Today is one of those days when “I just don’t want to.” There isn’t any specific thing that I want to avoid or neglect or deny. It’s more general than that. Today, I just want to close my eyes and wish for everything to go away. It’s a tad melodramatic, I know, but it’s honest. It’s just one of those days. It’s also one of those days that the soul-warping mind conditioning I picked up during my time in personal development, practice management, self-improvement boot camp takes over and forces me to keep going. As much as I resented my time in Life Actualization land, there were parts of it that weren’t total hooey. So today, thanks to the collective wisdom of the self-appointed guru-life-coaches of the world, the minute I think “I don’t want to,” I instantly go into shark-mode.
Shark-mode (and the proverbial shark it’s based upon) is what they told me I had to be if I wanted to be a success. Why a shark? It’s simple. According to the gurus, all sharks must continually swim to live and a fully actualized human must, metaphorically speaking, do the same. Therefore, if I stop swimming, like a shark, I will sink to the bottom of the ocean and die. (To be fair, this metaphor is a little overly simplified. There are some shark species that can rest on the bottom of the ocean and not die and others that seem to have the ability to rest parts of their brain and swim at the same time, essentially sleep-swimming their way through the ocean. The human equivalent of that trick is something I am thoroughly incapable of doing in a way that is safe and doesn’t look like something out of a horror movie. Pointing out this kind of minutia tends to weaken the self-improvement message or so I was told when I pointed out these specific inconsistencies.) So, in guru-life-coach terms, to be a shark means to keep moving despite how it feels or what obstacles might be in the way, because stopping leads to negative ramifications and possibly general failure. As a side note, they never actually threatened an outcome of literal death, which I thought was nice of them.
Now, years after my time in Life Actualization land, whenever I am faced with a day like today, my body immediately goes into shark-mode. It’s like a reflex. Shark-mode happens whether it’s the right thing to do or not. In my case today, however, the water in which I find myself feels particularly daunting as if my average reflex induced shark-mode isn’t going to be enough. Today, I feel like my shark-self is swimming in infested waters donning a Lady Gaga style meat-dress. It’s the shark-fashion equivalent of a bucket full of chum. It gets noticed, but not everyone likes it, and it tends to attract as much praise as it does other, very bitey sharks.
To be clear, I am in no way comparing myself to Lady Gaga—only her meat-dress. In my opinion, Gaga is the pinnacle of the success that is possible when training, talent, drive, and opportunity slosh around together over the Bunsen burner that is the entertainment industry. I’d be lucky to possess one tiny sliver of the talent, success, and endurance Gaga possesses. I haven’t always held her in such high regard, however. In the beginning, she was just the annoying background music to my ill-fated marriage. At the time, I was so far down in pop culture hole, I didn’t even know who she was until my chiropractic assistant, Kayla, introduced me to her music and outrageous stage performances. One afternoon at lunch, after I had shared what I thought to be a jaunty retelling of NPR’s discussion of Argentinian Malbecs, Kayla rolled her eyes, called me a geriatric, and then forced me to watch a litany of YouTube videos like “I’m On a Boat” and “D***-in-a-Box” along with several Lady Gaga videos. I had to admit she was pretty good, and I was staggered by the reality that I did, in fact, sound like a geriatric. (I was in my mid-thirties at the time, and it was a bit of a wakeup call.) Later that year, Gaga wormed her way into the office only once more when her effervescent lyrics, “My Christmas tree’s delicious…” poured loudly out of the office sound system over a quiet waiting room full of patients. (Needless to say, that CD was permanently pulled out of the rotation.)
My personal history with Gaga aside, she is the perfect example of the gurus’ shark. No matter what, she keeps going and creating and is not derailed by bad press or a public misstep. She takes all of her hits and all of her misses and learns from them as she keeps moving. She continues to improve. She keeps saying “yes” to opportunities. She works hard and has already created a body of work that is impressive by any standard. Gaga is a shark in every good sense of the metaphor, and she is the original shark-in-a-meat-dress. So, when “I don’t want to” or when I’m having a shark-in-a-meat-dress kind of day, I’ll just have to think of Gaga and keep swimming.
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