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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Lighten Up: Down Home Humor from Mark Twain and Will Rogers

'The spirited horse, which will try to win the race of its own accord, will run even faster if encouraged.' Ovid

What's Your 'Carrying a Cat by the Tail' Experience?

I love the witty humor of Mark Twain and Will Rogers. Whenever I start taking myself too seriously or getting stuck in my thinking, a quick search through my Twain and Roger quotes pulls me out of a foul mood 'faster than green grass through a goose' and has me laughing at myself in no time.

Mark Twain can evoke an image like no other and bring it home to rest for me. Here's one that tickles my fancy:
"A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."
Each time I visit that quote, the image of carrying a cat by the tail sears into my brain and elicits a full out belly laugh in me. And while I've never actually carried a cat by its tail, I know exactly what it means ---and you do too.

Just picturing myself carrying a cat by its tail makes me consider where I might be doing that in my life. Oh--it's never a real cat--rather the metaphorical cat by the tail--that person I just had to engage who's spitting mad and clawing at everyone looking for someone to bite.

It doesn't take too many 'carrying your cat by the tail' experiences for me to learn the benefits of taking a different approach with that person.

Looking for someone to bite

What have I learned to do differently by seeing those individuals as cat by the tail people?

  • Don't poke at them--and don't showcase them in undignified ways in which they feel totally out of control.
  • Always give them a place to hide so they can choose to come out and show themselves when they're ready.
  • Ignore them and go about your business until they're ready to meet you out in the open.
  • And if they can only stand the light and openness a short time, let them quietly go back to hiding undercover.

When a person is spitting mad and looking to take it out on someone, stay out the way or you will become the target--warranted or not.

The Shocking Truth

If Twain fails to lighten my mood and help me see the error of my ways, there's always Will Rogers' humor for switching on the lightness:

"There are three kinds of men:
The ones that learn by reading;
The few who learn by observation;
The rest of them have to touch an electric fence." 
Most of us start out life having to touch the electric fence---and some, like Bart Simpson, continue to learn in that manner.

As a kid growing up surrounded by cow pastures and orchards, I spent a lot of time running around with neighborhood kids exploring the world around us. One day a pack of us decided it would be fun to touch an electric fence with all of us holding hands just to see what would happen. The person at the front of the line touched the fence with a single piece of wet grass and that current whipped through our bodies, zapping us with a wallop.

Did I suspect it was a bad idea? Yep. Did I do it anyway? Yep. Did I do it again? Nope. Like carrying a cat by the tail, I learned first-hand why that wasn't such a good idea--and I've never forgotten the experience.

As Will Rogers says:

"Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."

We often choose our learning lessons, by bucking the wise counsel of others or our own better judgment. Sometimes we just have to step in and experience that wild ride for ourselves. We suspect what we're about to do is not a good idea, but we're going with it any way.

If you discover you're one of those people who still has to learn by 'carrying the cat by the tail' or 'touching the electric fence' so be it. Your learning experiences are sure to pack a wallop.

As Will Rogers says:

"Do the best you can, and don't take life too serious."

"If you find yourself digging a hole, stop digging."

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For more than 30 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes changing easier than ever before.

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Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Sue, you did a beautiful job of making your point with the help of two of our favorite humorists. We love reading their work, especially during stressful times. I'm not surprised that you like them too!

Chris said...

Thanks for the laugh and the reminder to lighten up :-)

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Jean I love how Twain and Rogers allows us a good hardy, humorous look at ourselves. You just have to enjoy the humanness of it all. Sue

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Chris--it's always about lightening up, isn't it! Sue