When I was in elementary school, I would spend a lot of my recess time trying to get across the monkey bars. The dreaded sideways ladder of death.
It was so hard – actually no. It was impossible. I tried getting across with my prosthetic arm on and I would try without it, too. All to no avail.
Completing the monkey bars was a task that I never did accomplish. I could never find a way to do it.
In fact, when I wore my arm and attempted a crossing, most times I would fall and my arm would stay – clamped around the bar without me.
The kids would look up and say out loud, “There’s Anna’s arm, stuck again.” The first few times it was a bit shocking for everyone. By the end of 6th grade, it was commonplace.
Then came Jr. and high school and the monkey bars were left behind and new things took their place. Dance, track, soccer – I could do those things.
But, I still have those memories of looking up and seeing my arm clamped to the monkey bars with all the kids saying, yep, there she goes again.
It was like my failure was on display for all to see.
Of all the things I could figure out as a one-arm living in a two-arm world, the monkey bars would be one of things I would never figure out.
Do you have something like that in your life? A constant reminder? A shortcoming for all to see?
Maybe the question isn’t whether you have a monkey bar in your life but rather – what do you do with it when it appears? How do you handle it?
The first few times, I was embarrassed. Humiliated. Reminded that I was different from everyone else.
But after time, my 6th grade self noticed something – the other kids on the playground didn’t really care.
Fast forward to my late thirties self – and my idea on that has matured a bit. Yes, really, people don’t dwell on my imperfections as much as I do. But, there’s something else, too.
It gives people permission. To be real.
My monkey bar can also be a visible reminder to myself and others that their own monkey bar has value but doesn’t define them.
Or what we are capable of.
If we embrace the fact that there are things in life that are difficult for us, we can let it all go – the expectation, the high standards, the judgement, the pride – and we can let God take it instead.
Sure, I can’t cross the monkey bars. And maybe that has been a kind of metaphor for me in life. And, you know what? There are a lot of others things I struggle with, too.
And, we all do. Right?
So, what do we do with those hard things of life? We dust ourselves off, un-clamp our arms off the bars, and try again.
The more we can be truly transparent and vulnerable with each other, the more we can lift each other up instead of tearing apart the things that actually make us unique.
So, to my 6th grade self, I say swing on, girl!
To us all, I say, keep swinging. We are all in this together. One monkey bar at a time.