I woke up pondering frozen iguanas this morning. Cocooned within layers of blankets, listening to the whirr of the space heater, facing the demands of the day, it was easy to contemplate petrified reptiles. Yesterday, our office manager called me over to the computer. “Look! It’s one of those iguanas.” It was a slow afternoon.
“Huh, what iguanas?” I stared at the picture of a man in a game warden uniform holding a large, fringed lizard. Other than the size of the iguana, and its autumn-leaf scales, nothing seemed too remarkable.
“Those iguanas in Florida, the ones that froze.” She went on to explain that in the last severe cold spell to strike the Southeast, the iguanas, unused to the extreme cold, became essentially petrified – still alive, but unable to move. “I remember seeing on TV this little girl, she had a red wagon, and she was going around just picking up these iguanas off the ground. She’d pick one up and drop it in the wagon, then grab another one and drop it in.”
I pictured a pyramid of russet-scaled reptiles stacked in a Radio Flyer wagon, toted by a curly headed, determined looking moppet.
I suspect that most of us are not that different from the iguanas. When hit by extremes or the unknown, we freeze, sticking in place, waiting for someone to come along and put us in the wagon. Unable, or unwilling to face our options for change, we solidify, stuck in the job, the house, the relationship, the debt-cycle, the addiction or worse. We say things like, “something will turn up,” or “I can’t change it right now,” or “I have to just put my faith in God.” We look for the outside force to move us, the kid with the wagon to take us in from the cold.
The problem is: we are endotherms – warm blooded creatures capable of regulating ourselves. We have the ability to override inertia, to force the muscles of change. Yet, we choose to stick. But, what if the angelic child never comes by with the wagon? What if the next passer-by is a large predator looking for an iguana-cicle? What if the cold causes the tree above us to freeze, crack, and fall? What if the child does come to the rescue and take us indoors; will that change be the one of our choosing? She might put us in a cage, or have a brother who wants to see if the iguana will grow a new tail if the original is pulled off, or have a mother who panics at the sight of frigid lizards, and grabs the brother’s baseball bat.
Action terrifies and often seems impossible, but by forcing ourselves out of petrified lizardhood, we give ourselves choice. It’s probably better to be the wagon puller than the pullee.