A Story About Watermelon
In a recent podcast with Tim Ferriss, Anne Lamott talks about how her mother always took the broken yolk when she made eggs for everyone. Every time, the broken yolk.
Then a few days later, I was on a walk in the woods with a dear friend and we talked about when we don't take what we want, we take what we think other people want us to want. And how usually that means that we take the thing that's the least desirable. It's so interesting to me how I can trace this pattern back throughout my life. The ways I choose things for myself- the burnt toast, the cheap sunglasses, the draining relationships, the things that suffocate my self worth but that somehow make me more valuable because I'm not taking the good stuff.
So my friend and I talked about watermelon. How, when presented with a plate of watermelon, we tend to wait, hang back. Let others pick first. Or we deliberately choose a piece we think no one else would want. How what we actually want is to take a sweet, juicy piece of watermelon for ourselves. Then, whoa: How that doesn't take from others, it gives to ourselves.
My mind tries to work around knowing that, feeling it out like a pair of new shoes. I try to identify what that would be like, how to be that kind of self-ish: not greedy, but giving. It's a hard concept- it sort of bounces off of me the way the same ends of magnets deflect from one another- I can imagine it, but I can't turn it in a way that makes total sense yet.
So much of my life is built around this framework: the idea that I am a better human because I put myself last. In many ways I don't do this, I think to myself...but then I see how it infects everything. Even the places I think I take what I need, the best for me, it's really formed around the idea of what's best for the other person and I take it as what's best for me.
This leads me back to boundaries, those mysterious things that I forgot to pick up along the way. When I think about all the ways my lack of boundaries has influenced my life it makes me tired and ashamed. I feel foolish for being FIFTY years old and just getting started learning that I can decide what's okay and not okay- and that it has nothing to do with anyone else but me.
I can see how I've been very bad at boundaries most of my life- physically, mentally, emotionally. In relationships, with myself. I'm not kicking my own ass here, I'm being truthful with myself. That's a boundary I've set for myself: being honest about what's happening and not avoiding the truth because it's unpleasant.
It sucks to realize that I've been that way- that I compromised my own safety, my own mental and physical health, because I didn't understand that I could have a say in what was and wasn't okay for me. I was so fearful that I would be rejected or told I was foolish or wrong that I stopped standing up for myself in many ways when I was quite young. And I kept that method of being in the world to varying degrees until now.
You know how you do something all your life and then suddenly you hear one thing that lights the spark that changes it? That's what happened when Anne Lamott described her mother always taking the broken yolk. It expanded when I explained the story to my friend and created my own example: the watermelon.
The watermelon symbolizes how I want my life to be. That in choosing my life I would choose the piece that is vibrant and juicy, not the piece that's dry and pale because I don't want to take the good piece from someone else. There are endless good pieces, enough for everyone, because that's what we look for so that's what we find and take. We take care of ourselves, we are clear and not blurred- because we know what we accept and what we won't abide. I think I can do better.