"Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred."
The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
There is an Abbot and Costello skit called Niagra Falls where Errol Flynn is triggered when he hears "Niagara Falls." He turns slowly towards Costello and narrates how he dealt with his foe. "Slowly I turned ... step by step ... inch by inch...," is the catchphrase of the skit. In my head, I always comingle it with The Charge of the Light Brigade, by saying step by step, cannons to the right of me, cannons to the left of me. When triggered, our perception of the events often feels like we are under attack. It can feel like your back is against the wall. Will you stand your ground? Or give in to defeat?
It is a challenge to stay motivated when your world feels like it is falling apart. "Practice gratitude" or "list your accomplishments" people tell us to cheer us up. I often want to hide under the covers, but then I remember I have to get that project done, my kid needs help on their science fair, the laundry is calling, or my bladder makes me get out of bed and get moving. Taking action gives you back your agency and is empowering. Even if it does feel like cannons are all around you, you have a choice. You will come across challenges in this journey, and it is essential to remember who you are to find the strength to face them. Who is a Powerpoint ninja in the eyes of a twelve-year-old? Me! Who is talented and good at their job? Me! Yes, my friends, toot your own horn and remember that you are stronger than you think.
When was the last time you played? Yesterday, I went to a community event hosted by my work. My son got a balloon sword and pummeled me. He urged me to get a sword of my own, but I did not want to take some other kid's fun. He persisted, and I went to the balloon people. "We saw that you have been under attack. So, of course, you need a balloon sword." Sword in hand, I met my opponent. "Slowly, I turned..." Not really; I played to win, and we dueled hard and fast. More importantly, I had fun. Creativity and play spark joy. The entire day had the threat of rain. Did I worry? Not even a little bit. I was in play mode and assumed a solution would find me. Instead of focusing on the rain, I focused on the fun.
When triggered, you don't easily see the truth or the fun. Feelings manipulate how you view the world. If you view everything through the lens of anger, for example, you may only remember people harming you and forget all the good things they did. If you view through the lens of nostalgia, you may saint people and ignore their flaws. If you view through the lens of fun, challenges become puzzles to solve, and a means to level up. To paraphrase Ice Cube, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Take a few calming breaths and gently probe your reaction. When your back is against the wall, you need to conserve energy. Swinging wildly at your enemies may strike a few blows, but it also is a wasted effort. Once you understand the game, you can strike strategically. Grab your balloon sword, and let's go! Namaste
Podcast transcript: Welcome to the Things To Think About Podcast, where we use fables and fairy tales to come to deeper truths about our subconscious world. I'm Stacy Casson, and today's story deals with the question of "What Do I Do When My World is Falling Apart?". We will explore this topic in a tale I call "Get Up."
And now, get comfortable and relax. Take a Deep Breathe in and exhale. A Deep Breath in and exhale. Deep breath in and exhale. And if you'd like, you can slowly...close...your eyes.
The floor is cool against her skin. As she lays there, she takes comfort in the feel of smooth wood. From her vantage point, she saw the reflection of the early morning sun. The room is empty, only filled with shadow and light. There is a lemony smell to the wood, probably because she had to clean it as part of her lease. The floor was her strength, holding her up because, without it, she was sure she would have melted away. Instead, she remained anchored to the floor; the stillness served to amplify her despair. Desperately she clung to the play of light and shadow as if they held the answer to her racing thoughts. How long had she lain here? The room used to be wondrously warm and inviting. So many happy moments had transpired on the very ground where she lay. She saw none of it; her eyes turned inward to her problems.
A cannon?" She had laughed in delight when they were walking the grounds of their new home. The cannon was an incongruous powder blue and covered in barnyard grass. Golden light bathed everything in a warm glow. "Is it a real cannon?" she asked. The realtor advised that it was real, and the former owner had painted it to use as lawn decoration. She decided that she liked the cannon. It added character and tickled her imagination. She imagined the brave soldiers rolling it from battle to battle. She wondered if their side won. "Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them," she quoted Tennyson to herself. Then, back on the floor, she understood that she had lost everything. There were no real winners in war.
She was thirsty. Finally finding the motivation to move, she arose from the floor. A wave of dizziness hit her from getting up so quickly. She realized the tears had dried on her face and her eyes felt crusty. She washed her face in the kitchen sink, drying off with a paper towel. Thankfully she had kept some supplies as she transitioned. The fridge was almost empty, but she still had some oranges left. She busied herself cutting and squeezing the orange juice into a paper cup. She did not mind the pulp and looked forward to quenching her thirst with freshly squeezed orange juice. Resolved, she took a sip and started crying again, mourning that she would never enjoy this kitchen again. The juice was delicious, and she noticed how perfectly balanced it was between sweetness and tang. She would not need to add any simple syrup, which was good because she did not have any. It dawned on her that all she needed to make orange juice was an orange. She took another sip, delighting in her efforts.
She walked out to the porch and shivered. Perhaps she ought to have grabbed a coat, but she quickly forgot the cold as she surveyed the land in the morning light. Everything was covered in ice, creating delicate sculptures. The sparse bushes down the stairs resembled a giant broken spiderweb woven of twigs and glass windowpanes. When a web is torn, the spider rebuilds. She took another sip of the juice despite the cold and reflected. The worst had happened, and here she was, still capable of making magic. She finished the drink and put the cup back on the counter. She grabbed her coat from a hook and surrounded herself in its warmth. Today was a new day. Once again, golden light bathed everything, the ice beautiful and sparkling. She walked out to the cannon and lit the fuse.
That ends our story for today. Will you stay on the floor or get up when you are at your wit's end? And now, you can take a deep breath in and exhale. A deep breath in and exhale—deep breath in, and exhale. And when you're ready, wiggle your toes, wiggle your fingers, and slowly open your eyes.