I am a self-proclaimed bibliophile. I love books. One of the best days of my life (book wise) was also one of the worst days of my life (financially). This day I discovered half.com, a website where it is possible to buy books as cheap as 75 cents. This, along with my single lifestyle, I was able to buy any book I wanted. I love to read. I used to read a book a day. When Princess Pea was a small infant and would just lie on the floor, I would pull out a book that I had picked out just for us and read her chapters from the book as she played on the floor. She usually fell asleep.
It is no mystery to me that Pea is a bibliophile in the making. She loves going to the library, going to story time, picking out books, reading books, everything about books. She has her favorite books that we read over and over again. One of these books that I feel like I’ve been reading forever and a day is The Pout, Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen.
If you’re not familiar with this soon to be classic book, it’s a story of a fish with big pouty lips. The fish is encountered by his various friends who encourage him to just be happy. Mr. Fish responds that he would like to be, but being dreary and sad is his destiny, he was born this way and he cannot change. Here comes the spoiler: Another fish with big pouty lips comes along and kisses him on his pout and swims away. It is in this moment that Mr. Fish realizes that he was wrong, he can change, he does have the power to choose his life’s course and he decides to become a “kiss-kiss fish” and “spread cheery-cheeries all over the place.” He then proceeds to cheer up his friends by kissing each one.
I love this book. It is has a great sing-song rhyming pattern, it has great illustrations, it has a happy ending, it is definitely a great book. But my love for this book is more than just the writing, the pictures and the ending, I love this book because of the deep messaged embedded in the story. This message is for more than just children, but for adults too: the message that we can choose our life.
As a bibliophile, I’ve read so many books and stories of fate, destiny, the main character has something happen to them and no matter what happens, they are fated to follow a certain path. This message is so strong in our society. We hear people proclaim “I was just born this way, I cannot change” about any weakness or shortcoming that we face. We blame our parents, we blame the media, teachers, society, everyone but ourselves. Often we avoid blame entirely and focus on embracing these weaknesses we have. We figure we have them, they’re part of us, and we must accept and love them. We ultimately settle, deciding to become victims of circumstance rather than victors of life.
Mr. Fish floated through the ocean, being a sour puss. He was so wrapped up in the fact that he had a pouty face that he couldn’t see any other possibilities for his life. It is easy to see life and think that there is no hope for change. This attitude can cause a few different problems in our lives: we settle for less, we refuse change, we doubt our potential, we give up our agency and are acted upon rather than act for ourselves.
We settle for less
Ever since Superman and I got married, we’ve been apartment dwellers. Every time our lease ends, we move to another apartment. For a girl who was raised in the suburbs, apartment dwelling becomes frustrating. I’ve always just wanted my own house, my own walls to paint, my own bathroom to tile, my own place. But after almost four years of apartment life and unsure when a house will happen, I find myself feeling like apartment life isn’t so bad, we don’t need a house.
Now I know this seems kind of spoiled for me to act this way, but it’s more of an analogy. We have dreams of doing something great, being something special, or having an ideal life, but sometimes it doesn’t happen how we want or when we want. It becomes easy for us to settle, to give up on our goals, or even accept that our problem or weakness is the norm.
When we settle, we reject our divine nature. We reject that truth that we are meant to do so much more in this life. We may feel that our lack of self-control is normal, our negative perspective is just the way we are and we give up our diving inheritance for a lackluster life.
We refuse to change
Every time we move, I hate it. I hate moving, I hate the packing, the loading, the unloading, the sorting, the cleaning, all of it is miserable. The worst part of it for me is changing wards. In my church our congregations (wards) are set up by location. Everyone within a certain area will attend church at a certain time. We don’t stress about liking this bishop over another (well, we do, but it’s not supposed to be a deal) because church is the same all over the world. When we move, I have to start over making friends, feeling comfortable, feeling like I fit in, and learning people’s names (I am terrible with names). When we move to a new ward, it takes anywhere between three to nine months for me to like my new ward.
I have spent many conversations with Superman complaining about our new ward and how I don’t like it. In true husband fashion, Superman listens, and then tells me exactly what I need to do to fix this problem. Hearing the “oh so simple” solution to a problem that has me so emotional is not something I accept. Actually, I usually reject it. I get even more frustrated because I don’t want a solution, I just want to complain.
The kicker about the whole thing is, I know what the solution is. I know what I need to do, but that requires me to change and for me to do some work. I don’t want to change. It is easier to complain and wallow than it is to change.
This isn’t just me either, we float through the ocean, hearing our dear ones tell us what we need to do to be happy, but we wallowing in our feelings is so much easier and less scary. What if we try and fail? What if we try and nothing changes? What if we try and are rejected? There are a lot of unknowns and scary things about change. When we wallow and complain instead of changing, we know what’s going to happen, we know how to deal with that.
We doubt our potential
In high school, I loved to draw. I drew comics and cartoons pretty much constantly. My friends and I had these comic books that we made. One person would draw and add to the story then pass it to the other person and so on. I think I was always doing at least three of these at any given moment in high school.
The comics were a great outlet for my creativity and over active imagination as well as a tool to improve my artistic ability. The down side was that when I was drawing with my friends, we have different styles and skill levels. I often felt inferior to my friends. I had moments of doubt. I questioned why they would even spend their time drawing with a no talent like me.
One day I voiced my feelings to one of my uber-talented buddies. She gave me such a strange look and then told me that I was just as good, if not better than her. I found that true with other friends I drew with. They all felt that sometimes I was better than them and other times they were better than me, it just depended on what was being drawn.
Women especially love to compare, we compare clothes, hair styles, cars, houses, family situations, education, and so on. I personally have found that when I compare my life to others, I am miserable. All I can think of is how I’ve been cheated, how unfair it is that they have x while I don’t. Superman always reminds me of my other things that I have had to deal with and my blessings. It doesn’t always work, but after I wake up and realize that all comparing does is leave us empty and miserable.
If we really look at our life, we’ll find that there are so many great things that we’ve been able to do that maybe those picture perfect Facebook friends don’t have or are envious of us for having. We all have different trials and problems. These are catered just to our personal abilities and needs. We need to remember that.
We give up our agency
This may sound weird, after all, it is impossible to go five minutes without making some sort of choice. But it is possible to give up our agency in a sense. The victim mentality does this. This attitude robs us of our future.
Once upon a time I had my life ripped out from underneath me. I was in my mid-twenties and starting over. I felt like a failure. I have often had moments where I felt like I was a victim of other people’s choices. I would blame other’s choices for the problems in my life. I would blame society, blame my parents, and blame everyone. It wasn’t my fault; I’m just a victim, but all this blame only lead to me losing the control in my life. I was giving all the power to everyone else. I was taking away the control of my life and giving it away to other people and things.
Those who are familiar with our church’s history know that in the beginnings of the church, there was so much persecution and hatred towards my people. The crimes committed against my ancestors would make many people shocked that this had occurred in a country that preaches freedom. Growing up, I learned the stories of my people so many times over, I could tell them in my sleep. I remember one day asking my mom why we don’t call out against the past crimes as well as the discrimination that continues against us today. My amazing mom smiled and said “we are not victims.”
Being a victim is a loss of power. Talking to victims of crimes, it’s an event that they battle to overcome and gain their power back. They don’t enjoy being a victim. They do everything they can to move past it and take back their lives.
Anyone who would willingly give away their power seems ridiculous.
We must come to a point where we see that we don’t have to be pouty. We don’t have to be miserable. We can choose for ourselves how we want to be. We may not be able to choose everything, but we can choose to be happy, to be grateful, to see the positive, to love others, to share joy. We can be kiss-kiss fish.