Smarter Than the Average Coyote
She was standing in my office door explaining the vagaries of a situation and offering the hesitant opinion that she was not very smart but she was not dumb either. In reality she is extremely smart and rather humble, reluctant to take credit, which makes her a lot of fun to work with because the work becomes about the ideas and possibilities not about an ego. It seemed important to encourage her, so I jumped in with an Alberta phrase "you are smarter than the average coyote". That stopped her for a moment while she processed what it might mean and then she laughed. In the laughter the pressure of the situation was lifted momentarily and her spirit was refreshed. I was just being a bit of a smart ass, I have to confess that although I was concerned about her confidence in her intellect I was also fishing for a laugh to bring some perspective to the whole thing.
Later I began to wonder what does it really mean to be smarter than the average coyote. Greg frequently tells me I am smarter than the average coyote, and I have always viewed it as a compliment. A weird compliment but after thirty plus years of marriage you take what you can get. However I always wondered if there might be some negative connotation because coyotes are opportunists and scavengers, so I was determined to shed some light on it.
Shed Some Light
Are coyotes considered smart so being smarter than an average one is good? A little research produced some links to another similar saying about bears but no definitive explanation regarding the coyote saying. The evidence exists though that coyotes are extremely adept at adapting to their environment and surviving even when their habitat is significantly altered by humans. I could name some scientific studies now but this is a light hearted blog and it is early on Saturday morning.
We do have empirical evidence though that the saying is true for at least one Alberta coyote. My number one daughter was driving through the city last week in a residential area and saw a coyote crossing the street. It was a really smart coyote because it waited on the side of the road for the traffic to clear. Then once my number one daughter had passed in her vehicle the coyote crossed the street. That coyote was smarter than the average. It had survived in the city and knew to cross after the traffic had passed. All that coyote excitement resulted in a text from said daughter to mum in the middle of the work day describing the experience and shedding light on the saying.
I realize that in terms of scientific evidence this is an extremely small sample and not statistically significant, however since we are not solving world hunger here I am going to work with it. I am going to exercise the opportunist nature of the coyote and seize the example as confirmation of the saying being a compliment.
Chasing my Tail
What a relief, now I have an answer I can stop chasing my tail. Figuratively, I can stop going round and round in my head trying to decide if being smarter than the average coyote is good or if there might be some underlying negative associations. But the problem is that it launched a bigger question and reflection on sayings generally which popped into my head during meetings, while driving, and as I went about my life last week. Three sayings kept floating into my consciousness. While I shed some light on the coyote saying, I was left with ambiguity about 'chasing my tail'. Generally we, as in humans, think of chasing our tails as something futile and depressing but I am going to challenge that thought.
Remember this is Kanti's fault, she is a seasoned professional of the game of chase my tail. Her tail right now is enormous because of the heavy winter coat she develops to keep her warm when the temperatures drop. The tail looks like a very deluxe duster, and works quite effectively as one when she is near the coffee table in the living room. We have had to clear the coffee table of precious things as one sweep of that mighty tail would send objects flying. For Kanti, chasing her tail is a miraculous amount of fun fuelled by a twisting body that leaps around and around in endless circles until she successfully catches it. She always ends up catching it eventually. When I watch her exuberance and sheer joy in chasing her tail, I think we need to reframe how we view that saying and embrace the fun and the energy that is so readily available to us in the everyday. Next time you think you are just chasing your tail in a bad way, I hope you are reminded of an image of Kanti chasing her tail with abandon and pleasure and that you are inspired to enjoy the fun that is possible when you chase your tail and that feeling of satisfaction you will experience when you eventually catch it!