What If It Is Your Circus And They Are Your Monkeys?

it is your circus

Because sometimes it IS your circus…

It’s war.

And I’ve pulled out the big guns – poisonous plants, crushed oyster shells, a rake to remove mulch , metal landscape mesh and mousetraps hidden beneath overturned pots.

Because this time, it is my circus and these are my monkeys.

Errr…voles, actually.

Although I think I’d rather have an infestation of monkeys. I think they may cause less damage. And at least I’d be able to see my nemesis.

I spent last summer largely in the dark about my voles. I blamed my neighbors for the missing plants in the front and root rot for the crater that kept opening up swallowing my hosta (and its replacements) whole. And I credited Tiger’s enthusiasm for the partially chewed roots found laying atop the bed.

In other words, I was trying to convince myself that it wasn’t my circus laying waste to my garden.

But then, as the silver dollar sized holes began to appear where plants had disappeared, I was forced to change my tune. If I was going to have any chance of actually growing something other than digitalis, I would have to accept the fact that this is indeed my circus and these pesky little vermin are my monkeys.

And I was going to have to be the one to deal with them.


Many of us struggle with distinguishing between what is our responsibility and what is none of our business. I watch my students constantly sticking their noses into other students’ personal lives yet fail to take on their own lives. I watch people after divorce get all hung up on their ex’s actions yet neglect to monitor their own choices. And I watch myself taking my husband’s mood personally while not attending to my own.

It’s much like the overweight physician or mentally ill psychiatrist – it’s easier to advise others than to take that advice yourself. And it’s easy to get distracted trying to influence things outside of your locus of control while ignoring the chaos within your domain. In other words, it’s easy to become so busy watching your neighbor’s monkeys that you neglect to tame your own.

So, to break it down…

Not your monkey – What other people are choosing to do with their lives.

Your monkey – What you are doing in your life.

Not your monkey – Other people’s moods or feelings.

Your monkey – Your own mood, feelings and what you express to others.

Not your monkey – What other people have done to you.

Your monkey – How you respond to what has been done to you.

Not your monkey – Telling people what they should do.

Your monkey – Striving to maintain an open mind.

Not your monkey – Making other people happy.

Your monkey – Creating your own happiness.

Not your monkey – How other people judge your decisions and actions.

Your monkey – How you feel about your own decisions and actions.

Not your monkey – Wanting others to like and approve of you.

Your monkey – Treating yourself and others with compassion and kindness.

Not your monkey – The unhealthy patterns and needs of others.

Your monkey – Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.


There’s a freedom that comes from releasing the monkeys that are not yours to train and a power that comes from identifying and taking responsibility for your own rascally simians.  As for me, I’m taking on the responsibility of the voles. Do you know of any monkeys that can help?:)




Thank you for sharing!

8 thoughts on “What If It Is Your Circus And They Are Your Monkeys?

  1. Nice job as usual Lisa. I love the analogy. As soon as my ex filed for divorce I did a good job of detaching myself from her in every way. Unfortunately, when there are kids involved it isn’t always that simple. Whatever new “crisis” (mine had plenty) your ex is going through your kids can and most of the time get sucked into it and now somehow you get involved. Just keep going forward and worry about your own world, even though a monkey or two might get in your way.

  2. “Other people’s moods or feelings”
    Upon reading this, a light bulb turned. At time I find myself attempting to understand this monkey. Very interesting insight…

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