Not My Circus

My underwear theory of self esteem goes like this: if your underwear is old and worn out, it is time to work on your self esteem. Step one: Go buy yourself all new underwear and throw out the old stuff. Step two: If you have never been in therapy, get a therapist. People will be glad to refer you to theirs. If you already have a therapist, refer to step three. Step three: Tell the therapist you want to work on your self esteem.

Several times in my life, I have opened my underwear drawer and declared it a disaster zone. I did that again this past week. It was time once again to go shopping and to re-examine my self esteem.

I went for the proverbial “low hanging fruit” by heading to the lingerie section of Macy’s. After trying on a few things with no luck, I asked a gray-haired Asian woman in a long, floral print dress with a Macy’s badge to help me. She took a couple of my measurements and handed me a few items to try on in the fitting room. My little dog Rafa took a liking to her and decided that he wanted to play with her while I was busy. She explained that her dog had died not too long ago and that she loved dogs. So, she began talking to Rafa in a high voice, “Oh, you want to play with Auntie while Mommy’s busy.” (Here in Hawaii, every older woman is “Auntie” and every older man is “Uncle,” as if we are all related.) Auntie and Rafa figured out the right size, going back to the rack and forth to the fitting room and I bought ten of the same item, my year’s supply of that kind of underwear. Rafa jumped up on Auntie one more time and licked her face as she bent down to pet him. I thought I saw tears in her eyes as she handed me the Macy’s bag. “Mahalo,” we said to each other at the same time.

The next day, I attended my second meeting of my estrogen-filled women’s support group. I got hugs from lovely, warm women and Rafa received belly rubs, scratches behind his ears, tickles, pats and lots of affection. He was a big hit. He looked up at each admirer as his new Best Friend Forever, wagging his tail a mile a minute. At eleven pounds, he intimidated no one. After refreshments, when we began to talk, he laid down for a nap under a chair next to me. The topic was “Boundaries: for what am I responsible and not responsible.” As one who can easily get swept up into others’ agendas and lose touch with myself, this is a great topic.

Sometimes, I hear the Divine speak to me through people in groups like this. As Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote, “Human beings are God’s language.” Well, I heard what I needed to hear. One of the women shared that she worries about things that are not her responsibility and uses this phrase: “Not my circus, not my monkey.” I could easily ask myself, is the thing I am thinking about my circus or my monkey? If not, there is probably some business of my own to which I need to attend. And as I focus on those things, doing esteem-able things, getting my own self straightened out (with therapy), my self esteem will rise. It always does.