Don’t Drive the Scorpion Ferry

There’s an old tale I love about the Scorpion and the Frog. If you don’t know it, it goes something like this (though I’m taking some liberties): Once there was a scorpion on the bank of a stream. He called out to a passing frog, “Excuse me! Could you give me a ride across? I can’t swim!” The frog looked at him like he was nuts. “Dude,” he said, “you’re a scorpion. I’m not giving you a ride. If you sting me, I’ll die,” to which the scorpion replied, “If I sting you, you’ll drown, and I’ll die, too.” This made sense to the frog, so he said, “All right, climb on.” Halfway across the stream, the scorpion stung the frog. With his dying breath, the frog said, “Why have you done this to us?” and the scorpion said, “Dude, I’m a f&cking scorpion!”

The way people treat you is a statement about where they are on their journey, what tools they have in their toolbox, what things they’ve been through, what they’ve learned about how to survive in the world, and how they’ve been treated by other people. It’s also subject to change; a scorpion may not always be a scorpion. The main thing to grasp is that it’s not a reflection of anything lacking in you.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll remember the much older man I dated when I was seventeen. He was seeing other women for the three years we were together, and although I could never prove it, I always felt it. (I confirmed my fears once). At the time, I took it as a sign that I wasn’t enough. Not pretty enough or “something” enough to keep him interested solely in me. I spent so much time over the course of those three years feeling awful about myself. I was hooked on this interaction and convinced if I could just be enough for him, then I’d be happy. I didn’t realize that his inability to be faithful had nothing to do with me, or that a person who’s lying and sneaking around is ultimately having a painful relationship with him or herself. When you respect yourself and are making choices that are aligned with what’s true for you in a conscious and kind way, you’re not going to lie.

I think if you’re like most people, the tendency is to take those times you’ve been hurt, disappointed, neglected, betrayed, or even abused – personally. Hurt people hurt people, as the saying goes. A person can only be where she is, working with whatever tools she’s got. What is about you, is what you do about it if someone isn’t treating you well. Sometimes we get caught up in relationships with lovers, family members, friends, or colleagues. Maybe things start out well, but over time the quality of the interaction deteriorates. Circumstances change and you observe responses you wouldn’t have predicted. If you have a pattern of participating in relationships with people who treat you badly, then it is time to take a long, hard look at why. It’s about something. Identifying that something is the key to your freedom. Your deepest pain is your greatest teacher.

There are lots of frogs in the world, but there’s no other frog just like you. If you’ve been swimming in shark-infested waters too long, hiding in shadows and making yourself as small as possible out of fear, or some idea that you’re not lovable, or enough, or worthwhile, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to turn around and swim directly for the mouth of that shark. Otherwise you’ll never rest. You’ll keep running the Scorpion Ferry, becoming harder and less hopeful with each ride. Being a hopeless frog sucks. I know, because I was one. Letting yourself get swallowed whole by the shark of your fear is not a fun ride, but it won’t kill you, either. If you’re still hanging with my Moby Dick-Aesop’s Fables-Life of Pi metaphor, then you probably already understand the Willa Cather quote, “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” The Dark Night of the Soul is a storm. It’s also an invitation to know yourself, truly and deeply. To heal and liberate yourself from your pain, so that the next time a scorpion calls to you from the bank of a stream, you’ll be like, “What’s up, Scorpion? You need to get your ride from a shark, my friend!”

Sending you love, and the strength to swim toward your pain if you need to!

Ally Hamilton

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