This morning, during my usual run through the Garden of the Gods — a glorious, other-worldly landscape a scant half-mile from my doorstep — I slowed just long enough to wave at the snowy summit of Pikes Peak.
I waved at a mountain. I was — well — glad to see it, though I see it every day because this is where I live.
I have recently been having these spells: sudden, unreasoning happiness. Exuberance. Joy, even.
It’s a wonderful feeling, but at the same time, becoming Tigger feels a little disconcerting to someone who has spent much of her adult life as Eeyore. Ever the dour donkey, I have whiled away years of my life ruminating over what went wrong, what is currently going wrong and what will no doubt go wrong soon.
Look, it’s true: Lots does go wrong in the Hundred Acre Woods of our lives: The lover leaves. The job turns ugly. Bills accumulate. Health deteriorates. The people and animals we love die. It’s tough to be Tigger at such times.
But it’s tough for some of us to be Tigger even when things are going well. We seem born to the half-empty glass, and spend the rest of our lives draining it. I have strong matrilineal Eeyore genes, and have honed a propensity for negativity through decades of practice. I was born, too, with a proclivity for high emotion, and, in younger days, was seduced by the romance of darkness.
So, while I’m not sure what to make of my middle-aged Tigger — secretly, I was hoping for Owl — I doubt this is the end of Eeyore. Although it’s wrong to wed drastically different literary genres and tones, I present for your consideration the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (though Tigger lacks the sophisticated ethics of the good doctor, and Eeyore the moral turpitude of the bad mister).
As you may recall, the clean-living, honorable Dr. Jekyll becomes the brutish, depraved Mr. Hyde by drinking one of those gurgling, smoking concoctions that exist only in old-movie laboratories. Drawn to the potency of his own darkness, Jekyll repeats the experiment, though it poisons his soul and destroys the lives of others. By the time he musters the strength and wisdom to dispose of the evil potion and turn toward the light, it’s too late. Dr. Hyde has become his default personality; the transformation occurs spontaneously and, eventually, in full view of his pursuers.
Here’s my favorite cinematic version, starring Spencer Tracy:
Eeyore-style negativity is a kind of Mister Hyde, an habitual way of being in the world that for some of us becomes automatic. If repetition is the key to learning, I have a lot of practice ahead of me before I fully realize Tigger. But it’s an indication of progress that I even think it possible.
Being present — staying put in this very moment — is crucial. I love how Buddhist teacher and author Pema Chodron (mostly Owl, with a generous dash of Tigger) recalls her own journey, here in an excerpt from her wonderful audio CD Getting Unstuck:
Glad to be alive. It’s a strange notion to my Eeyore, who is suspicious of the exuberant newcomer. An excerpt from A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner:
“Eeyore walked all round Tigger one way, and then turned and walked round him the other way.
‘What did you say it was?’ he asked.
‘Ah!’ said Eeyore.
‘He’s just come,’ explained Piglet.
‘Ah!” said Eeyore again.
He thought for a long time and then said: ‘When is he going?'”
Never, I hope. Never.