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Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Puncturing the elephant # Tips for the Brave

Cynthia Kneen, a teacher at the Shambhala Organization in the US, used to say:

Does it uplift or does it deplete?

All things boil down to this. All daily habits can be reduced to this.

Does staying online all day uplift or deplete?

Does keeping a friendship going, even though it’s been pared down on both sides to online communication, and you haven’t met your friend’s partner of the past eight years, and both of you are extremely wary of the other, uplift or deplete? [trick question#]

Does gossip uplift or deplete?

Do drugs and alcohol abuse uplift or deplete?

Does eating toast in bed instead of preparing a proper meal uplift or deplete?

Indeed, if the toast is wholewheat, with butter running down the sides, and covered in homemade lemon, orange, grapefruit marmalade from the nearby thrift store, eating toast in bed not only uplifts, it should be obligatory.

Having recently read Lust and Wonder by Augusten Burroughs for the third time, it’s all in there.

We often have the answer and we don’t heed it.

Listening to what our entire being is telling us, about a friendship, a career, a place we’ve called home for the past decade, or, in the case of Augusten Burroughs, about his (by now former) spouse and business partner, may upend our lives and involve great moves, both inner and outer moves, so we hunker down and deny, minimize, make do and suffer more in the long-term than if we swing with the changes that result from acknowledging the truth.

Does hanging out with a button pusher uplift or deplete?

Does leading a life of degradation, manipulation and bullship uplift or deplete?

Bullship is my fave typo/Freudian slip. Bullship is what you end up with if there’s an elephant in the room, the elephant of unacknowledged family trauma, the bullship of unacknowledged alcoholism, the bullship of lies.

Elephants are a burden to walk around. Elephants occupy a lot of space, psychic space, emotional, psychological and physical space, and for those of us who’re puncturing elephants, we know by now that this destroys whatever fragile equilibrium may have existed.

Elephants are there for a reason, and if you dare puncture that massive beast, there’ll be hell to pay.


1) Puncture the elephant in the room.
2) Remove yourself from the room.
3) Take yourself to a place of safety.
4) Keep on deconstructing the elephant, by writing, drawing, blogging, tweeting, or discussing it with neutral parties.
5) Detach from outcome; this is a volatile time, anything can erupt.
6) Take long scenic walks to absorb all the *freed up energy.
*Puncturing elephants will free up all the energy that went into denial.
7) Give yourself permission to keep a good distance from the *chaos.
*Chaos erupts in a family, friendship, workplace or any community when a brave human takes a scalpel and punctures the Elephant in the Room.
8) Create a container for all the memories that float up to the surface when you give yourself permission to see, hear, feel, and speak the truth.
9) Cultivate compassion, for yourself, for the elephants and their keepers.
10) Take yourself to a bar, order a cocktail/mocktail and celebrate. Only intrepid souls have the means, the inclination, the courage to elephant-puncture. Ask for the courage to do elephant-puncturing with style.

Kelly ReemtsenlipsKelly Reemtsen


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