Maryanne | Miseducated

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What To Do When Confronted By An Elephant

Every now and again you come across a situation in your life that blows your hair back, your skirt up or … just blows. For example: you find out the person you’re seriously considering spending the rest of your life with isn’t interested in a long term relationship with you.  Or you discover one evening, quite by accident, that your husband prefers blondes…who are hung like a horse. Or you learn that your new girlfriend is really a man, or that your movie star/Governor husband has impregnated your housekeeper and has been paying her hush money (out of your pocket) for the last decade.

While most of us have developed various coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with such blustery situations, including confrontation, therapy, drinking heavily, freaking out, leaving and divorce, the pink elephant is quite a different animal! For those who aren’t so familiar with this unwelcome visitor, the pink elephant is commonly referred to as “… an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.” (Wikipedia) You see, in most cases when confronted with certain truths we know what to do, or at least have some vague idea and are compelled to take action because some line has been crossed and all people involved implicitly agree and act accordingly. Whereas when the pink elephant appears…it just hangs there like the house guest who never leaves.

Some examples might be: your roommate keeps eating all your food and never admits it or offers to pay, but you don’t say anything because you can’t afford to live there without them so you carry on as if nothing’s wrong, him shamelessly eating his way through your house and home and you cringing every time you see him secretly wanting to scream: “STOP EATING MY FOOD, YOU FOOD STEALER, LEECH, COUCH POTATO, MOOCHER!” Or maybe your boyfriend drinks too much, too often and embarrasses and scares you, but you don’t say anything because he says he can’t live without you and…you are financially dependent on him and afraid to be alone so you muddle through growing more and more emotionally distant, eventually having angry or passive obligatory sex because now you can’t stand when he touches you, yet you don’t have the courage or resources to say no, so you don’t.

Or maybe your closest relative, the one you have spent every birthday and holiday with for most of your life, has just embezzled money from his boss (who you know intimately) and neither one of you says anything to the other partly because you are in shock, you can’t believe they would ever do such a thing, and partly because you don’t even know what to say. Really…what does one say in such circumstances? Weeks and months pass while you tell yourself they will come around, make things right…right? Then after months of no one saying anything, a family function presents itself and out of what feels like the complete blue they send you an invitation as though nothing’s happened and sign the card “love and miss you”… and you think What the?

Or maybe someone owes you money and said they would pay you, yet every time you see them they don’t mention it and well, because you’re a polite person and don’t want to seem rude or desperate or (fill in the blank) you suck it up and tell yourself, if they don’t mention it next time you will say something except in between now and next time you realize this isn’t the first time this has happened and that this person always seems to borrow money and not pay you back, and further has some convenient, tear-jerking story about why they can’t. So naturally you, being the loving, understanding person you are, wouldn’t ask someone who is down and out to pay you back when they are going through hard times…except you notice when you see them next they tell you about the trip they just took or the new jacket they just bought or show you their new cell phone and you think…What the…?

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? When clearly something is amiss and no one is saying anything about it? The great thing about the pink elephant phenomenon is that it disappears almost completely as soon as one person has the courage to speak it. Literally poof…gone. The challenge is, more often than not as I illustrated, it feels like so much is at stake so we put it off. The problem in that scenario is obvious: the elephant remains or in some cases, grows proportionately. So before you buy a voodoo doll or go postal or, worse, try to make the elephant your pet, here are a few suggestions I recommend when you find yourself faced with the pink beast:

How important is it? What’s the relative importance of this issue on a scale of paper-cut to open-heart surgery? If it’s really an ego issue or a matter of pride or some other such nonsense, then you may want to deal with that rather than make a bigger issue out of something when there is no need. On the other hand, if you decide it’s a major deal at least you have taken the first step to putting the situation in some perspective.

What have you really got to lose? There is an expression, “You can’t lose what you never had.” So why not take a real honest look and see what it is you’re really dealing with here. You may want to consult an expert, pray, see a therapist or talk openly with a friend. See if you can’t get some clarity and objective about the situation and see what’s truly at stake. Never underestimate the power of support nor the power of the Divine illumination!!

Take the high road! They call the high road the road less traveled for a reason; namely because it’s not always easy to say what needs to be said or do the right thing. Don’t let that stop you. As my mother always says, “This isn’t a dress rehearsal, bring you’re A game,” and in the end you will know in your heart you were true to yourself!

Trust yourself, above all…you know the answer. The truth is always right there inside you, sometimes it just takes a while to get our courage up to do what we know we have to! On that you can always rely!

Who Are You Without Your Stories?

Picture it: you’re in the eighth grade and someone you like is across the school yard. You want to approach them but don’t know if your approach would be welcome. You get a warm fuzzy feeling, but there’s also a panic that comes with it – after all, most kids that age would rather die than suffer rejection. The humiliation that would result would be unbearable, especially from the most gorgeous person in the entire school district – no, make that the entire city.

So no matter how much you want to go and talk to them, you wouldn’t just stroll over there and say hi, would you? You couldn’t risk it. As a girl especially, you certainly wouldn’t walk up to him when he’s talking to his male friends and blurt out, “Hi, I’m Maryanne – I think you’re really cute, and I’m looking for someone to go with to Karen’s party this weekend, and I was wondering if you’d be my date?”

I know, I know, I should have guessed this would be a disaster. But at the time, I felt like I had nothing to lose – sure, he was the hottest guy in the school, everyone was staring at me, and of course girls weren’t really “supposed” to do things like asking guys out. But I liked him, and my curiosity got the better of me in the end, so I just threw caution to the wind and went for it.

Naturally I was nervous – I was a kid, and this was my first limited foray into the world of romance. But my nervousness was more the exciting kind than the nauseating kind, and I was so focused on what might happen if he said yes, that I didn’t let myself think too much about the other option.

Until it happened. His face crinkled up into a mixture of annoyance and confusion, and he asked the question I’ll never forget: What’s wrong with you?! And I spent a lot of time and heartache trying to figure out the answer to that exact question – what was wrong with me? In order to put a stop to the pain and protect what was left of my ego, I wove a story for myself, and the moral of the story was this: I will never allow anyone to hurt me like that again for as long as I live. And that was it – I stuck to my story, and I never approach a boy directly ever again.

There are no other stories we enjoy better than our own. We love to spin our own tales, we love to tell them, and we love to hear them back again from others. We never get tired of them no matter how many times we’ve heard them before. And while it’s true that our stories are based on actual events (at least most of the time), why is it that we cling to certain ones and let others fade into obscurity? Certainly I have had other humiliating experiences in my life that eclipsed that particular schoolyard event, and yet that’s the story I keep coming back to. I think it has a lot to do with recognizing the moments when we separate from our Divine selves, and create an alter-self that we use to try to survive when we think our authentic self can’t hack it. These are moments where we consciously assign disproportionate meaning to events that wouldn’t need that meaning in a perfect world.

We create stories about ourselves for all kinds of reasons. We do it to shield ourselves from pain, to make people like us more, or to create a persona that acts as a protective shell for our real selves. So the question remains: who would we be without that shell, without those stories? Personally, though I have spent a great amount of time and effort examining my stories in order to try to understand who I am, it wasn’t until I released my grip on my stories and let them go that I truly found out the answer.

Spring Cleaning: Sieze the Day

There was a time in my life when wake-up calls would have to be pretty dramatic for me even to notice. I was so reluctant to come out of my little status quo cocoon, and it would take quite a crisis for me to wake up and see what was important. But in each of those instants where I would suddenly wake up, I’d see exactly what was important, how precious life is… only to crawl back in my cocoon again.

Nonetheless, those intermittent moments of being awake in time built up to help me change my life, and these days I use them as markers on my path, to remind me why I’m here and which direction I’m heading. If I wake up one morning feeling a little stiff or tired, instead of sitting around and moaning about how I’m getting older, I can go for a brisk walk and know that this is my body’s way of reminding me that exercise is important. If I don’t get something that I had asked for, I know that it’s either on its way, or something better is. I don’t sit and wonder whether I don’t deserve the things I want, or whether I’m just not good enough. Not holding back from loving someone was the hardest wake-up call of all, as I learned it when my father suddenly died at age 63. I had tried to punish him for not meeting my expectations of love, and I was waiting for him to come to the realization that I was right.

There are still still times when I’m aware that the path is never-ending, that one always has to practice vigilance in order to stay awake and be present. As I sit at my desk, I suddenly hear fire trucks in the distance, and I silently send out blessings to the rescue team and the people they are being sent out to rescue. Then I take a look at the collection of objects on my desk, and it’s fitting that the alarm of the sirens should make me take notice. Here are all the things that represent what I love, put there specifically so I will have a constant reminder, and yet sometimes I can lose focus until the sirens bring me back again. My pocket astrologer, a Buddha figurine, notes from friends and family, photos of everyone I love most, a small angel sculpture, and of course a few chocolates are all things I still see right through sometimes. But at least these days, the sirens are needed less and less, as my vigilance has supplemented my desire to be awake and present. For this I’m very grateful.

I’m reminded of a Zen story, one where all the masters gathered together to discuss where the Key of Life should be hidden. One master was adamant that the top of a mountain would be a great hiding place, but the others disagreed. Another master suggested that maybe the bottom of the sea would be better, but again he was met with unanimous dissent. Discussion went back and forth for quite some time, and finally, just when it seemed like all the good ideas had been used up and rejected, one master stood up. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed. “Let’s hide the key in the one place that humans never search: inside themselves.” Everyone agreed that was the best place to place the key, and there it remains to this day.

Flirting: Are You Talking to Me?

It can happen just about anywhere – you’re standing in line at the bank, or at the grocery store, and then you feel someone brush up against you accidentally. You turn and find it’s a very attractive person. Then you start to think… maybe it wasn’t an accident! But how can you know for certain? You have to test the situation out, so you look at them again, for two reasons: one, to check them out a second time, and two, to see if there are any signs that the brush was on purpose. After all, it might have been a legitimate accident, and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself by assuming they’re into you when they may not have the slightest interest at all. So before you do anything, stop and think about what’s at stake, and ask yourself if this is just another mundane everyday event, or if this is the moment when everything changes in your life.

Take our quiz and see what you know about flirting: Answer True or False, then add up and click here for answers)

1. When someone goes out of their way to talk to me they are flirting

2. When someone makes prolonged eye contact (more than three seconds) they want my attention

3. When a woman is flirting it’s obvious

4. When a man is overtly flirting he generally has one thing on his mind

5. There’s a difference between being flirtatious and flirting

6. There are right ways and wrong ways to flirt

7. Saying inappropriate things in the name of flirting is acceptable

8. Flirting when you’re in a committed relationship is fine as long as you don’t act on it

And now, some tips to help you flirt effectively and without embarrassment:

First of all, focus on yourself, not the other person. Ask yourself, what are you hoping to accomplish by flirting? What is it that you want from this situation? A fun conversation? Casual sex? A relationship? The answer to this question will tell you what signs to look for. If you want a relationship, for instance, you’ll be looking for things like an bare ring finger, a shopping cart devoid of baby formula, and no spouse or kids hanging around. Don’t make a move if anything indicates the person isn’t available.

Step two, once you’ve decided the coast is most likely clear, you need to determine your own safety. No, this part is not particularly fun or spontaneous, but what’s REALLY not fun is being reckless and ending up in a situation where your personal safety is threatened. So check in with your intuition and make sure your body is not giving you any cues that it’s time to get out of the situation. You should be feeling completely comfortable and safe before you do anything at all. If not, don’t risk it or adopt a wait-and-see attitude – just get out of there.

Thirdly, let the fun begin! Believe it or not, most people are way too anxious when it comes to flirting, because really we’re all born with the ability. You may not buy that if you think you’re particularly awkward, but most awkwardness comes only when we become conscious of things that were unconscious. Many times we give off signals without even noticing we’re doing it! Checking to see who brushed up against you, and then checking a second time just to be sure – this is all part of the flirting process! If you can find something authentic to say in the moment, even better. Keep it simple and have fun above all else. The more you can relax and enjoy yourself, the more your flirting will be a sincere reflection of who you really are, which of course is exactly how you want to present yourself.

Remember that even though meeting people on the internet is all the rage, there’s nothing like connecting with a person in real life. So don’t be shy, practice connecting with people wherever and whenever, and load your tool belt up with these three things: your intention, your safety, and your natural ability to flirt!

How Can You Express Love?

There are thousands of ways you can express yourself, thousands of things you can do that could come across to someone as loving. However, it’s where these actions come from that’s of utmost importance if you want to be genuine.

You might think that you’re expressing love by not arguing back when your partner says something you strongly disagree with, but if you’re only doing it so you can have credit for controlling your tongue, or if you’re just hoping the payoff for verbally agreeing will be sex, what good is that in the long run? Very little!

If you want to express love from a place of authenticity, start with these tips:

Make the effort to get to know your partner. You’d be surprised how much two people can not know about each other, even after years of being together. This is especially true when you consider that what people like changes from moment to moment. What does your partner enjoy, what do they not enjoy? What are their pet peeves? What do they think about various topics? Knowing these things may not change your actions per se, but investing your interest in your partner will greatly increase the health of the relationship.

Listen to what your partner is telling you. Of course there’s the literal aspect to this – the things they actually say – but there are the more subtle clues and hints that you can learn to pick up on. If they keep saying the same sorts of things over and over, learn to read between the lines. “Wow, isn’t it great to have a moment of quiet” could be a sign that it’s time to start scheduling in times when you both agree to turn off phones, computers, and the TV.

Include your partner’s happiness in your assessment of your own happiness. Make a habit of inquiring whether things are going well for them; learn what they’re struggling with, what would make their lives better, what they’re happy with right now, what they’re lacking, as so forth. Incorporate these things into your daily self-inquiry practice.

Act in whatever way you can to make your partner’s day better. Even little things can make a big impact, so don’t underestimate your ability to transform your partner’s daily life. For example, I love sleeping in and my husband knows that, so in order to let me have five extra minutes of sleep, he makes my tea just the way I like it every morning, even when we’re traveling. I happen to know that he craves time alone, so whenever something needs to be done and I can handle it on my own, I send him off for half an hour to go meditate, and I sort things out myself. It’s the little things.

Consider the new things that will pop up that you don’t know about each other yet. Find ways to discover these things. My husband and I love taking spontaneous drives in various directions – we never end up in the same place twice, and it’s always an adventure. When we get home, we talk about the experience and how we each perceived it. We’re constantly learning new things about each other in this way.

And these are just a few suggestions you can start with; add your own ideas and start seeing how much joy it brings you to bring joy to your partner! It’s this authenticity of expression that makes all the difference.

If you actually care, then act like it!
Great relationships begin within!

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