Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Mouse, the Hedgehog, and the Cactus

(Note: I wrote this as a speech for Toastmasters back in 2003. That is why it starts with “Speaking…”)

Speaking to a group of people is hard enough. Speaking about yourself - well, where do you begin?

I’m going to begin by introducing you to my zoo. No, I don’t have a menagerie of exotic animals in my backyard. (To tell you the truth, I don’t even have a backyard.)

I’m talking about my miniature zoo of three. Two animals and a plant. And I carry them with me all day long. But it’s my mood that decides which one is ascendant.

Who are these creatures? Let’s start with...

The Mouse

The Mouse is me at my best. She’s a tiny playful creature with fluffy golden fur, eyes like two drops of fresh black ink, ears like tiny pink seashells, and a long tail that zings back and forth.

The Mouse jumps upon the cheese of happiness with all four feet. She is always eager for new adventures and old-fashioned fun. The Mouse has simple needs: a little play, a little food, a little sunshine, and a little hideaway with comfy bedding to sleep upon. She does not know the meaning of the word “stress”. Every moment is an occasion for joy. I enjoy being the Mouse best.

The Hedgehog

Next in this little zoo comes the Hedgehog. A small hedgehog, a baby perhaps...but her long spines warn one and all: Stand back. I’ve got too much on my plate, and I don’t need more.

The Hedgehog’s one wish is to curl up into a ball and hide. But the world won’t let her. The world tugs at her quills with a myriad of demands: Get up. Go to work. Fight traffic. Go to the grocery store. Exercise. Do the laundry. Cook dinner. Wash the dishes. Answer e-mail. Tug, tug, tug. Is it any wonder that the Hedgehog has one mood - bad?

Underneath all those pricks, though, is a sensitive soul in need of TLC. If the Hedgehog could hide for a while, it would do her a world of good.

The Cactus

But if you think the Hedgehog is tough, watch out for the Cactus. The Cactus doesn’t want to do anything. As in no-thing. Nada. She is just too darn tired. Plus, she is filled with dull gray ash - no flowers can grow on her.

All the Cactus can do is be still. All of us want to be still at times. But my Cactus has a tendency to appear when all I must do is done...and when I can do what I want.

The Cactus cannot write. The Cactus cannot read. The Cactus cannot watch movies. The Cactus can’t go for a walk in the park. The Cactus can’t do anything. Not even the good things.


Unfortunately, I’ve been having more Hedgehog and Cactus time, while Mouse time is ephemeral [speaker‘s note: that was the word of the day]. Monday through Friday, I’m a Hedgehog during the day and a Cactus when the sun goes down. Even on the weekends, I’m catching up on what I don’t have time for during the week.

For example, I went to the Ducks game on Sunday night [Oct. 12, 2003]. I was a Mouse when I went in and, because the Ducks lost, a Hedgehog when I came out. And because I lost sleep that night, I was a Cactus the following day.

The trick is to bring the Mouse out as often as possible while respecting the Hedgehog and the Cactus. The Hedgehog reminds me when life is pushing me too far, and the Cactus tells me to rest and renew. Each member of my zoo has a role to play, and my role is to give each one the proper balance. I love all of my creatures, and want to take the best care of them.

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