“Not My Circus; Not My Monkey”
We live in community. We are taught to be helpers, problem solvers, good neighbors, partners, and parents. However, there is a line between helping and interfering. A wise friend shared her favorite quote, “Not my circus, not my monkey.” But, where is that elusive boundary between help and interference?
My husband and I have elderly parents who need additional care. His circus is different than mine and my “helping” nature wants to grab his ringmaster top hat and start directing. Luckily for my spouse I study Jung. Baring eminent death, Jung concluded life is not a choice between opposites such as action and inaction, but a third choice that arrives from holding the tension of these opposites. Holding the tension means to wait and reflect. To wait is to allow a judgment free space. To reflect upon the situation is to ask, “Why do I feel the need to help and is there an issue similar in my own life that needs attention?” By holding the tension a new option known as the third presents itself. By waiting and reflecting, I take care of myself first and can offer appropriate support when asked.
Should you find yourself motivated to enter the circus of another’s life, I recommend you first suspend all judgment. Second, lead with the attributes of relationship and empowerment. Be prepared to share life’s journey together for a time as a sacred path of respect, love, and support. Remember, for yourself and others, life is not about performing a perfect show but attempting to balance and share our gifts and talents. As for the illusive monkey, he gets off our backs and reminds us that life isn’t a burden to carry but a playful, joyful, spiritual experience to be shared.