Not My Circus, Not My Monkey

Image: Cast members from Cirque du Soleil perform on-stage during the LA Premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s “KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities” at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP)

The Wondrous World of Cirque du Soleil

If you have ever had the good fortune to attend Cirque du Soleil, you are one of the lucky ones. You have been given the opportunity to experience magic.

I have seen two shows, La Nouba and Kurios, and it is like being transported into a land of dreams where the impossible becomes possible. Awe-inspiring feats are made simple by ordinary (let’s face it, extraordinary!) men and women. Bicycles fly, people dine upside down on ceilings, and bodies create towers of statues that change shape before your eyes. The fluidity of movement set to colorful music stirs the imagination.

If every circus inspired this way, I’d say “sign me up!” The truth is that not every circus is going to be so grand. Oftentimes, peanut shells crunch underfoot. Animals bray in captivity. There are crowds and noise and busyness all around. For those who get the heebie jeebies around clowns? The circus might give you some restless nights.

I mean, how DO they fit all those clowns into those teeny tiny cars?

The thing is that we all have our own circus. It may not come with trapeze swings or tight ropes but our lives are a circus.

Welcome to My Circus

Come one, come all, to the greatest show on Earth!

I don’t know about that exactly but I firmly believe that each life is precious in its own way.

My circus is not limited to four walls and a roof, certainly not a tent. In fact, there are no physical boundaries. My circus is built on my experiences — on the lives I meet, on the people I love, and on the folks who challenge me.

I may not have death-defying stunts or clever tricks to match the excitement of Cirque du Soleil, but life is a matter of perspective. Giving birth may have been my riskiest feat yet, thanks to all those post-partum complications, but it was worth every moment to deliver my two gorgeous healthy kids! Or maybe it was a trick to be the first in my family to go to college and then stepping it up to become a doctor. Or maybe it was publishing my first book when the odds were against me. All of these were great moments in my life that required me to take a risk.

That doesn’t mean that everything in my life is blooming with rainbows. I could focus on the negative things in my life — trust me, I have my fair share — but to dwell on them here will do no good. That is not a circus I want to live in. I choose to live a more positive life. It is not always easy but I make the effort.

Complaining does not solve problems. Only taking action does.

Everyone Has a Circus

Some people face major health problems every day, conditions like cancer, chronic pain, and heart disease. Some people cannot afford a roof over their heads. Some people are hungry and cannot feed their families. Some people face violence on a day-to-day basis whether from bullying or racism or outright political divide. How do they do it?

Their circuses can be unfair and cruel, but they bravely hold up the tent.

We all have highs and lows in our lives. The ones we choose to focus on define who we are.

Take the high road and you become the circus ring leader. There is always a solution, even if it is not the “perfect” one you hope for. You know that you can focus your creativity and energy on making the best of your circumstances.

Take the low road and you make yourself a victim, a circus side show. What can you do to take control of your life again? Instead of letting things happen to you, make things happen. Instead of accepting things as they are when they make you unhappy, challenge the status quo. You deserve to take center stage.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkey

The Polish have a saying — Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy — that literally translates to “Not my circus, not my monkey”I may not be Polish, but I can appreciate the sentiment.

How often do people put the weight of their problems on you? How often do gossipers try to drag you into other people’s business or worse yet, stick their noses into yours? It happens all the time.

What you need to remember is that it is okay to stay out of it. I hate to say it, but some circuses put on a bad show. The negative energy they generate can overwhelm you and bring you to focus on less than positive things in your own life. You need to decide if visiting the circus is something that really matters to you.

It is okay to close the curtain on people too, to keep them out of your own circus. You do not need anyone’s permission to keep things private. This is your life. You decide how many acts you want in the show and how many people are invited.

When You Care Too Much

My problem is that I care too much. A doctor I worked with told me that once. You see, *gasp*, I actually wanted to make sure that my patients got the care they needed. I would call them after an urgent care visit to make sure that things turned out alright if I had sent them to the hospital or if I was concerned about a diagnosis.

This other doctor wanted no part of that circus. Once the patient left the premises, he was done. He told me to let the primary care doctor or the hospital team take over. The final outcome was in someone else’s hands. Essentially, there was no emotional investment in the patient as a person.

I don’t know about you, but I think a doctor should care. I would never change that about myself. What if the patient never followed up with his doctor? What if he never made it to the hospital? What if a phone call was all that was needed to put him on the right track? I actually care about the work I do and the people I meet. I blame empathy and compassion.

Be Empathetic, Be Compassionate, But Take No Bull

Empathy and compassion, by definition, make everything your circus.

The ability to put yourself in someone’s shoes, to relate to what they are going through, is what empathy is all about. Being compassionate, touched by someone’s suffering, moves you to take action to help that person. While these are good qualities to have, you are unlikely to feel these emotions towards everyone and that is okay.

I don’t exactly feel empathy towards that doctor.

No two people are the same and no one shares an experience in exactly the same way. Some circuses may be less Cirque du Soleil and more WWE Smackdown. The world is a puzzle of circuses and depending on what drives you, only some may be worth a visit. Not everyone wants to be pulled into contentious battles or relentless drama.

Visiting too many circuses is a mistake I make time and again, and one that I am learning to overcome. I try to fix everything for everyone. It is inherent in me to help people. I need to remind myself to act when it feels right, not just because I feel pressured. I cannot let people take advantage of me. More to the point, I will not be a punching bag.

My family and friends know I am there for them and am willing to lend a helping hand when I can. My patients know that I give my full attention when I meet with them and that I offer sincere recommendations. That does not mean I have to take on more than I can handle.

Sometimes I go to the circus.

Sometimes I don’t, even if I keep an eye out on those monkeys.