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life is a circus: 5 lessons from inside the big top

 Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going,
don't take anything too seriously,
it'll all work out in the end.

David Niven

 

I've always had a sort of love affair with the circus, and lately I've been a lot more focused on it as I've been planning a circus-themed baby shower. (So focused on it, in fact, that I even watched Charlie Chaplin's The Circus last night -- a silent film, which is usually so not my thing.) Despite the misgivings I have about the circus (the treatment of animals, the creepy clowns, etc.), there's something about being part of a circus that seems magical -- traveling around the country preforming and entertaining people, doing things that seem impossible to others and knowing how they all work. There's something magical about being the force behind the magic.

When I think of the circus, I think of sawdust and swinging trapeze artists. I think of twinkling lights and towering big tops. I think of excitement and experience, the dusty trails of knowledge kicked up by all the traveling performers. I'm sure there's much more to it than what I envision (... all the most magical things are always so much simpler when you're on the outside), but to me the circus seems like a wondrous place.

Beyond the wonder and magic of the circus, there is a lot we can learn from what happens under the big top. The circus, in many ways, is a metaphor for life -- it's crazy, unexpected, filled with a wild range of emotions. Under the big top, you can go from laughing your head off to holding your breath in fear in just a matter of moments. As in life, the circus is filled with some odd characters, many of which have a great deal of knowledge to share if only we look a little closer. Let's pull back the curtain on the big top and see what life lessons we can find amid the sawdust and the sparkles...

 

Be the ringmaster. It's your life. 

If life is a circus, then you should certainly be the star in your own ring. The ringmaster controls the show. The ringmaster is the most visible performer. The ringmaster is in charge. You can't control everything in life, but there are many things you have the power to direct. Don't let someone else be the ringmaster in your life. Take the reins (or the whip, in this case!) and remind yourself that you have the power to be in charge of this crazy circus we call life. 

 

You're on a tightrope. Keep your balance.

Just like the walk across the wire is for a tightrope walker, our lives will be most successful if we find balance. Lean too far in one direction and you'll find yourself toppling over. Balance is not always easy to master when juggling relationships and jobs and passions, but it's essential for living a positive and present life. Imagine yourself on a tightrope and ask yourself, "Am I leaning too far in one direction?" Don't let one area of your life -- no matter how important it might seem -- distract you from achieving balance. 

 

Toss your hat in the ring. Get involved. 

Like a circus coming to town, our lives are brief but wonderful. Don't waste your life sitting on the sidelines. Get involved with activities, hobbies, friends, jobs. Say "yes" more than you say "no." Do the things that scare you. Push your boundaries. Take the challenge of living life to the fullest. Life is a circus that's magical to watch, but even more wonderful to participate in. Don't waste your life being a spectator. Throw down your inhibitions and throw your hat into the ring. 

 

Set up a sturdy net. You will need back-up.

No matter how balanced you try to be, you'll make mistakes. You'll slip and fall. Nothing could be worse than a fall without a net so make sure you have a strong network of people to help you get back up on your feet. You don't need a lot of people -- a few will do the trick -- but you do need people who will catch you when you fall, who will dust you off, and who will help you get back up on your feet. You won't often need your safety net, but you'll be thankful you have it when you start to lose your balance. 

 

Clown around. Life's too short to be serious.

Even if you're a bit wary of clowns (there's just something not right about a painted-on smile...), it's hard not to appreciate their ability to make life a comedy. Life is much too short to spend your time being serious. Take a lesson from the circus clowns and make a joke, share a laugh, do something so silly and outrageous that you make yourself crack up. Seriousness has it's time and place, but it's the silliness you'll remember most. So clown around. Laugh

 


Life is very much like the world under the big top -- filled with the unexpected, the exciting, and the terrifying. It's a lot to take in, but if you look closely, beyond the curtain, beneath the glitter, you'll see the wisdom that lies behind the wonder and the whimsy...

 

If you love the circus like I do, here are some sites, songs, and sources you might want to check out: 

Circus-Themed Music Videos (includes my fav, Britney Spears' "Circus")

The Night Circus (amazing novel with a new twist on the circus)

Ringling Museum of Art (worth a trip to Sarasota, FL!)

Life is a Circus (my Pinterest board)

Charlie Chaplin's The Circus (part 1 of 8, but you can find all 8 on YouTube)

Circus (a PBS documentary you can watch online)

 

Comments

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I need to start saying "yes" more. My first reaction when someone asks me to do something (gasp) fun is NO, I'm busy...because I feel guilty talking time out for myself.

I'm going to change my "not this time" into
"yes, I'd love to"

e.smith09@rocketmail.com

Emily - I know how you feel about saying yes. I find myself saying no much more than I should and it's something I'm really trying to work on. Yes, I'd love to is a great attitude to have in general!

I need to learn how to balance my relationships with school, work and planning my life after I graduate from college. I find that I get stressed out easily and take that out on the people that matter to me the most. They are my safety net so I have to make sure I don't hurt them in my actions. Not only will this help me keep a balance in my life but it will also solidify my safety net.

Lucina - Balance is a tough thing to master, especially with the pressure of school and deadlines. I, too, tend to take out my stress on the people closest to me and it's something I'm always trying to work on. It's so important to keep our relationships with our "safety nets" in good shape!

I'm working on the net. For so long, I prided myself on being a lone wolf, fiercely independent and self-sufficient. It gets lonely and it's slow. I don't get the value of other people's experience and opinions. I have to try everything for myself. It's fun experimenting, but it's good, not to mention quick, to piggyback on friends.

And, there's the bonus: friends are just more fun:-)

Nneka - I know how you feel about priding yourself on being a lone wolf. I tend to be a loner myself and it makes it hard for me to rely on other people (even when I really need them). I'm learning to be more open to relying on other people and it's made such a positive difference in my life.

I need to be my own ringmaster. I used to be, but after going through 5 yrs of mental and physical abuse, I lost me somewhere along the line. Picked up all the pieces but my self esteem. Working on it.

I'm opting for laughter and a sense of wonder every chance I get -- I find those in everyday slice-of-life moments AND at one of my most favorite circus spectacles ever ... Cirque du Soleil ... their shows have me feeling like I can FLY afterwards and defy words in how magical they are (so I happily add them for consideration to your wonderful circus list and post—plus, they use no animals except those conjured in imagination and amazing costumes!) Now, where's my red clown nose ... :)

Saundra - Yes, you do! It sounds like you've been through a very difficult time so be easy on yourself. As long as you're working on it, you're on the right track!

Paula - Laughter and a sense of wonder are wonderful things to opt for! I love Cirque du Soleil too -- and you bring up a great point about how no animals are involved!

I need to learn to just relax and be more fun. I'm really boring and blah. I'd love to just be happy for once.

I liked Positively Present on FB.

Beth - I'm sure you're not boring or blah, but focusing on relaxation and fun is always a great idea! Thanks for the FB like!

"Don't let one area of your life -- no matter how important it might seem -- distract you from achieving balance.
&
Get involved with activities, hobbies, friends, jobs. Say "yes" more than you say "no."

These two quotes resonate with me mainly because I also feel guilty about taking the time out for myself, when I know and feel there are so many other things I have to do.

Maybe I'd feel better about the "other" things in my life if I started making choices and plans I think I'd enjoy.

I LOVED the ringmaster lesson. Far to often I am unsure of my abilities and follow others only to be disappointed.Just yesterday I used the ringmaster lesson when making a decision and I was very proud of myself. Thank you. I enjoy your blog and positive thinking. :)

Jeannie - So glad to hear those quotes resonated with you! You should definitely take time for yourself. It might seem selfish, but it actually makes you much better to be around when you're with others. Once you start doing things for you, everything else gets better!

Jul - Thanks! I'm so glad you were able to use the lesson. I'm proud of you for doing so! I'm so happy to hear that you enjoy Positively Present. Thanks for reading!

Love your circus post! A few months ago I took my parents to the circus for their birthdays! I love giving experience gifts where we all get to enjoy something and spend time together! I'm trying to Toss my hat in the ring, and become more involved. It's wonderful to try new things and meet different people! I've been working on my creative side by starting a blog centered on gratitude called www.sharingthanks.blogspot.com . I've had fun writing and love some of the people who stop my blog to leave a comment on what they are thankful for.
I enjoy reading your blog and must leave this circus theme quote, "My all your days be circus days!"

Linda - Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I enjoyed checking out your site as well. Thanks for that great circus quote too! Loved it!

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