I have seen a cartoon recently that gives me a chuckle, and prompts reflection, every time I think of it. In the foreground, the cartoon features a male physician sitting at his desk, looking at an X-ray. On the other side of the desk, we see the patient whose X-ray the physician has in hand. Although the physician addresses his patient as “señor Gustavo” (the cartoon is in Spanish), I can hardly imagine a reader in the U.S. who wouldn’t recognize the patient. The patient is one of Jim Henson’s most famous Muppets, Kermit the Frog, who croons the song, “Bein’ Green,” with its well-known line, “It’s not easy bein’ green.”
In the X-ray that the physician is holding, we can see the bones of a human forearm inside the outline of the patient’s body. The wrist is at neck level, and the hand is occupying the head, the thumb beneath the lower jaw and … well, you know how a puppet works. Loosely translated, the physician is saying to Kermit, who has been known as “la rana Gustavo” — Gustavo the Frog — in Spain, “Have a seat, Mr. Gustavo … what I have to tell you may come as a complete shock.” There is another version of this cartoon that I’ve seen on Facebook in which the physician’s words to Kermit are rendered, “What I’m about to tell you is gonna change your life forever. Are you really sure you want to know it?“
A Puppet to Unhelpful Perspectives
When I think about this cartoon, I find myself reflecting on what Kermit hasn’t seemed to realize on his own, and is about to learn from his physician. In spite of any sense of freedom that Kermit has experienced and thought of himself as having in his life, he has been a puppet. He has not been in nearly as much control of himself as he may have imagined. For me, this idea parallels a realization I’ve often experienced whenever I’ve been feeling stymied or stuck. In these moments — though usually only when my perspective has already begin to shift, unfortunately — I realize that I’ve been subjecting myself to limiting ways of thinking and talking. I realize that, in feeling stymied and stuck, I’ve been a puppet to perspectives that haven’t been working for me, and that I didn’t even notice!
Cutting the Strings
Take, as just one example, the reaction that I had last fall to the arrival of colder temperatures in the area where I live. I had been working since mid-summer to develop a new, healthy habit of running outside. I had been excited about my achievements, and enjoying the process. When cold weather came sooner than I was expecting, I began to complain. I was reluctant to hit the trail in my t-shirt and shorts, but also resistant to the idea of moving my running inside — to a treadmill at the gym — or investing in warmer running gear. I found myself oscillating between an emotional state of “Woe is me!” and feeling mad at the weather. I let this experience grind my routine to a sulky halt for almost a week. In my pouting, I was a puppet to my feelings of disappointment, fear, frustration, and loss.
Finally, I acknowledged to myself that I had actually learned to love running outside over the past few months, that I didn’t want to run in the cold, and that I would really miss running outside when there was snow and ice on the ground. At that point, I decided that, as much sense as my sulking might make under the circumstances, I wanted to have a different experience. Approaching the situation from the perspective of asking myself, “What’s the opportunity here?” I identified at least a two options of response. As one way of responding, I could learn about and purchase warmer running gear, and tackle the trail in the colder temperatures with this added insulation. Alternatively, or even simultaneously, I could get a head start on moving my running indoors for the winter. After all, I knew that there would likely be days at a stretch when I wouldn’t want to run outside, even with warmer clothes, because of the snow and ice on the ground. I ended up choosing to take my running indoors, and although I was looking forward to warmer weather so that I could be more comfortable outside again, I was still running in the meantime, which is really what I wanted to be doing.
How Do You Cut the Strings?
How do you deal with “bein’ green” — finding yourself a puppet to perspectives that harm or hinder you, rather than help you? If you took to heart the idea that you can choose to think about things in ways that work for you, and for others, that you don’t have to be a puppet to the less helpful ways, how would this change you — your life — forever?
Featured image credit: alptraum / 123RF Stock Photo