We used to own a beautiful figure of a totem pole. It was sleek, black, finely crafted and carried wonderful memories from our last trip to Canada.
Various Haida-style creatures blend together seamlessly and, near the top of the pole, an eagle spread his wings majestically, promising freedom, clarity, soaring to new heights; magical magnificence.
I still remember the totem pole’s fate as if it was yesterday.
Our delightful cat – then just a tiny, fluff-ball of a kitten – decided to brutally attack his sworn totem enemy, sending him cascading from the top of our highest bookcase, crashing to the ground with two broken wings.
When I say broken, I actually mean detached.
No more wings. Not attatched to the eagle, anyway.
Having recovered from my distress (and having given Merlin the feisty feline a piece of my mind), I quickly reached for the Superglue. A few minutes of steady handywork later, and the eagle was ready to soar again. I proudly inspected my work, feeling very pleased with myself.
Of course, a few days later, our totem pole was involved in yet another horrible accident. Yet again, eagle lost his wings. Yet again, I reached for the glue.
This pattern repeated several times and, every time, the weakness in the eagle’s wings increased.
On the last crash landing, the lightbulb moment finally occurred and I opted to let eagle be without his wings.
Sooner or later, we have to accept that things change and, sometimes, we’re left with a shape that our Western mindsets deem less pleasing than the ‘ideal’.
Who am I to decide what is perfect?
Back then, it took me some time to realise the teachings of the broken totem.
Why are we so obsessed with forcing situations to fit the mould we desire for them? Who am I to decide whether the totem pole was more beautiful with, or without, its wings?
Surely, sometimes, the beauty is in the imperfection? Then again, who am I to decide what is perfect?
Taking this further, it eventually occurred to me that we’re obsessed with fixing things.
Let’s face it, each time I glued those wings back onto the eagle’s body, I was doing no more than forcing three pieces to sit next to each other when, quite clearly, they had no intention of remaining in committee. I wasn’t actually mending the eagle.
To truly ‘mend’ him, I would have had to create magic (in the Harry Potter sense of the word); to completely reverse any damage; to erase the fracture entirely. Instead, with my merry tube of Superglue, I was merely creating a weakness whose only option was to grow.
Bent out of shape?
This scenario plays out in so many situations in our Western culture. How many times have you heard someone refer to a fellow human being as being “all bent out of shape”? What does this actually mean? How do we define what is actually out of shape?
The truth is, we create a snapshot in our mind at the very outset of any new situation and, as soon as the inevitable change occurs and that situation appears alien in comparison to our brain-based Polaroid, we assume something’s gone wrong.
Why can we not accept that things change?
Sometimes, we choose not to recognise something in its new form and pile all our efforts into trying to force it back into a shape we’re more comfortable with. Why must we do this? Why can we not accept the transition and either grow to love the new shape or move on?
Some years ago, I was involved with a women’s networking group. At first, it was a fabulous forum of solidarity; we’d meet every month, support each other, talk and generally set the world to rights.
Somehow, though, as personalities came and went and, as we grew to know each other and allowed some of those surface masks to slip, it became clear that a few fissures were beginning to appear.
For whatever reason, some of those personalities simply did not gel; cliques began to form, people became blinded by their own version of events, then came the rumours and backbiting and, eventually, all trust seemed to drown in a sea of paranoia.
In the end, of course, people began to leave and the group dissolved, although some of us remain good friends.
In hindsight, this was another broken totem pole scenario. The energy of the group had begun to shift into a new place – not necessarily a bad place, but certainly a space we weren’t familiar with.
Speaking personally, I can now see that instead of accepting the change, I kept on pretending that I was with the same old group, with the same, familiar, comfortable air of support and sharing.
Effectively, I kept on sticking those wings back onto the totem pole, desperately trying to make them fit.
I wonder how differently things might have turned out if we’d all been able to put the original scenario behind us and accept that our group had moved into a new phase.
Maybe, just maybe, if we’d welcomed that new shape with open arms and actively worked towards accepting and getting to know our new situation, we might have avoided some of the negativity that ensued. Maybe.
Those of you who work with crystals will, no doubt, be aware that the power of the stones can be just as powerful if there are ‘imperfections’. I remember an old medicine lady telling me that the beauty was often in the wound of the stone, that the ‘crack’ could sometimes be delivering us a powerful teaching and directly relate to a situation on our own path. When one of my palmstones broke in two, I happily accepted that it wanted to separate and become two individual gems. Not once did I reach for that glue…
So, wherever the wisdom and inspiration came from all those years ago, I remain grateful for the teaching – I’m sorry it took me so long to catch on.
Ever since then, I set out to roll with the punches and move with the times. If something morphs into a new shape, I try to recognise that this is simply evolution and not necessarily something that needs to be ‘fixed’.
Sometimes, if the new skin really doesn’t fit MY shape, I might take heed of the signs and step away with love, peace and gratitude for the teachings.
Now it’s your turn. Do you need to keep trying to fix things? Are they really even broken? Maybe it’s time to embrace change and learn from it.
Until next time,