I’m not generally a fan of internet memes but there’s one that’s been floating around for a while that could not feel more appropriate right now:
‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’
Apparently it’s some old Polish proverb for not getting dragged into other people’s crazy. I’ve never been aware of the Polish circus monkey problem until now, though my total knowledge of the country and its history is bookended by the holocaust and Lech Walesa. I am not a circus monkey denier but nor do I really care about them. However I will keep repeating this proverb until my own need passes.
The circus in this case is the family that I would have been part of had I not been handed off at birth to a couple of traveling gypsies and forced to join their circus instead. I’ve been resentful about this ever since and have always envisioned a better life at my OC (original circus) — you know tricycle riding, poo-flinging, the whole thing. How could these strangers possibly offer me a better life than that? Oh if only I’d paid more attention to the Tarzan animated movie instead of just singing along to Phil Collins.
It’s tough right now because one of the monkeys is my almost-sister Ingrid. I can’t bring myself to call her my half sister because this suggests that she’s half something else and now that I’ve started the whole monkey thing, I’m picturing her in Planet of the Apes and this is not helpful.
I’ll admit that I’ve got a bit of a sister crush. I always wanted a sister. I think this came from having a brother who clearly didn’t. My needy, people pleasing personality was a bit redundant when the family already had a golden retriever. And Bruce was there years before me.
Ingrid and I share a mother but have different fathers. Mine is, as previously described fabulous and French, whereas Ingrid’s is British, not at all fabulous and shares the same name as my brother. In the context of this blog he is Dr Zaius. In fathering/semen terms it seems that I dodged a bullet.*
Ingrid and I met up again in London last month. It had been over 25 years since we first met and we talked non-stop for about 9 hours. And have emailed every day since. My almost-sister is normal in a non-boring way, funny, sarcastic and someone I would have become best friends with had we met in a non-birth related universe. The fact that Ingrid’s 16 year old daughter is a model who works/walks all over the world just gives us both a reason to brag, though to be fair only Ingrid has the genetics to back it up.
I still don’t really know what prompted me to get in touch with her again. Her/our mother had been on my mind for a while because athough I am known for my grudge-bearing capabilities, the 27 years since our reunion seems like a long enough punishment for her abandoning me to the wolves.**
Ok this is partly a lie. I wanted to get in touch with her to find out why I’m getting hit with so many health issues that the doctors tell me are hereditary and to see what else I might have to look forward to. During our 9 hour conversation I discovered that Ingrid, her brother and I have a lovely shared inheritance of a buggered immune system that apparently likes to turn in on itself and attack from within. If I were a lazy writer I’d call this a good analogy for their whole family. Which it is.
And now we’ve all been told that our collective mother is terminally ill. Dr Zaius has brought her back from Spain to the UK and the situation sounds horrid and sad and unfair and all I can do right now is leave an open phone line for Ingrid and let the rest of the circus run its course.
In talking about her own family upbringing, Ingrid described herself as the black sheep of the family. Clearly this is a bit confusing in a discussion about monkeys, but I must admit I have much the same out of place feeling with both her family and my own. Monkeys may be more entertaining to watch and you’re unlikely to ever see sheep in the circus unless the monkeys are riding motorbikes and jumping over the top of them, but when you’re 48 and have trouble sleeping I think I’d sooner be in a flock of 2 black sheep than with a bunch of crazy apes.
As the old Norwegian proverb goes, blood is thicker than water. Unless there’s been an oil spill.
* Semen bullets are a product of my imagination
**Mr and Mrs Gallant were/are not actually wolves. Or gypsies.
I use “not my monkeys, not my circus” to remind myself there are things beyond my control that are a waste of emotional energy to fret over. Somehow, the mental image of monkeys wrecking havoc at a circus works for me — it represents the absurdity of a situation, yet how can I be expected to herd circus monkeys?
And, like you, I have some “life issues” that fester time-to-time. I suspect most people do. That’s not to minimize your situation. But I find it calming to apply the monkey image when my subconscious is brewing trouble.
Hope it also brings you some peace. Love the humanity your blog, and especially this post.
Thank you so much for writing Marilyn. Love your perspective on this and I’ll definitely carry that image of monkeys wreaking havoc! I appreciate your thoughtful words. Certainly none of us have a monopoly when it comes to dealing with crazy makers! Hope yours are keeping quiet 🙂