This is letter eleven.
It is brought to you by the colors green and black and white. And the letter WHY.
My favorite color has always been green. Like, forever and unwaveringly. (It is sooooo unfortunate that I do NOT look good wearing green because having a lot of green clothes would make me very happy – but, truth be told, looking “not ill” makes me happiest).
OF COURSE, because I love the color green, my ears perked up the first time I heard Kermit the Frog sing his signature hit: It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.
As the song opened with that titular line, I was immediately excited – like: “That’s ME – I’m green, too!”
And then, as the song unfolded… sitting there at age 5 or 7 or whatnot, I became deeply enraptured… wondering how this little froggy had seen inside my soul. It has remained my #1 favorite song, forever and unwaveringly.
It’s a classic for a reason. (Worth a listen if you’ve never heard it.)
It’s a classic because it encapsulates our human experience in two significant ways – both of which resonated with me even at such a young age.
The first part of the song speaks to our seemingly universal yearning as humans to be something different – more colorful, more sparklier, more ‘worthy’ – than we think we are.
“I feel you, Kermie,” said my young self to the 1970’s not-yet-controlled-by-a-remote television set.
The second part of the song speaks to the both/and-ness of our selves. We are each ordinary AND we are each extraordinary.
This introduction to the paradoxical nature of life – that two opposing thoughts could be simultaneously true – gave me an early inoculation against the parts of our culture that encourage us to turn towards the illusory comfort of binary thinking, framing the world as…
…good or bad.
…black or white.
…us versus them.
Bein’ Green is all about embracing the grey areas, and acknowledging all the points on all the spectrums, and cultivating mental flexibility. There are moments when we’re “not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water” and there are moments when we’re “important like a river.”
SIDEBAR: A great little expansion experiment to increase mental flexibility is to dedicate a week to a) noticing every time you mentally label something that happens (or something that someone says or the person themselves) as good or bad and b) experimenting with removing that label to see where your mind goes, and (for extra credit) c) exploring the origins of your thoughts that lead to that original reaction of choosing that particular label.
But the song doesn’t end there.
Part three offers a piece of sage advice that I COMPLETELY IGNORED for forty-something years. As Joe Raposo wrote:
When green is all there is to be / it could make you wonder why / but why wonder, why wonder
Noooooooope. Instead of heeding the frog, I made it my life’s odyssey to wander my internal landscape wondering Why.
Why I was born so green? Would it be nicer to be red or yellow or gold? What will happen to me if people keep passing me over? Am I supposed to be trying (harder?) to be as big as a mountain? Why don’t I know all this by now? Am I even asking the right questions?
Truth be told, I have amassed a little collection of greeting cards from my husband, all of which are variations on the theme of “Hey weird lady, here’s a thought for ya: why not just accept who you are and try to enjoy being yourself.” (Hallmark says it nicer.)
These cards, ummmm, indicate that this lovely person has, I suppose, been standing there for Quite Some Time, mystified, as he watched the grown woman that he loves trying vainly and in vain to be… lots of things other than her little green self.
Because it isn’t easy being green.
The trouble with truly settling in and accepting yourself is that you have to reckon with and accept all of your self – including the not-so-good, not-so-laudable, not-so-pretty parts.
And I’m not talking about the fact that I can’t spell or that I have never done anything to save the dolphins. I’m talking about the fact that, in the sunbeams and shadows of my life, I have been – as we all paradoxically have been – lots of both/ands: both friend and foe, both kind and cruel, both victim and victimizer.
I have carried the messages of this song with me for almost my entire life. And now, as I turn fifty, I am finally ready and willing to focus on integrating the final part of this song, part four, into my life – the part that has been so hard for me (and maybe for you, too) to learn how to trust:
I’m green and it’ll do fine / it’s beautiful / and I think it’s what I want to be
Thank you so much for your encouraging reception to my new venture – it was above and beyond and I am so grateful.
Next week’s letter is about… actually, as of now, I’m not sure yet. We’ll have to wait and see.
I’m feeling wistful.
All of our previous letters are here.