May 16, 2015

When push comes to shove, it ain’t the science that’s going to lift you up – it’s the belief, the spiritual side of life, that’s going to lift you up, no matter what religion you are. -Kirstie Alley


STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin


People watching is one of my favorite things to do. That’s the activity I was engaged in while sipping a beverage at a street corner café in Edinburgh, Scotland. Or so I thought. To my husband I said, “See that man over there, kind of swaggering in his metro-sexual clothes, cigarette in hand, sunglasses on the back of his head? I want to push him and say—Who do you think you are?”  We both chuckled, knowing that I would never do such a thing. But the impulse was real. I really did want to push him, in the kind of way we four McKern kids would push each other while sharing the cramped backseat of our dad’s car. You know what I’m talking about.

I noticed the thought impulse to push several times during our journey through the Highlands of Scotland. The next week the urge to push became a joke among my Ireland travelers. “Watch out,” I’d say, “I’m feeling a need to push coming on.”  Sometimes it was a playful, “get outta here,” kind of push I wanted to put into motion. Other times I felt motivated to actually shove someone or something. It didn’t matter if it was alive or inanimate. I simply wanted to push it.

The fascination with people watching extends into observing my own thoughts and behaviors. “What’s this sudden urge to push really about?” I pondered.

Child psychologists say that pushing is an aggressive behavior innate in almost all toddlers. Little ones don’t have the experience or vocabulary to express certain feelings. So they push, or shove, or bite. (Rest assured, I have never bitten nor have I ever wanted to bite anyone.) According to a website titled Everyday Life, a pediatrician says there are three explanations for pushy toddlers. See if you can identify with any of them.

Proving Independence

Toddlers, age 18 months to 3 years, are learning that they are individuals. Pushing another child gets them out of the way and establishes turf. Perhaps my desire to push someone is really a desire to push myself, to get my attention. To push away my momentary sense of separation that arrived through judgment. An invitation to connect rather than divide. To choose interdependence over independence.

Communicating Feelings

Toddlers have limited vocabularies, therefore they resort to physical actions over words. I have an extensive vocabulary, tempered by the parental voice that taught me to be nice. More specifically, to be ladylike. Perhaps physically shoving someone would be more socially acceptable than lashing out with a string of unladylike profanities. What was I feeling at that street corner café? I recall feeling kind of old. Like I no longer had the right to dress provocatively. To call attention to myself. That I needed to act my age. Overall, I think I was feeling sad and striving to make light of it.

Poor Impulse Control

Toddlers will react versus respond. It takes time and maturity to know the difference. I continue to work on this one, even now in my supposed mature years. To react means to re-act. To repeat something over and over again—hahaha—and expect different results. To respond puts the responsibility in my hands to behave in a way that’s going to lift me up, and therefore lift up the perceived other.

Since reflecting on the impulse to push, I notice that the urge has waned. Perhaps push finally came to shove, and shove said give it up. We are one, and we’re all in this together.

Fascinating view of aging to the tune of “Pushing On”
Oliver $& Jimi Jules – Pushing On (Official Video) (2:47)

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