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Howler Monkeys, Be Gone!

The invitation to join a howler's drama is your own to decline.
The invitation to join a howler's drama is your own to decline.

My senior year of high school, I traveled to Costa Rica to study migratory and native bird banding, as part of a Tropical Ecology Seminar class I had enrolled in. While trekking through the rainforest with my peers, we stopped short when we heard a series of throaty screams. “Howler monkeys”, our teacher informed us. We couldn’t see them, but their screams surrounded us for about ten minutes in perfect stereo.

Seven years later to the present day, I have heard the screams of other howlers. Howlers whom, unlike the monkeys, are well versed in verbal communication of one or more languages, buy their fruit from the grocery store, and sleep indoors. Howlers are among us, and at times even are us. They reveal themselves through their drama and passive-aggressive acts of teasing, ignoring, and succulent nursing of “remember when’s” and “I’m not going if they are going.”

There’s a polish proverb that offers a simple, practical antidote to this less-than-desirable behavior we all display and experience (though it really applies to those experiencing it, since those of us displaying it should really just knock it off). “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Brilliant, isn’t it? Basic enough. Easy to understood by old and young, educated and non-educated alike.

“Not my circus, not my monkeys.” I can’t help but to think how wonderfully this proverb surmises the best response I could have given to every drama I had ever been invited to sulk and complain in. It’s an unfortunate truth that the drama doesn’t stop once we graduate junior high, high school, college, or even after we become a great-grandparent. The invitation will periodically show up in our inbox for the rest of our life. But with this phrase and our own wherewithal, we have the ability to refrain from being sucked up into someone else’s storm, and maintain our own sunny disposition instead.