As 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, when 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.)