One of the funny things about this story is that I’m convinced I first heard it on a NO HANDS Massage course, but Gerry (Pyves – founder of NO HANDS) swears blind that he first heard this story from me. Point being, if you’ve heard this story before or know its origins, please let me know!
Every day things happen to us that we don’t take the time (or have the time) to ponder, process and integrate fully. They could be seemingly “good” or “bad” things – but they are experiences that settle into our tissues and, well, lurk.
In this story, I invite you to imagine these experiences are each, individually, a porcupine. And that these porcupines, quietly and politely, are following you like a very long conga line. They’re not touching you. You only see them if you look behind you. But they’re there – and each new porcupine joins the back of the queue.
The thing about these porcupines is that they are you. Everything that happens to you throughout life contributes to the person you are. Each of these porcupines needs and deserves your love.
Whenever you feel inclined, you can turn around and pick up the porcupine at the front of the queue. You don’t get to pick and choose your porcupine: it’s always the one closest to your heels. You don’t know which experience it will be: although the most recent porcupines join the back of the queue, these trixsy little beasts will sometimes shuffle around in the line. Just like the person at the supermarket who’s forgotten an item and dashes off to find it, or the other person with only one item who gets invited to jump ahead of the person with an overflowing trolley.
Likewise, sometimes life forces you to turn around and pick up a porcupine. Those are the hardest times.
But however it happens, when you find a porcupine in your arms there’s only one thing to do: Hug it. Love it. Appreciate it. Care for it. (OK, so that’s four things but you get the idea.)
Don’t get me wrong: porcupines have lots of spikes so hugging and caring for this porcupine is gonna hurt. It may draw blood – hell, it may even give you an infection. Some spikes cut deeper – some are softer and scarcely brush the skin.
It’s impossible to know how much love you need to give to any particular porcupine – but when you feel like you’ve given the one in your arms enough love, it’s time to place it gently on the floor in front of you.
Porcupines are great walkers. Once on the ground again, each porcupine will strike out ahead of you, walking right the way to the horizon and beyond. Good ol’ porcupines.
But remember how I said they were trixsy little beasts? Well, part of their nature is that they KNOW if they are truly loved, cared for and appreciated. And if you put them down before they get that sense they won’t tell you – they’ll walk off to the horizon, disappear…and then double back and join the back of the queue.
It’s only when you turn around days, weeks, months or even years later and meet them again that it becomes clear there’s more loving, more processing of this particular experience, to be done. Which might make you sigh, or, hopefully, let out a gentle chuckle as you realise you’d been kidding yourself last time you said goodbye to that particular porcupine.
And the porcupines who have been truly loved, cared for and appreciated? They head off to prepare the road ahead for you. As you continue treading your own path you’ll sometimes pass them doing their porcupine thing under a tree, or basking in the sunshine.
Although beware: this can be another sneaky way for them to pretend you’ve dealt with them but then rejoin the back of the queue without having to walk all the way to the back of the queue – instead they just wait for the back of the queue to come to them. Smart? Lazy? All depends on your perspective…
Other porcupines you’ll never see again – you’ll have memories of them, but they will be so far ahead, continuing to prepare your path, that although you’ll know they’re there, you won’t actually share the same geography with them again.
But the more often you pick up a porcupine from your porcu-conga-line, the more often you truly accept that experience and give yourself time to acknowledge the impact its had on you, the more loved, cared for and appreciated porcupines will be out there ahead of you, preparing the ground for the rest of your incredible life to unfold.