Not the bright, shiny rubbery ones you get at parties. These are metaphorical balloons.
Imagine your happiness is a basket, and every time something good happens or every feeling you have that lifts you up is like tying another string and letting yourself float up. The happier you are, the higher you go.
Why the metaphor, you ask? Well, I’ve been thinking in my sleepless hours of those times when balloons are sabotaged in some way. We all know the rude, abrupt, horrible moments that approach with a hammer and slate about three of them. But many of us know of subtler approaches. Too sneaky to be really noticed. It’s just a gentle needle, and the only hint you get of the damage caused is that sinking feeling as your happiness deflates slowly.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a malicious action. It’s not about them, after all. It’s noticing the effect they’ve had on what’s yours. It’s about owning that balloon.
Let me find an example. A chocolate bar in you room. You don’t remember how it got there, and you imagine someone thinking of you, leaving it as a gift. There’s your balloon.
Now, the person who barges in and steals it from you is a hammer. The one who accuses you of eating someone else’s chocolate, even when it’s been left in your room and has no claim of ownership, is a hammer. The person who plants a seed of doubt, saying they’re sure they heard so-and-so talking about a special chocolate bar they’d lost, a gift from a friend, important and desperately being looked for – that person is a needle. But I’ve known a few people who come in, triumphant, asking if you enjoyed the gift they left you – if it’s modest, it can be warming, but if it’s about THEIR generosity and no longer about a gift for YOU, then it’s a needle.
I’ve had a few moments of ownership displacement. Some are small, some are large. I’m sure some are well-meaning, and most aren’t intentional. But that hot air balloon is yours, and once you let someone take a little of that away you’re at risk of sinking.
This is something I’ve had to try to learn, as I’m not very good at picking up on these things. But I’m getting better. I’m beginning to understand motives, and I’m letting myself float naturally towards people with purer, more genuine hearts. It keeps my balloons safe, and means I can contribute to theirs safe in the knowledge that they aren’t misreading me. We’re all guilty of that balloon ownership and popping behaviour, because it’s not easy to avoid. But if we try to be more conscientious I’m sure we can protect each other’s altitude a little better.