Way back during my dark ages (affectionately known as high school), I had a girlfriend who was obsessed with figuring out what animal everyone emulated through their personality. She spent countless hours studying people and assigning them their well-earned animal monikers, at least as she saw them. She quickly decided that I was a classic turtle: cautious, no unnecessary motion, and unwilling to extend from my protective shell until I was good and ready. Bingo.
Years later the turtle in me slowly shed its shell and through the marvel of environment-influenced behavioral changes, I can say that I’m not longer the turtle I once was, at least for the most part. During certain times I probably fall back to that comfort zone, but in recent memory I have to confess to changing animal identities. I’m now convinced that I’ve spent most of my adult life as a…duck. Quack.
Why a duck, you ask? Consider the image of the typical duck: lazily floating on the surface of a serene lake, seemingly oblivious to concern or worry as he drifts about seeking an occasional bit of food or an impromptu meeting with a female duck. Life looks good, easy, and in control for the duck, or at least that’s the way it seems above the waterline where the world sees Mr. Duck as the epitome of calm. But underneath the surface, where few can see, those little duck feet are furiously kicking in a constant effort to keep things moving, or more pointedly, to not sink.
As I work on some personal issues and try to examine my own behavior, I have realized that I’ve done an Oscar-worthy job of looking to the world every bit like a duck above the surface of things. Yet underneath, I’ve furiously worked to keeps things hidden, to not let the turbulence of life disturb my serene image above the waterline. Effective? Hell, yes. Healthy? Do you even need to ask?
Each of us ultimately finds our authentic self, the one we want the world to see that matches up fairly well with the one we live internally. For some of us, it takes draining a lake or two before we understand what’s really been happening and can then make corrections to create a better balance between both worlds. I may still feel like a duck at times, but I’m working on switching to a new animal persona. When I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, I’ll look for you at the zoo of life. Just heed the “don’t feed the animals” sign if you please…I don’t usually bite the hand that feeds, but you never know. Even ducks have teeth.