Friday, May 17, 2013

Driving the Duck: Ditching Unhealthy Metaphors

Sometimes, I notice a bit of my own psychology sticking out like a bra strap or trailing my shoe like hitchhiking toilet paper. Earlier this spring I tweeted:
Off the rails. I hadn't realized I was on a train, but it seems like that's been my underlying operating metaphor for a long, long time.

Trains travel stop to stop on a prescribed route. They're expected to operate on a schedule and are usually judged for their accuracy in meeting that schedule. While wanderers can take take trains, trains can't wander (engineers call that derailment).

I'm tired of the train. Every unexpected variation in life (tornado, preemie, health issues, financial changes) meant derailment, reassessment, organizing cranes, laying new tracks and feeling like I was missing obligations.

Imperial War Museum Collection
Taken by Sgt. Midgley
No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit
My train perpetually ran off-track and behind schedule. Even with best efforts, there were mudslides and break-downs. And when I made it to a station, all I could think of was my failure to meet the schedule.

So, I'm test-driving a new metaphor. As a kid, my family took a duck ride in Wisconsin Dells. The slightly-ridiculous car-boat hybrid fascinated me. Developed for amphibious military assault in WWII, the "duck" (actually written as DUKW) could wander through the woods, climb hills, and splash into water.

DUKWs were ruggedly built to meet the assumption of a rapidly changing environment. They're often covering hard territory, so they don't move fast like trains, but the view is terrific, and stopping for an occasional picnic seems entirely sensible.

Since I decided to leave my metaphorical train behind, I find myself rethinking changes and set-backs. The DUKW is allowing me more meandering. We're more frequently found at the library and the park, and now I'm here blogging (the train seemed to have abandoned this station entirely).

So, join me on this first summer of the DUKW.

Moby Duck DUKW, Photo by Walter Taucher
Don't they just look awesome in parades?

For a more serious discussion along similar lines, watch for an upcoming review of Ana Homayoun's The Myth of the Perfect Girl.

***Baby Toolkit is the ongoing saga of a geek family making their way in this large and fascinating world. We have no particular financial stake in ducks, DUKWS, DUKW tours, duck tours (whatever that might mean), or Perigee/Penguin Publishing. We are Amazon Affiliates, so a small portion of purchases made through our links comes back to us where we'll spend it on something silly like domain names, board games, or marshmallows. We also podcast on board games and game groups at Great Big Table. Thanks for reading!