I've heard the expression "not my zoo, not my monkey" a lot lately. It reminds me of my desire to mind my own business and not get caught up in a lot of drama that wreaks my peace of mind (=serenity).
I have spent a lot of time wreaking my peace of mind by being involved in situations that were not only dramatic but harmful and unhealthy. I do my best to avoid people that create a lot of drama, beckoning me to be part of their "zoo".
Things go well for me when I am around healthy, intelligent, mindful and compassionate people. Some of these are working a program of recovery and some are simply enlightened enough about themselves to be in harmony with those around them. I learn a lot from people who are loving, vulnerable, humble and authentic. I seem to be at peace when I am with them.
But social interactions aren't always idyllic. Plenty of people out in the world are restless, irritable and discontent with who they are and emit a negative vibe that can ensnare me in the zoo. Like the saying, "monkey see, monkey do", if I am around "unhealthy" people enough, then I begin to take on their attributes.
Take, for example, a discussion with my wife who is my touchstone in so many ways. We both have found a healthy way to express our feelings. We have learned to navigate in a relationship that was unhealthy to where we respond to each other with love, empathy and understanding. Consequently, our love has grown. We talk about how we feel when there is a misunderstanding, rather than trying to justify, argue, be defensive or make excuses.
Have you been around someone who goes on the attack when a problem comes up? I have a friend who is a dry drunk but sober for 24 years. He is definitely restless, irritable and discontent with much in his life. After a few years of unemployment, he now has a good job. Yet he complains about having to be "on call" when it doesn't suit his agenda. Nothing seems to be his fault; rather, everyone else is messed up or is making mistakes. If I am around him for any length of time, I begin to feel impatient and irritable too.
So instead of getting sucked into being captured in a cage in the zoo, I detach and get away from people when they are in a hurtful, blaming, angry and vindictive state of mind. While it is important to me to work on myself and my behaviors, to see my past and present, one of the things I have learned is it is impossible for me get mentally and emotionally healthy while I am involved in unhealthy relationships. If I stay too long, then all of my worst shortcomings emerge. Generally, there isn't just one sick person in a relationship: there are two.
My choices are important because if I find myself in the same situation again and again, then it's my doing that put me in the zoo. I am a "stick it out" kind of person, loyal to a fault. But what that has meant is that I have done the same dance with different people over and over.
I do see my reactions to others have changed in recent years. I don't focus so much on what needs to be changed in them, but about what I need to change and what my motives are for being in a relationship with difficult and unhealthy people. I don't have a magical solution. But I trust my gut feelings. I observe my dynamics with others, inventory my feelings, detach rather try to change people. I ask myself if what I am doing and who I am with is what I want in my life. Do the people bring me peace? Do I feel loved? Can I trust the person? These are hard questions but necessary for me if I am going to feel uncaged. And that, my friends, is what I place as being most important in life these days.