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Duck… Duck… Goose!

August 17, 2010

I’ve had to take more than one psychological test professionally through the years. I took the tests to prove myself fit for one title or another. After the last one, the psychiatrist told me when we met for her evaluation, that according to the tests I was either very well-balanced, or I was a duck. “A duck?” I asked. “Yes, a duck.” she answered. “A duck looks very peaceful on top of the water, calm and relaxed, but is paddling like hell beneath the surface.” I told her I thought both were probably true.

That was the prefect description of me for most of my life. I put on a peaceful, calm, happy, satisfied face. If I was ever angry, no one knew. I somehow always found myself assumingĀ  a leadership role, but allowed my naturally introverted manner to be force-fed niceness by my desire to not be seen as the bitchy woman boss. I never wanted to be the source of conflict. Yet, I was too introverted to be called the peacemaker. Even when my professional role involved public speaking, I did so with great discomfort.

I would smile and act as if all was right with the world in order for others to feel no discomfort, then run like hell dotting I’s and crossing T’s as soon as backs were turned. I would do a mad dash, then slow down just before I could be seen, and assume a relaxed stroll as I smoothed my flying hair and tucked in my shirt-tail.

I ignored the dull ache in my chest, the burning in my legs. I barely felt the numbness in my feet and toes and blamed my shortness of breath on lack of exercise. That I spent eighteen hours a day running here and there was never thought of for even an instant as a cardiac workout. I ate on the run or not at all and thought my thin frame proof of my good health. I blamed fatigue on weakness and overwhelm on unworthiness. I explained away the cruelties of others and saw my willingness to be abused as service.

I was, indeed, a duck. If there was any balance, it was simply my ability to juggle far too much for far too long while ignoring myself.

I live across the road from a beautiful lake which is the home to many geese, as well as a few ducks. It is the geese I have spent so much time watching this Summer. I have watched them raise their geese families. Several families of a mother goose, father goose and two to six babies have entertained me for months. Adorable, darling, cute; all names for babies that grew so quickly. Their parents slow, quiet and calm while still always attentive and on guard, pushing their children into independence.

When the babies were small, the families stayed apart from each other. Even when the visitors to the lake brought then bread, only one family at a time would come to feast on the gift. Yet, when the babies were almost grown and the only sign of their youth a few remaining tufts of down on their now long necks and their slightly shorter stature, the families all came when humans threw out bread crumbs. To the casual glance, they seemed a large flock, one big family of geese. As I watched however, I noticed pecking and honking as one goose warned another to back off. I realized the parent geese were still keeping familial lines drawn. They were still protecting and guarding their babies though their babies appeared to be adult geese. To see those beautiful creatures become so loud and aggressive was shocking to me. In the blink of an eye, they went from the picture of tranquility to a force to be reckoned with.

Their warnings and pecking stop the moment the food is gone. Each family goes its own way, peaceful and quiet again. They seem to hold no grudges. They seems to feel no fear. They simply respond when a response is needed, returning immediately to their naturally peaceful state.

I was a duck. I am becoming a goose.

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