Josephine explores where people started giving up their circus
Send in the … elephants. I can’t help it; as a little girl I disliked clowns. And I didn’t trust them. What child doesn’t love a clown? I think it had something to do with their makeup and that I really couldn’t “read” them. And while the monkeys were mildly amusing, the elephants were the true stars of the show. I marvelled at their enormity and their grace, though now I appreciate their true place of belonging.
Does anyone really remember the monkeys?
All of this “circus memorabilia” was sparked one day by a conversation I was having with our daughter, as we drove from “here” to “there.” I was benignly complaining about a task I thought I should take on, one I was considering. The thought had been causing me more than a little angst. After bemoaning this briefly, these words popped out of my mouth: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
Our daughter, Naali, burst out laughing and, after I gave her my explanation for the phrase, began adding her own versions, the last of which was “Not my ocean, not my mermaids!” At that, I nearly had to pull over because we were laughing so hard. But setting amusement aside, “Not my circus, not my monkeys” has a serious undertone. It is the equivalent of saying that something is not my problem while, at the same time, avoiding the apathetic tone that “It’s not my problem” sometimes has.
The idiom originated in Poland. “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy” (from Wikipedia) is a useful expression or even self-reminder when you are tempted to take on more than you ought to, or to get involved in something you really don’t need to. (Perhaps it’s not your business.) That’s what the phrase is about. It’s not, however, about shirking responsibility. It’s about recognizing and setting healthy boundaries for yourself.
So, if you find yourself, at some point, in that place of considering something you just ought not to consider, just stop and repeat after me: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Or, for The Lion King generation, “Hakuna matata!”—which has a similar sentiment and comes out of East Africa, in the Swahili language—“hakuna” meaning “there is/are no” and “matata” meaning “troubles.” (Also from Wikipedia.)
Or, you can get creative and create your own version of the Polish idiom, though “Not my ocean, not my mermaids!” is already taken. Your friends will love it.