Living with Elephants
Life Under the Big Top
While elephants might be fun to see at the circus, you certainly do not want to live with one; yet so many people do. The elephant in the room is not a fun house mate; they take up lots of space and can be rather cumbersome to hide. So why do we exert so much time and energy concealing our 2 ton friends when it would be so much easier to face them and make them disappear? It’s a question I have had to deal with my entire life.
For years growing up, my family fed and cared for an enormous elephant; he was angry, irresponsible, inappropriate, unreliable and brought a lot of chaos to our home. My father’s alcoholism was down played and ignored and to this day I am not sure why. I guess dealing with it would have meant embarrassment and a change of life style my parents did not want to embrace. So instead we hid our elephant inside a tent of secrets, jokes, excuses, and lies.
Since my dad’s drinking was never totally out of control, he convinced us and himself that he just liked to “have a good time”. Disappearing after work and not calling my mom for hours on end every so often was no big deal, getting layed off on occasion was just par for the course in his business, drinking at lunch was what all the guys did, hitting a stop sign with my new car and trying to cover it up until the police tried to arrest me was a simple misunderstanding. My family was guilty of hiding this elephant out of love and caring for my dad because family should stick together, right? I did not realize until I was in my 40’s that feeding elephants is not done out of love or caring, it’s done out of fear.
We were all afraid to face the truth of the problem and had become accustomed to living with a lie; so much so that it was no longer a lie to us. I finally admitted to it and dealt with my issues of co-dependency and I now do not live with that elephant although my parents still do; but I now know that is there issue to resolve and not mine. I now live in a world where I face issues head on and will not hide from anything; it’s not perfect but it’s better than life under the big top with a multitude smelly elephants.
That’s the thing about living with an elephant, it starts off as one to disguise some problem but he soon invites lots of friends. When you hide from an issue, others will always manifest. For my family; my mother drank and over ate to cover up her pain and now has a multitude of health problems as a result, my sister had terrible asthma as a child and I hung out with intense anger as my companion for many years (and he still tries to visit me on a regular basis). Covering up anything will only result in anger and resentment for those involved. Whenever something is done out of fear, anger is not far behind and anger is the culprit that brings along entire herds of elephants. Before you know it, your life is a circus.
The way out for me finally came when I grew weary of living with so much anger that I could not be happy in what everyone else knew was an incredible life. We had just built our dream home; I had a husband who loved me and 3 sweet kids who only wanted to spend time with mommy. But I could not enjoy it because angry outbursts over nothing always got in my way. Of course, my parents told me I was just feisty growing up, but I now know that was just another elephant in our ever growing herd. I was ultimately driven to searching for a means to deal with my fury but since I was only treating the symptom, none had any long lasting effects.
One day, I went to a medium on a whim with a good friend. During my reading, she mentioned my anger and said I needed to deal with my co-dependency. I had no idea why, why would I be considered co-dependent? While driving home that night, it FINALLY occurred to me why I am co-dependent and I set my elephant free on that dark, cold road. Soon after, I read everything I could about co-dependency and performed most of the related exercises until I felt at peace. It did not take long to feel better but I do still struggle with my anger today because, although the elephant may not live with me any longer, he still hangs around my parents and I hate smelling him.
Since then, I have observed that most people live with an elephant of some sort. Over time the elephant(s) can get so big that it will crush you. If you have one living with you, please stop feeding it immediately and set yourself free; free of life under the big top. There is nothing to fear and everything to gain by releasing the burdensome weight of living with elephants.