HA! Funniest scene EVER. And, less comically, the way many of us live our lives. I cannot tell you the number of times I have watched people I care about drive their cars over the proverbial cliff because they failed to see the sign that said, “DANGER: CLIFF AHEAD!” Even though that sign was posted on the dashboard. In blinking, hot pink neon. Sound familiar??? As every parent knows, there is no greater enticement to most kids than the voice of experience and reason saying “That is a bad idea.” We are ALL OF US driven on some level toward destructive behaviors, for both conscious and unconscious reasons. This is why the ability to read the signs comes in so very handy.I have heard it said that people announce to you who they are and what you can expect from them from your very first meeting. Which is why it is hilarious that I failed to read the “sign” that a former boyfriend of mine wore on our first date. Literally wore, on his chest. Like Superman in reverse, the emblem he blazed on his sweatshirt was this: YOU COULD DO WORSE. What followed was an extended period of on-again, off-again crazy-making nonsense, driven by his very low self-esteem and my very high need to “fix” things. I could have done worse; he was not a drug addict, he didn’t hit me and he was a great cook. But I could have done a lot better, if only I had read the sign that he so helpfully provided for me.
You may think this is an extreme example but I assure you, it is not. I am not going to tell any tales out of school, but I could give you evidence in abundance of people I know who not only failed to recognize a sign this obvious, but in fact failed to acknowledge multiple signs more obvious, even when they were literally being beaten over the head with them. But signs can be positive, too. We miss these less often; still they can be easily overlooked. Have you ever had a person who keeps showing up in your life? You run into them at the grocery store, the library, the park? What do you do with this? Do you dismiss it as a funny coincidence or do you see it as a sign that maybe this person might be a good choice to deliberately spend time with? Or have you ever been wondering about some decision you have to make, only to turn on the radio and hear a song that speaks directly to your dilemma? It’s a sign, if you will hear it.Ultimately, the hardest thing about the signs is watching others ignore the obvious to their own detriment. One litmus test I have used in conversations with people I love about choices they are making that are causing them pain: if you were a character in a book or a movie (like “The Man with Two Brains”!), what would you think of your behavior? Is your character a good guy or a bad guy? Is your character wise or foolish? When you look at the "story” of your life objectively, can you identify the behaviors and choices that are wreaking havoc, or are you convinced that you have no choice but to “stay the course”, even though you are unhappy with it? While it is important to maintain compassion for your “character”, it is also crucial to your well-being to assess the situation honestly in order to follow the signs you may have been deliberately avoiding. If you were hiking in an unknown forest, would you ignore the signs that help keep you from getting lost? If not, why do you ignore them in real life, an unknown forest if there ever was one!
The signs are everywhere. In fact, signs are big business! Go into any gift shop in this country and you will see signs galore, signs designed to announce something about who you are: a cat or dog lover, a fisher, a golfer, a banjo player or a drinker of wine…you can purchase a sign that says just about anything you want. People buy these signs and hang them in their homes to let those who visit know something about them, not unlike my ex’s sweatshirt. We like to announce who we are through tweeting, texting, blogging, posting and status updates—we extend to the world the courtesy of knowing what to expect from us and what not to expect from us. Then other people can read our signs and act on the information we have provided...or ignore it. Which one seem smarter to you, when put that way? The signs are everywhere! You walk when the sign says walk, you stop when the sign says stop; this works for you, so why not expand on this behavior and see what happens? I’ll bet you anything it is all good.