Day-to-day to life can genuinely feel like building a house of cards. From the moment we wake up, the tasks ahead of us can range from anything entirely tedious to curiously fun. Regardless of their nature, the more cards we stack (i.e. the more stuff we get done) the more we feel accomplished. The higher we build the house, the more awesome we feel.
But all it takes is one bad card to fuck it up - one card that is all bent out of shape. This card is unstable but it is still a card so it can’t be avoided. Having to stack it, with it's warped nature, can end up making the entire house come tumbling down.
For me, this card was recently another human being. Let’s call him Eggplant. (When I originally wrote that, I thought I was just trying to be random. Then I realized that his face actually did kind of look like an eggplant.)
I’d normally just boot Eggplant from my life and move on. I am a big fan of purging those who are toxic. Don’t believe me? Just ask the people I have purged. Oh wait, you can’t because they’re gone. But you can’t always just purge any card you want. Unfortunately Eggplant was a regrettable staple to my life.
On one particular evening, I had my house stacked up pretty damn high. I excelled at some pretty tough shit and felt on fire from it all. However, at the end of the night, I had to have a conversation with Eggplant about some mistakes I previously made. I thought I was accustomed to his foul attitude by then and could let it roll off my shoulders.
However this time, Eggplant proceeded to talk down to me in a particularly revolting way; belittling me with f-bombs. We all know I am not offended by salty language. But when slung at you in a manner to criticize you, f-bombs can feel like nuclear bombs.
What made it worse was that the whole thing went down in front of several peers. Actually what made it worse was that I did a shit job of standing up for myself. At one point I mumbled something in my defense and, to my surprise, Eggplant gave it a half-assed acknowledgement. But before walking out the door, he deemed it necessary to jab me for something else that he apparently couldn’t ever let me live down.
I hadn't ever wanted to punch somebody in the face so badly in my life. My fun feelings of confidence from that night had been slashed to shreds. My house of cards tumbled to the floor. And in the days that came, I felt like shit. It kept haunting my self esteem which made it difficult to build any new house at all.
I decided that the next time I saw Eggplant, I would have to talk to him about it. I figured getting things off my chest would give me the closure I needed. Besides how would Eggplant know how his words affected people if nobody told him?
But when I saw him, the words couldn’t come. A weird knot formed in my stomach, making me realize that this plan was actually a mistake. I didn’t want closure so much as I wanted validation. And I wanted to get it by unbending a bent card. That never works.
Here’s the thing: we can’t unbend a bent card. The Dalai Lama said it best: true change comes from within (how does one little Lama know so much?). Therefore if we try to push change on a bent card, they often just become more warped and unstable than they were before.
After giving it some time, I also had the realization that my skin may have been a little too thin. Eggplant was still a dick - no doubt about it. But it was me who let his terrible attitude penetrate me so deeply. Here’s also the thing: Thin skin makes for weak houses.
If true change comes from within, then I had to start with myself. I had to learn how to build stronger houses. I couldn’t do a flimsy job of staking my cards. I had to thicken my skin. Be it through yoga or meditation or affirmations or any of those things I wished I did… I needed to somehow clear my head and feel more confidence in the shit I achieved on a daily basis.
Then I needed to really familiarize myself with this miserably bent card. I didn’t need to know why he was the way he was. I just needed to know what to expect of him. The more I examined his nature, the more I could stack my cards in anticipation of his unfortunate creases and wonky edges.
So by now I may have taken this analogy a little too far. Or maybe it is just beating some dead horse somewhere. I don’t know. Either way, I know it worked. When I reframed my brain in this “house of cards” way, it actually helped me better cope with Eggplant. Of course he’d go on to act in other terrible, ill-spirited ways after that one night. But with the cards in mind, it only made me want to punch him in the face a little (instead of a lot). Eventually I’d get to purge him from my deck completely.
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