Over the years, I have spent much time sharing my trials and tribulations with one therapist or another. Usually, I visit them weekly for a stretch of a few months and then carry on my life, applying my newfound insights. But sometimes, during the really hard times, I continue visiting for much longer. I cannot overstate the value of being able to sift through the confusion that can be everyday life and having someone there with you pointing out the patterns and connections that you are just too close, too deep in the mire, to be able to see.
My last therapist who I saw in Toronto gave me some of the best advice I’ve received from a therapist in my life. And that’s saying a lot. I’ll do my best to convey her wisdom to you but know I’m sharing it through the lens of my own life. Please try to imagine it through the lens of yours.
Shakespeare had it pretty close to right all along.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts…William Shakespeare – As You Like It
Your life is a play and although you indeed go through many acts in your life (hence the name of this blog), you are consistently assigned different roles. The tricky part is knowing which role you’re best suited to play at any given moment. It’s not as easy as one may think. Being human animals with strong senses of pride we naturally gravitate to thinking we’re the stars of our own lives. All the time. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this; you’re not.
If all the world’s a stage… who are you?
Of course, sometimes you are, indeed, the leading actor. And as I mentioned, this is the one we so often gravitate to; we want to be the star, in the limelight, ideally with an adoring audience watching in awe of our fabulousness. But you’d be surprised how often the spotlight is not meant to be on you at all.
Sometimes you have a small part, and this is pretty good too. You’re still on the stage, you’re in the scene but the focus is on someone else. Maybe it’s a partner, friend, sibling, or co-worker. Maybe it’s someone you don’t even like. I’ve participated in enough corporate meetings to know this role pretty well.
Sometimes you’re the director. You still have a key role but you’re more active behind the scenes. Have you ever thrown a birthday party? Doesn’t matter if you’re Nora Ephron, John Landis, or Stanley Kubrick, you’re setting the stage. The same is true if you’re a parent of young children. It’s on you how their lives go. Well, mostly.
And sometimes you’re in the audience. I find this one the hardest. It can be difficult, especially when things seem to be going way off the rails, to just sit back and watch it happen. But not every problem is ours to fix. Not every challenge requires our intervention. As I’m sure we all have experienced, there are times when getting involved only makes matters worse. There’s a great Polish proverb that helps me when I’m planted in the audience thinking I maybe should become involved… “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does. It’s just further proof that all the world’s a stage, and sometimes that stage is a circus.
So, I challenge you to consider scenes as they play out around you and determine, as best you can, where are you best suited in that moment. You won’t always get it right but maybe if things are going wrong, you can just move to another role.