Change The Game

SatanWe named our Christmas tree Satan. Not right away, of course. There was a progression of more appropriate names before we arrived at Satan. He was a scotch pine and we were disconcerted to discover that he that was more porcupine than pine tree. I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that he was capable of planting hard needles in soft tissue at the most inopportune moments. For instance, with arms full of delicate wine glasses, Satan somehow lodged a sharp surprise in my sock. Howling in pain with glass flying all around, I swear I heard Satan-the-tree snicker. As I recovered and stared in utter disbelief, he twinkled in reply as if to say, “What?” Evil in pine.

Satan was beautiful. His white lights were hypnotic. His seeming tree-esque innocence was his appeal. On more than a few cold snowy nights, a fire snapping and waning in the fireplace, we gazed at him until the wee hours, forgetting his true nature. Inevitably, we were lured into touching his branches. Suddenly, like a swarm of bees, our sweater arms where loaded with spiny green stingers. Satan silently watched our pain-dance-sweater-removal antics. His branches bobbed ever so slightly with delight. Oh, sadistic wood!

Soon we avoided the corner of the room where Satan stood. We abandoned holiday efficiency and comfortable travel patterns opting instead for the paths of least pain. There is a group movement exercise called Angel/Devil in which you assign yourself an angel and a devil (from other members of the group). The goal, as you move about the room, is to keep your angel between you and your devil. The exercise reveals that a devil focus always makes the world smaller. Movement bunches up. Soon, all actions become reactions to the movements of your devil. Creativity stops with a devil focus; all energy is channeled into avoidance techniques.

A focus on obstacles is a devil focus. A focus on “can’t” or “shouldn’t” is often a devil focus. Blame is certainly a devil focus.

People go to great lengths to avoid pain. We created some great stories to keep a comfortable distance between Satan and us. We unwittingly began playing an angel/devil game with our Christmas tree! Once we caught sight of the game we laughed. That’s the moment we started calling the tree Satan; we named it.  A little sacrilegious humor changed the game. Rather than fear the barbs we loved the utterly ridiculous relationship we had with the tree. It was a good reminder as we enter a new year to deal with the barbs instead of trying to negotiate them. Of the very few things we can actually control in this life, the primary one is where we place our focus. We choose what we see. We interpret what we see. So, it is important to focus on something other than the devil or the problems or the obstacles. Another lesson from Satan: call a barb a barb and don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Deal with the stuff, don’t ignore it.

It was with great relish that I roped Satan’s stump and pulled him without ceremony outside into the cold. We drug him down the street (he made an awesome brush pattern in the snow) to the tree collection spot where he will soon be transformed into mulch. Pulp justice.

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One Response

  1. Masterful reframing! Love it.

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