Stop assuming the elephant position


Addo Elephant Park, South Africa (April, 2014)

When I was a kid we went on a family holiday to Zimbabwe. My parents are strange creatures though – they only like to go on holiday to really wild places. To translate this into something normal people like you and I, dear Reader, can understand, this means that they like to go on holiday to places where you can easily die: wild animals who are not used to seeing humans, game reserves who aren’t too concerned about keeping track of guest safety and free camping (i.e. no fences separating your [flimsy!] tent from the [wild-wild] animals).

Anyway, while on this particular holiday we had been driving around all day when we rounded the corner and came across a GINORMOUS lone young bull elephant tantruming, I mean trumpeting, for all he was worth. He was clearly pissed about something and he was letting the world know.

Any sane driver would have seen the tantruming young elephant (i.e. the teenage personality in the bulldozer body) and driven smartly on. But no. Not my Dad. He’s a farmer you see, dear Reader, and so thinks he’s some kind of animal whisper/controller person. Well, the elephant took one look at our parked car and charged us. Thank goodness my Dad drove quickly off. But unfortunately only for a bit. He then stopped the car and THEN (you would think he could have done it while STILL driving) asked if the elephant was still charging (?!?!!). We turned to check out the back window… only to find that the elephant was so close that we couldn’t see anything out the window except the elephant! 😦 😦

Ever since that day I have been terrified of elephants. And each time a car that I am in goes anywhere near one I squeeze my eyes shut, stick my fingers in my ears, (ideally stick my head in a pillow) and sing to myself until the danger has passed. In other words I ignore the elephant danger and distract myself until I’ve survived the ordeal. Even I can see that this is not the most useful of approaches. If elephants really are as dangerous as I feel that they are, then surely the most rational response would be to constantly watch what the elephant is doing while frantically considering every escape route available to me?

You get where I am going with this, don’t you dear Reader? 🙂 Avoidance and distraction are brilliant defenses against things that make us anxious i.e. elephants and finances. The only problem is that they don’t let us do anything actually useful about the problem…

I didn’t think that I had assumed the elephant position with regards to our finances. Really, I didn’t. I mean, I keep receipts and every few months plug them into an excel spreadsheet and stuff. And you only do this if you are proactive and good about money, right? Wrong. In the spirit of early retirement I downloaded a money tracking app so that it would be easier to track our expenses. Imagine my unpleasant surprise when after just ONE DAY of using this app I realized that I’m not as good about money as I thought I was (see The Numbers)… And how have I tricked myself into thinking I’m “fine” with regards to money management? By distracting myself (only plugging finances in months after the fact) and avoiding staring our spending right in the face as it happens i.e. assuming the elephant position. Bugger.




4 thoughts on “Stop assuming the elephant position

  1. Pingback: Money and relationships are cooooomplicated… | The Brat Experiment

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