Watch for droopy otters

Posted on June 12, 2010

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Over twenty years of parenting has solidified my belief that everyone needs lots of hugs. And kudos. And people in one’s life who could correct, but choose to smile instead and have faith that the next try will be better.

I don’t think just short people need this.

We work and build and grow things, fix things and clean and buy. We motivate each other, teach each other, and test each other. We do meaningful, impressive things. But undergirding it all is the ability to help ourselves and others stretch further than we can, do more than we think, be better than we are.

And literally or not, that begins with a hug. It begins with a belief held in one mind that it can be done, that lights a fire in another mind to do it. Encouragement is not the icing on a lovely dessert; it’s the main course.

When we lived in Kansas we made regular pilgrimages to the zoo- a spectacular place with scores of acres of fabulous exhibits, but our favorite was the otters. We could sit and watch them swimming, chasing each other, galomping humorously on the land and then sliding into the water where they were at home for hours.

Otters are always “in the zone.” Their movements are fluid and precise. They play. All the time. Otters are the epitome, to me, of secure children, who act with the grace that comes of knowing that they are okay, they know what they’re doing, and they’re having a ball. They don’t run into the rocks clumsily or throw fits or sit on a rock and stare blankly. They play.

I wonder sometimes how to be “in the zone” consistently and how to help others get there too. All motivational literature focuses on how we think as a precursor to how we succeed. Little of it touches on how we feel. Do you feel secure? Do you run into rocks clumsily or throw fits or sit on a rock and stare blankly? I do. Sometimes.

If I could choose what animal I would be, it would be an otter. I would slide into the water and fly through it doing flips. I would chase and turn and zing. I would galomp on the land and stand in the sun a moment, and dive back into the water.

And I’m real enough to know that that kind of freedom comes much easier when I’m feeling confident, and confidence comes much easier when I receive encouragement. So if I haven’t hugged you and told you what an interesting and inspirational person you are, stick out your lower lip. I’ll figure it out and get with the program. And if you see me (or anyone else) dragging around, consider giving  a hug. We probably need it. Nothing sadder than a droopy otter.

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