for the most part. All of a sudden, when I am writing a British friend, I will put the “u” back in colour, Saviour, etc. I am even laughing now as my American computer tells me by way of a wavy red underline, I just spelled both of those words incorrectly.

Our relationships are so often shaped by the intensity or lack thereof, between each other and our ability to identify with the other person. Bring up a town you’ve both visited and even the strangest of strangers have found common ground in discovering they both had the same bad experience. What are ice breakers for, if not to establish commonalities among friends who haven’t yet met? And originally, an ice breaker was a huge ship built to break up huge thick ice floes, and survive it to make the way accessible to other ships coming behind! Sound like any people you know? So, which are you? Are you the ice breaker, strong enough to break down barriers and establish meaningful relationships with friends you’ve yet to meet? Or are you the ice, rigid and unyielding, just waiting for the right person to break you apart? Metaphorically speaking, of course…

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How many mats are you carrying?

As the story goes, there was a famous guy in town, Jesus, highly renowned for being a miracle worker.  There were also 4 friends who were in such a state of devotion to an ailing friend, they climbed up on top of a roof with him and his mat in tow, wherein Jesus was teaching and, pried the roof open so as to lower their friend into the room right in the midst of everyone to get the attention he needed.  And their perseverance and destruction of property paid off!  He was healed and a fringe benefit besides the obvious improvement of the man’s quality of life, was not having to carry that mat anymore! (You can read the full story in the New Testament of the Bible, Mark chapter 2)  They set out on a mission and they completed it!   I always wondered if they stayed to repair the roof and what happened to the dynamics of their friendship after he was healed?  But, that part is not important to the point of this extraordinary tale, the friends carried their burden and persevered until they were freed of it in the best possible way, by enabling their friend to no longer need them.   I know someone who has an accountability phrase.  She has a friend ask her periodically, “So, how many mats are you carrying?”  It’s a reminder of how much responsibility we take on sometimes, of other’s burdens.  It is a wonderful quality to be empathetic, loving, helpful and, supportive.  But, are you working toward that day of healing or accomplishment, when that person will be walking on their own, no longer dependent on you?

If the answer is yes, good for you!  If not, what can you do to lighten your load? Note, I did not say abandon the load altogether and, I hope the same visual of the man rolling off the mat into a ditch as his friends gave up, didn’t appear in your head like it just did in mine.  I like the better visual of how it took 4 men to carry just one man, not the other way around.  One person carrying 4 mats would be impossible physically, how would they defer the weight to make it possible? So why do we sometimes assume we can handle so many responsibilities as if they are solely our own?  I am the first one to say get involved, engage, help out, assist, and it will pay you back in so many different ways, just know when to back away and let go of a situation or “mat” as well. It’s a delicate balance.