Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Getting Stuck

I saw a show on TV the other night about this lady who had a pet monkey.  It seems that when this lady’s kids grew up and left home, she felt lonely and unsure about what her new role was to be.  She had really enjoyed being a mom, especially to her kids when they were babies, but did not want another child since that would mean going through a repeat of the ‘teen years’, and she REALLY did not enjoy that phase.  She did what any rational human being would do in her situation (no, she did not become a foster parent):  she got a monkey.
For the last 18 years this lady has had a “baby” (named something like “Missy Jo”).  Granted, this “baby” is fairly ugly, hairy, and no longer has any teeth (they had to be removed since Missy Jo kept biting her “mamma” and drawing blood), but this lady gets to dress her up, walk her in a stroller, take her to the park to swing, and feed her junk food like french fries (which the lady refers to as “monkey fries” – this is said with a combination baby-talk/Southern accent, although I did not detect a Southern accent at other times the lady spoke), as well as candy and other crappy foods. When the interviewer asked about Missy Jo’s diet compared to M-O-N-K-E-Y-S raised in the wild, the lady said her vet (or was it a pediatrician?) said it was perfectly fine to feed Missy Jo the same way you would feed any other child (!?!)…When Missy Jo first came to live with the lady, Missy Jo attached herself to the lady’s shoulder for 6 straight months (even in the shower), screaming bloody murder if she had to be separated from her new mother.
Over the past 18 years, this lady has gotten divorced from the husband that gave her the human children (surprised?), and married a man who absolutely adores Missy Jo (oh, and the lady, too).  Missy Jo sleeps with this couple after spending evenings in bed watching TV shows on Animal Planet and eating cookies.  The cost of keeping this monkey is about $6,000 each year.  I got the impression that the lady’s life revolved around Missy Jo, and nothing else.
While all of this was presented in a perfectly logical manner, from the perspective of this lady, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was that caused this poor woman to get stuck.  I mean, 18 years?  With a “baby” monkey?  …and that was after raising some children (which she did not really go into detail about) for at least 18 years prior to that.
In approaching my “emptying nest phase”, I realize how easy it could be to get to the point that I might begin to feel “obsolete” and then get stuck.  When I had babies, I was REALLY into the baby phase (believe it or not, for those of you who did not know me then!).  I made homemade play-dough, did the ‘park-things’, pointed out livestock whenever we passed any farms, and stuff like that.  When my kids were in elementary school, I volunteered as an art teacher in their classes and then did a 5-year stint as a homeschooling mom (although, I never wore Keds and bobby socks with gingham jumpers…).  My kids got involved in sports, once they got in ‘real’ school again, and I did the mom-in-the-stands thing for a time, too.  During that time, I kept reminding myself that these phases were temporary (even during the colic-y times…even during the rocky high school years), and that it was important to always be moving forward, even if it wasn’t easy.
There have been events in my life that seemed so terrible or overwhelming I could have found myself ‘stuck’, but whenever I found myself nurturing that event for prolonged times, I would have to do something to move myself forward.  Sometimes that meant asking for help when I did not have the strength to get myself moving on my own.
I think that we sometimes get stuck in emotional stages in our lives, and it becomes so much a part of who we are and what we do, we don’t realize how very confining and isolating it has become.  We build little emotional incubators in which to nurture the ‘event’, and that event grows and grows, preventing us from moving forward in a healthy way.  Like the lady with the monkey-baby, we start to nurture this thing that soon begins to consume us.  It begins to cost us time, resources and relationships.  Like the lady with the monkey-baby, that thing becomes a barrier between us and our attempts at a healthy life. 
Recently, my husband and I have found ourselves dealing with people with figurative ‘monkey-babies’ (as well as searching for them in our own lives).  It seems like some people are content to nurture theirs, removing the teeth, dressing them in cute clothing, and trying to force them into as ‘normal’ a role as possible in an attempt at masquerading as ‘acceptable’ (BUT, the saying “if it looks like it and smells like it, it probably IS it” comes to mind…).  People have many types of justifications for staying “stuck”.  At times, it seems that they would rather be ‘justified’ than ‘well’.  How sad.
Your ‘stuck’ issue may not be as blatant as carting around a Missy Jo, but if it is hindering you from growing, developing, and moving forward, is it honestly worth keeping?

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