Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday! All of the food and fun and family of the other holidays, but without any of the pressure of big-money-spending and perfect-gift-giving. There is practically no commercialization. Most retailers completely skip over it and head right to Christmas.
It’s a low-key, low-pressure day with family for me. I know it’s not low-key for everyone. For some people, the very thought of sitting around a table with parents, siblings, in-laws, drunk racist grandpas, chain smoking uncles and crazy cousins can be very stressful.
Going back to the people and the places from whence we came is not always the easiest thing to do. When we step through the door, see the familiar faces, hear the voices, smell the stuffing, we immediately travel back in time, and we slip back into our old familiar roles.
We can feel the tug of the family apron strings. And then we use them to tie ourselves right back onto our peg!
Last night at the end of a yoga class, the teacher read a parable about an elephant. You might know the story already.
When the elephant is a baby his trainer ties him by rope, to a peg in the ground. He tries to pull away. He tries to get free, but he can’t. For days, he tries and tries. Finally, he realizes that he isn’t strong enough. It isn’t going to happen. So he gives up. Lesson learned.
The elephant grows, gaining size, gaining weight, gaining strength, but he never tries to break free again. If he just tried again, just one more time, he would know that he could break free.
In my mind, as I listened to the story, I immediately equated the rope with our learned behaviors, the roles that we play. It is made up of the threads that run through our relationships. And the peg is our place in the family.
As the elephant grows, that rope no longer suits him, it only suits his trainer. As soon as he is tied on, he stays put. As if he has somehow gotten smaller, weaker. Almost as if he isn’t really a giant elephant at all.
And our rope, the one that ties us down? That rope may still suit our family. Some of them expect us to tie ourselves back up to our peg as soon as we arrive. But maybe it no longer suits us.
The giant elephant on the tiny rope seems ridiculous to onlookers. How can such a mighty creature be held in place by a tiny peg? How does that rope keep him there? Just as the dysfunctional patterns we have with others might look ridiculous to outsiders.
This is the very reason why there are so many movies about families getting together for Thanksgiving. We can watch their interactions and think; why do you people talk to each other like that? How can you behave like this? Is this really how people act? Why does this happen when you get together? and for god’s sake, why do you keep getting together?
Luckily, those are just movies, our families are nothing at all like that. And luckily, we are way smarter than elephants. We can learn and unlearn things. We can grow and evolve. We have the ability to see the pegs in our lives for what they really are. Once we realize that we have the power within us to untie the ropes, we can decide to walk away from the pegs. They aren’t strong enough to completely control us. Right?
What are the pegs that are holding you back? Making you seem smaller than you really are? Are they ideas? People? Relationship dynamics?
If you are dreading the family meal, know that you don’t have to return to your old ways of behaving when you sit down at that table.
You have grown. You are so much stronger. You can set yourself free.
Sometimes, I have no idea where the songs come from, but they are in there, attached by a rope, to a peg in my brain.
When did I even learn this song? Peg o’ My Heart