Life as an Extreme Sport

Sea Anemone

Sometimes the bad part of a blog is that you have to address things you weren’t necessarily planning on addressing. Well, I suppose you don’t have to address them, but then things just end up hanging out there, waiting and lurking and always with a large question mark over them, and who wants to be followed around by a looming question mark?

So, regarding my last post. I’m not going to go into the specifics, because they’re not important here. But I did mention that I felt like I needed to pull back from my class and certain people in specific, and take on a detached air of “professionalism” that is pretty uncharacteristic, so I feel like I should deal with that.

Have you ever poked a sea anemone? It’s open and fluttering its little tendrails in the brackish water, and then suddenly and without any warning, this stick comes out of nowhere, jabbing into its soft, fleshy bits. The anemone reacts, without thinking – it curls in on itself, pulling tight and protective. After a while, it might send out a few questioning tentacles at a time, searching and seeing if it’s safe again. And when it’s determined that it is safe, it will unfurl again, until the next stick descends.

For many years, this has been part of the mental image I have of myself – a delicate sea anemone reacting to the occasional violent jab in the best way possible, hiding and self-preservation. Of course, the reality is, I’m not a sea anemone, and when I just react blindly like that, I cut people out and often cause a situation to become much worse before it becomes better.

Something hit me pretty far from left field before that last post, and my instinctive “find safety” reaction said that I had to withdraw myself, become the “perfect” “professional” peer facillitator, and cease any of the CHIDlike behaviour so common to the class and department. Because that was the only way to be genuinely safe from sharp pokes.

Thankfully, I’ve lived with this in myself for long enough to know that withdrawing from the world isn’t really the best thing to do, and it’s awfully much better for me and anyone else involved to communicate rather than retreat. But just because I know this doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally run into a situation that sends me into that state of blind panic and reaction before calming down enough to process my emotions and take it to the logical and healthy place.

Maybe it would be better, in some regards at least, to keep that sort of professional distance. When it gets down to it, though, I don’t want to. I want to form friendships with the colleagues that I admire and respect, and friendship is something that forms when you’re open in the water, not curled into a tight ball of fear and protection. Yes, it means sometimes there’ll be jabs – especially when there are misunderstandings – but you communite through those jabs and stay open to the world and what it has to offer.

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