Sunday, 23 October 2011

Life is a Biscuit

This is a cookie to my American friends. A cookie however, is a typical American species, rather big and sturdy; teeth breaking at times. A biscuit is the more fragile relative from the European continent, rather delicate and pretty. I guess if life were a cookie it might be easier to live, but maybe more boring as well.

So imagine at the beginning of your life, sitting bang in the middle of your perfectly shaped biscuit, nice and round, all smooth, and drifting through space. Soon you will get up to explore and you will find that it wobbles. Quickly drawing back to the middle you will learn where the centre of gravity lies - it is you! As you keep exploring your biscuit you will find that inviting people onto this platform will help to keep the balance. If you all move in perfect harmony, you all have the freedom to explore and to enjoy this life together. You might even discover that attaching other people’s biscuits to yours will make it sturdier.

Biscuits are not easily navigated, though. Harmony might come natural at times, but usually negotiations are asked for. Some people manage perfectly fine for all their lives and live happily ever after, but most of us will find that there are always people, with whom the balancing game does not work. They either move to fast, too slow or into the wrong direction, while others might not want to fix their biscuits too tightly or not tightly enough. Usually this does not happen out of deliberation. We just live at different speeds, were raised in different cultures and use language in different ways. Whatever the reason, all of a sudden the balancing act involves you doing the splits, a lot of running around and continuously being alert.

From all this commotion the first cracks appear in your biscuit... see, told you: Life would be better if it were a cookie, but 'No!' whoever was in charge decided to choose a biscuit.

... and it is getting worse. People will move away from the cracks and will reach the edge. There they will see interesting things: loads of other biscuits, interesting, pretty, cool or idyllic. The ones who daringly peer through the cracks see the same wonderful picture, and some of them may be tempted to risk the jump off the margins or through the crevice.

Drastic action is required, a wall needs to be built around the biscuit, cracks have to be fixed, and maybe it is a good idea to tie some people down.

... and out we get the pegs and the ties, and we hammer them into the ground, and often too late we realise that now it is us who is breaking the biscuit. But what can be done? We keep fixing and fixing. Some cracks we are able to mend lovingly, for others there is just no time and we paint over them.

... and so it goes for a while: short periods of relative happiness when we think that we nailed it are taking turns with frantic repair work, until one day we are exhausted and unhappy and wondering: What the heck am I doing? Life cannot be about building walls and fixing cracks.

 ... and more questions are whizzing through the brain: What happened to my lovely, pristine biscuit? Who is to blame? Could it have been avoided? What to do now?

The answers lie in the beginning: The centre of gravity is YOU! You and you alone will have to be the person to win back stability.

Oh, how often did I try to find the ones to blame? I had to learn that it was Me. I voluntarily did the fixing and building and running, nobody asked me to. People joined my life and without asking them or myself whether or not they were good for my biscuit, I accommodated their needs. I did not make clear the rules that apply for docking to my biscuit. I didn’t even know the rules, so how can I blame others.

The way forward is the simplest and the most difficult task at the same time.

The past needs to be the past. None of what is gone will come back, and hence assessing what is left is the first step to healing. The aim is the truth; no sugar coating, no excuses.

... and then comes the big thought experiment. The right questions have to be asked: Why did I do all the fixing? What am I scared of? As a matter of fact ‘What is the worst case scenario?’ What if I would let go? My biscuit might break – ‘Would I really mind?’, people might leave or fall off – ‘Would I feel guilt, or loss?’ ‘Do I want to desperately cling to people who don’t want to be with me? ... sitting on my fragment of biscuit drifting through space, ... time to think,... time for honesty, ... this fragment would be MY fragment, my responsibility and my freedom. How bad would the worst case scenario actually be? However painful the process: the answer to this question holds all the building blocks for honest negotiations.

... and then the work begins.  Ever so carefully yet confidently a set of rules will have to be established. Balance can only be achieved by negotiation, either through talking and listening, or testing and observing, and although bits of the biscuit might break off as some people decide to leave, one might find that biscuits with edges are actually quite nice to be on. They show style, and experience; they are reliable and easy to dock to. One might even find that more people than expected would like to make an edgy biscuit their home.

My new motto: The first step to avoiding the worst of cases is to face it and to accept it as fate!

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