I’ve been fishing a lot lately.
I’m not good at it, but I go anyway. I decided I wanted to spend more time at our local lake this year, and fishing seemed like a good way to do it. I’ve never been much of a fisher, but when I’ve gone in the past, someone was always around to choose the right bait and set up my pole for me. But this year I’m flying solo. I have no doubt I’m using the wrong lures and tying the wrong knots and even going to the wrong places, but against all odds, every once in a while I actually catch something. I play it cool when it happens, but I admit it makes me happy…very very happy.
Something I realized quite quickly after catching my first fish this year, however, was that I’d never actually unhooked a fish by myself. So as I reeled in the little bass, I began to wonder, “Uh oh…now what?” I pulled him from the water and as he hung from my line, I reached for the hook stuck in his mouth. He jumped of course, so I jumped of course and secretly hoped no one was watching. Then I laid him on the shore, still attached to my line, and crouched down next to him and said, “I’m sorry.” I really did. Very quietly I said, “I’m so sorry. I bet that really hurts. But I’m gonna take the hook out now, okay? Just be still. Be still.” Then I grabbed the hook without actually touching the fish, continuing to tell him over and over that I was sorry and I’d get him back in the water as fast as I could. And you know, he just laid there on his side, breathing calmly, with his big eye looking up at me doubfully: You have no idea what you’re doing, do you? No, I really don’t. I’m sorry.
Thankfully the hook came out fairly quickly. Then I took a deep breath before reaching down and picking him up with both hands to set him gently in the water so he could swim away…far far away.
Then I cast my line again.
You might think I’d have been traumatized by that first “unhooking”. Or you might think I’d be so moved by my own heartfelt apology that I’d vow never to tempt another innocent fish with a hook concealed in something strongly resembling a tiny yummy fish. You might think that, but I cast my line nevertheless. Whizzzz…ploink! And like I said, every once in a while I catch something. Each time I lay the little fish down and whisper soothing words of encouragement as I wriggle the hook out of his mouth to set him free.
But not all the fish are soothed by my apologies and pep talks. Some of them flop around and around and I can’t get a hand on them. The first fish I saw do this actually flopped around so much he managed to unhook himself and flop back into the water without me ever touching him. It was great! But I figured he got lucky and it would probably never happen again. Believe it or not, though, I’ve seen it happen two more times! Out of about 12 catches, three of them jumped around so much that they got themselves free. The other 9 or so I unhooked and set back in the water.
So that got me thinking…
Apparently, we have two choices.
We can fight and fight and fight until we get what we want.
Or we can chill out and let someone help us get what we want.
So which is better?
Independent warrior or easygoing pragmatist?
Depends on the day, I suppose.
I have to say, though, I do appreciate it when those Zen fish agree to lie still on the sand as I hunch over them nervously. Because as I go through that process over and over, I’m getting better at removing hooks. I’m getting better at holding fish without either of us jumping. And I’m getting better at being brave–not that a 9-inch fish is terrifying, but you know what I mean. My point is that if all the fish flopped and flopped and made it back to the water by themselves, I wouldn’t get to learn anything. Granted, my hands would be a lot less stinky, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be as much fun.
I know my independent warrior instinct tends to want to run the show: I can do it; just let me handle it.
But if allowing someone else to lend a hand means they get to learn something or get to practice something or get to be brave about something, maybe stepping back and letting them help isn’t such a bad idea.