“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
“Let go or be dragged.”
I am a fish. A stink ripped fish.
I am like a fish. Maybe an oily carp. With a big fat rusty hook stuck in my mouth.
That’s what I feel like when I get hooked. Except, unlike fish, I have no built-in mechanism that dissolves the hook. That rusty hook just stays in my mouth and catches on other things, as hooks will tend to do. It’s in their nature to catch things.
But I’m not a fish. Let me start over.
I am a human. A woman.
I simply get gut hooked and forget sometimes who I am.
For instance, someone, I have no idea who, commented on one of my Positively Positive essays that it sounded like I plagiarized Brene Brown. And she said also: “I’m tired of the blogs that are suddenly rehashing her research without crediting her work. There’s been an explosion of this since her research on vulnerability and wholeheartedness came out.”
Hooked. Baited and hooked.
Right after I read the comment, I got in a bad mood. I had been in a great mood before that. I felt the hook dig in and the skin in my cheek rip and bleed all over my day. Ruined. How could she say I plagiarized? I have someone doing that to me, and it feels awful. I would never, could never, do this. How and why and how dare she or he or whoever, and I love Brene Brown. I would never do that, and I am repeating myself…
and with a hook stuck in me and who cares anyway?
Pull the hook out. Pull. It. Out. Jennifer.
I remember being obsessed with this one professor I had at NYU. He wore leather jackets and washed his hands a lot, and he smoked in class. Smoked! And I am not that old. He just smoked. In class. You weren’t allowed; it wasn’t the 70’s or 80’s. But he did it, and I sat in the front row and usually had no idea what he was talking about, but I had fantasies about him and signed up for his classes again and again. That was where I first learned of the anxiety of influence. The Anxiety of Influence, aside from an idea that permeates my existence, is a book by the esteemed Harold Bloom in which he talks in very academic prose about how we are all basically influenced by someone else, and that creates anxiety. Yes, he was talking about poets, but I would like to suggest it is non-poets as well. It is people. How can we not be influenced (read: inspired) by others. So, yes, Mrs. Fisherman who threw a hook in my mouth and then left me to die, I am influenced by Brene Brown, but I did not plagiarize her, you nincompoop. What I wrote doesn’t even remotely sound like her. There’s that hook again.
The things that hook me. That hook us. The good, the bad, the ugly.
Look, the things that hook me that are good are what inspires me, and, yes, Brene Brown is on that list, as is Dani Shapiro, Cheryl Strayed, Katie Devine, my sister, Emily Rapp, great music, my husband, certain red wines. I get hooked easily. That’s why I write so much. I don’t get thrown back into the river all the time, so I sit at the computer with the hook in my mouth until it’s in my throat, and then, all of a sudden, it’s gone. It’s out in the world, and I am better for it.
Then there’s the bad and the ugly. The anxiety. The jealousy. The comparing myself, not only to others but to earlier or different versions of myself. Look how skinny I was back then! Look what she can do! It’s bad and ugly because I am not using it to inspire. I am using it to make myself small and pitiful and stinky as a dead fish.
Then there’s the really ugly. What fits in this category: the person who actually is plagiarizing me and how it turns my insides upon themselves until I am left with nothing but flailing hands and a high-pitched voice. The hook got in me so deep that I might die if I don’t rip it out myself with my bare hands.
So I do. I rip it out.
Perhaps that’s why that comment got me today. The accuser is being accused? How ironic.
There will always be things that hook us. There will always be a line waiting out there at sea, sometimes so patiently that you forget it might try and kill you as it sits there with a beer and a boat and some sunburn.
Not all the things that hook us kill us. But they fester. I got hooked by a teacher who was way older than me and who had OCD and was bald. I was nineteen or twenty. I ate puffed air in class and sucked on it for long periods of time so it would last me longer as he talked about Thomas Hardy, and here I am writing about him almost twenty years later. He hooked me.
What kills us are the hooks we let kill us.
The hooks we let dig deeper and deeper into our flesh until they are part of us and we can’t remember where we began and where we end. We can’t tell the difference between our heart and a crappy piece of metal.
I want to choose more of the things that hook me. I am not a fish. I get some say in the matter.
Let go or be dragged.
Which will it be for you? Post below.
Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and take one of her yoga classes online at Yogis Anonymous.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Yoga® weekend retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, Massachusetts Feb 1-3, 2013.
*Image courtesy of Jenni Young & SimpleReminders.