Lani: Sling that Watermelon

claire and brookeAs anyone who listens to StoryWonk Sunday knows, Alastair and I have been watching The Amazing Race. It’s been a huge amount of fun; exotic locales, crazy people who are great subjects for studying human nature, and whenever the kids ask, “Where is that?” we send them to the map to find it, and that makes us feel like good parents. It was fun, but not exactly life changing.

Until season 17. Yes, I’ll admit it; Season 17 of The Amazing Race changed my damn life.

What happened is this: Best friends and home shopping hosts Brook Roberts (nickname: Bam) and Claire Champlin went on the show, and they laughed and had a great time and fought a little, but when they did, they were positive and respectful to each other. The big moment for me came in the first leg of the race, whenΒ Claire got hit in the face with a watermelon.

Did you watch the video? That looked painful. Like, really painful. Alastair and I shouted and said, “Oh my god!” and thought her face was broken. But here’s what happened.

Claire was not happy. Life for her, at that moment, was not great. She acknowledged that. “I can’t feel my face!” But she didn’t freak out. She didn’t get pissed, she didn’t throw things, she didn’t yell about her bad luck. She took a moment, acknowledged the pain and shock, shot a watermelon seed out of her nose (I’m presuming; they didn’t show that) and kept on going with energy and commitment.

And that’s when I was like, “Oh. That’s how you do it. Acknowledge the suck, then line up another watermelon in the slingshot and shoot down that suit of armor.”

Look, for years, I’ve known it. Stay positive. Keep things in perspective. Don’t freak out. Don’t whine. And I’ve tried it, all my life, but from a place outside of myself; inside, I’d still be roiling. I would feel my frustration rising, and I would say, “These are the things I need to do,” because there’s nothing I hate more than that moment when someone looks at you with disappointment because you’re acting like an asshole. So I would force myself to play positive until I ran out of energy, and then I’d scream and yell and throw a fit when I was alone, if I could get away in time. If not, I’d throw my fit for witnesses, and I’d get that look and just despise myself.

But watching these wild women from Reno, Nevada kick ass and take names on one of the most fun and patently ridiculous television shows in existence… that sent the lesson home. Finally, I got it. To appear positive, to pretend you’re not feeling what you’re feeling, is external, and it takes your energy because you’re denying the reality of what you’re feeling. Years and years of denial builds a series of mild frustrations into roiling rage, ready to spark off at the slightest provocation. So the rage is exhausting you, and the fake exterior is doubly exhausting you. To truly be positive, you have to be internally positive. That conserves fuel instead of burning it all up. It’s not about being positive for other people, so that I don’t make them uncomfortable or get that look. It’s not about containing my rage so that I seem, from an external perspective, to be holding it together.

It’s about acknowledging that the situation sucks, feeling and releasing the frustration and anger, then getting up and putting the next watermelon in the sling. It’s about what I do internally, not how it appears externally. That’s the choice. That’s where I’ve been going wrong.

Pardon my duh. And thank you, Brook and Claire.

(And here’s another video demonstrating their awesome.)

37 thoughts on “Lani: Sling that Watermelon

  1. Lois says:

    Her attitude was great. But notice she had a friend/partner/cheerleader to remind her to finish. It is usually easier to keep going when we have a “cheerleader”

  2. Danielle says:

    Ah, yes. The seventy-third lesson yoga has taught me. Chill the fuck out and breathe. Nothing is as bad as you think it is in the heat of the moment and if you lash out, you will look like an asshole and you’ll live to regret it.

    It doesn’t always stick with me – the temper, she is strong with me (“water off a duck’s back” is not our family motto) – but I try. And sometimes it actually works. I feel so good when I can look back and smugly acknowledge that I “took it like a man”.

  3. Danielle says:

    And I’ve always thought that the saying should be “take it like a woman”. I think women deal with shittier things better than men do. Physically, maybe not. But emotionally/psychologically? Please. No contest.

  4. Danielle, when a man shoves a 6-12-lb. human being out of his body after ~8-24 hours of labor pain, I’ll be really impressed. Until then, let’s definitely change it to “take it like a woman.” πŸ˜‰

  5. Great post, Lani! So true, all of it. I’ve always maintained the same thing about being happy. We can pretend to be happy all we want, we can look for the happy in external things–money, stuff, other people. But the fact is you are the only one who can make you happy, brave, tolerant, positive, able to cope. It’s all a choice, but it has to come from deep inside and then you have to make the choice to make it a part of who you are.

  6. Rose says:

    Yes, this.

    It’s funny the stupid things you remember and regret, look back on and think, I could have handled that so much better. Almost 20 years ago I was on a college trip to England, and we had chartered a bus to take us somewhere, I don’t remember. One of the young men in the group had received the news a few days prior that his father, back home, had died suddenly, and was angry and grieving but for some reason not headed home. On the way back from wherever we went that day this young man punched the driver of the bus, and we ended up stranded for hours in the middle of the countryside while arrangements were made for alternate transportation. We all headed over to a pub. I could have chosen to eat, drink, and be merry, and make the best of the situation, but instead I sulked and seethed because I was tired and goddamit I wanted to get back to where we were staying. I had a lot of fun that trip, but my strongest memory is of regret over not taking things more in stride. I need to channel some Claire and Bam.

  7. Maine Betty says:

    Love this post, Lani.

    For a lot of us this is so to the point: “Years and years of denial builds a series of mild frustrations into roiling rage, ready to spark off at the slightest provocation. So the rage is exhausting you, and the fake exterior is doubly exhausting you.”
    This probably explains a lot of road rage!

    I’m amazed that her jaw or nose wasn’t broken, that was quite a smack.

  8. Acknowledge the Suck and then Shoot Another Watermelon.

    I like that much more than Keep Calm and Carry On.

    Awesome post, Lani, and even more awesome a realization!

  9. You know, sometimes I don’t know how to get to that place where I can shake shit off. It’s almost like I have a threshold. I can shake stuff off to a certain point and then if I don’t get enough time to re-coop, that next thing – however small it is – can set me off.

    It’s like my brain suddenly says NO. No more.

    But mostly I function in that zone where life happens but I don’t let it affect my experience of the world as a good place to be. I wasn’t always like this, I’ve had to really work at checking in with myself. “Am I okay? Yes. I’m okay. Well then let’s deal with this bump and move on!”

  10. Lani, your timing is impeccable. I’ve been angry and frustrated the last few days, channeling the Wicked Witch of the West by shooting fireballs at random shit that pisses me off. I know I’m not handling a stupid situation well. I’m usually much better but I think you hit the nail square on the head. I’ve been externalizing the positive attitude for the last few weeks. Putting on the happy face. I literally felt my body relax as I read this. Sometimes life sucks. Acknowledge it then keep working on the goal. We’re afraid to give voice to our disappointment, jealousy, pain and then it owns us instead of the other way around. Thank you for the reminder.

  11. What you said and what others have said in the comments are really resonating with me. On the outside I act confident and capable and like I’m handling everything and on the inside I’m still thinking I can’t handle this, it’s too much, etc. I need to take all the things I’m learning in therapy and simply learning about myself and make them a very deep, permanent part of me, instead of leaving them at the surface.

    And I do think things like the watermelon (and other life smack downs) are easier to deal with if you have a cheerleader on your team.

  12. You know you have dozens of cheerleaders, right, Skye? I don’t interact with the Betties and Cherries all that often but I lurk and cheer and commiserate and FGBV with/for all of you. And I know I’m not the only one

  13. Kieran says:

    Great post. Wonderful revelation.

    I love what Mary said, too.

    Have you ever considered trying out for this show with Alastair?

  14. Lani,
    It’s a great lesson (especially for a mom with a daughter who is not yet in those really difficult years.) Drama is always optional.
    The watermelon in the face is not. Sometimes it will happen. We’ll all get the watermelon. And it sucks.
    The question is how long we wallow in it, how mad we get, how much drama we allow it to create that sucks us in and spins us around.
    But we can truly take a breath, acknowledge the suck and move on. Life really is so much more pleasant this way. It’s not denial. It’s a choice we can make for ourselves about how we want our lives to be.

  15. Theresa says:

    Bingo. This is something I have trouble with as well. Especially if it’s something past and done. I tend to try to convince myself that since there’s nothing I can do about it (whatever it is that is in the past), that there’s no point in being angry or hurt or [insert negative emotion]. What I’m trying to internalize is that it’s ok to say, “Wow. That sucked” or “that hurt” or even “I’m disappointed in myself” without letting those negative emotions own me. Denying a negative feeling/emotion just gives it a chance to run wild.

    Acknowledge the suckage. Take a deep. And throw the next watermelon. Definitely a good motto to live by.

  16. I remember that! It looked sooooo painful, but she really was a trooper. I’d have been looking for that plane ticket home. But then I could never go on this show because I won’t eat crazy foods. Yes, of all the crazy stuff they make these people do, THAT is my deal breaker.

    Great revelation here. Another example of how we’re so often taught NOT to think of ourselves and how we feel before others. Taking care of us is not the same thing as being selfish. Admit, there’s a fine line, but there is a definite difference.

  17. Danielle says:

    Well, I definitely see your point – that one is kind of a deal breaker. I was just thinking about the time I broke a toe and comparing it to the time my husband dislocated his (they were both pinkie toes). Suffice it to say: he took it much better than I did…

  18. I think we all have that point. We’re human. But the more you can find that space of acknowledging something sucks without going to that place where you think your whole life sucks… the easier it gets to acknowledge stuff and let it go. It’s just a bad moment. It’s a sucky thing. It’s not your whole life. It doesn’t even have to be your whole day.

  19. Thank you, Sheryl! I do forget from time to time. I appreciate the reminder very much, especially right now. πŸ™‚

  20. pamb says:

    Terri, I have the same deal breaker! Have said exactly the same thing about this show & about survivor. No yucky things!! πŸ™‚

  21. pamb says:

    I fear I’m going to sound holier-than-thou and I really don’t want to, but I gotta say–

    I know a number of men, including my dh & a couple of really good male friends, who have endured astounding health situations with a hell of a lot of fortitude and lack of complaining.

    In truth, how many women, at the time of conception, were thinking, “Boy, this is going to hurt like hell in nine months, but I’m brave & I can do it.” We do the best we can because we have to. Quite a few men do, too.

  22. KellyR says:

    I could probably force myself to eat the crazy stuff, oddly enough, because I have a lifetime of picky eating behind me. I’m used to forcing down things I find distasteful, if only to be polite. But I there is no WAY I am bungee jumping or flinging myself out of a plane. Ever.

  23. Jill says:

    Thanks, Lani. I like the watermelon analogy, could have used it last week . I will remember to snort the watermelon seed out of my nose before I inhale to scream and suck the seed into my system. Really.

  24. Alis says:

    And then there are men like my dad who has never lost a bout of competitive illness. You have a fever? His knee was suddenly “swelled up like a canteloupe.” It was an in-joke between me and my sister–one of us would complain of some form of illness and we’d time it to see how long it would take him to suddenly turn up sick. It never lasted more than 10 minutes.

    Wish I knew more men like your Ern.

  25. I do my best to be polite, but I will not choke down something I don’t like. It’s become a joke among my friends. They got me to try sushi at an RWA conference one year. Took everything I had not to spit that one bite back in the napkin. But that’s a rare exception to my “I’m not eating that!” rule.

  26. Redwood Kim says:

    I do remember those two, and that was a fantastic episode. But my favorite AR moment was in Season 4, in 2003, when the gay married couple was such a big deal. One show had one of the blond guy carping at his partner, and his partner responding,through gritted teeth, “Honey, I’m tryyyyyiinnnng!” There had been such a fuss about the two of them – gay? married? how could they! – and that was such a classic couple moment. That and the time when the couple from Kentucky, who had never been out of their own county before, said that they had never met any homosexuals before, but those two fellas? They are really nice.
    AR – come for the adventure, stay for the celebration of diversity.

  27. Not dissing men, Pam–I too know some men who’ve endured great physical difficulty with fortitude and a bright spirit. But I do think that in general, women have been gifted with a greater power to endure. We are the ones who must continue the species after all. I know we don’t do that without help, but the pain of that is ours alone. So also is the joy. πŸ™‚

  28. This is a big lesson because positivity is often a skimming on walls of a house with a shaky foundation. Pretty soon it’s all gonna come tumblin’ down.

    I’ve started to acknowledge my upset more often, so that I don’t bottle it up. This makes it easier to be positive. Someone smart has the 2 question method I follow: “What is happeningf now? Can I be with it” -probably paraphrased but extremely useful.

  29. I’m having that day today πŸ™‚
    Leak at the shop. Cats and hairballs at 4 AM. Not enough paint for the painter. A rejection from one of my most hoped-for editors. And major edit notes from my nonfiction editor on a book I thought I was done with.

    Cursed a bit and wallowed for 2 minutes online with my CP. Baked a pan of brownies. Drank 2 glasses of prosecco with dinner.

    Tomorrow, I do the edits with a smile.

  30. Micki says:

    I think maybe it depends on how much you want the final goal. All of these contestants are chosen because they are a little nuts, right (-:? They really, really want to win, so they shake off the little (and big) troubles along the way. Some better than others.

    I know if I’m working on a fascinating project, it’s easy to shake off hunger, distractions and minor setbacks . . . .

  31. Chris S. says:

    I hit that moment last month at work. One day began with a break-in, then proceeded to a leaking roof. When the phone system went haywire I announced that if one more thing went wrong I was going to light a match and walk away.

    I’m still glad February is over.

  32. Tai says:

    Wu-hu!! That is awesome that you have learned this freeing knowledge! I was in counseling/therapy for over a year to learn it. Even after that it has taken me time to truly internalize and use.

  33. Liz H. says:

    That was freakin’ awesome. I hate reality shows, but I really want to be friends with those two. Among other things, that really drove home that grad school has slowly squeezed all of my friends (and laughter) out of my life, which is no way to get through things.
    Acknowledging the suck and then moving on it tough, and I’m definitely with you. Yesterday it exploded out of me at a Starbucks barista who made the mistake of asking how I was. Exams suck and I’ve got 5 in 3 days coming, and they just changed the rules on two, to make them even worse and more impossible, but freaking out isn’t going to help, and it just make me feel like crap for becoming hysterical at someone who was just trying to be nice. So, today, I’m acknowledging the suck, being really angry for a few minutes, and then moving on, because it’s not worth it. And I can spend those that mad time taking a break and reading a good book instead.

  34. Rebecca (Another One) says:

    My problem is that I don’t let people know how I feel. If I don’t tell someone that what they have done hurts me, then how can they know to change. But I hate confrontation, or making others feel bad. So I hold it in, which is a problem.

    So I like your idea of acknowledging that something hurts.

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