Square Pegs

Once upon a time there was a square peg.

He didn’t become square, he was born square. Something like having smoke blue eyes, six toes in your right foot or chestnut colored hair. It is a given, right..? The blue eyed one didn’t go shopping and say, “Oh, I like this shade of blue. I’ll buy this pair of eyes.” That’s how it is with being square- in a land of round holes.

When square-pegs recognize their square-ness and the concept graduates into a cult, I am sure they will choose the porcupine as their mascot. You know porcupines, all poky spikes and bristling aggression on top and a soft, harmless vulnerability underneath?

Square-peg mascot, the porcupine, is a herbivore. The animal is tiny… barely 25-36 inches. In some parts of the world it treated as a pest… and is eaten. To some, it is ugly as sin.


The square-pegs I speak of resemble porcupines in many ways. They are not very commonly seen. They certainly don’t inspire a feeling of tender, protective care in the beholder’s breast. Their aggressiveness makes them come across as beings who can ‘take care of myself thank you’. They make you want to keep a wary distance. You’d rather not mess with them if you can help it.

The quills of a porcupine remind you of raised hackles. Even when they are not being annoyed they look peeved. Like those of their mascot, the ‘hackles’ of square-pegs is merely a protection mechanism. They aren’t trying to hurt you, they are only trying to prevent the world from making a meal of them. That is why they hang out the ‘Don’t Trespass!’ signs all over their persona.

The quills of my square-pegs are made up of their reactions and responses to their world. Their reactions are pointed, sharp and very extreme. They are incapable of lukewarmness. They must either be scalding hot or bone freezing cold. Their prodigious emotionality breaks the containing banks and floods the world. If you are anywhere around them, expect to get your pretty pink toes wet. When they are high, they are soaring like eagles; when low, they are all the way down into the core of the earth.

The smallest events can throw them into a tizzy. In fact, it seems they are constantly in one tizzy or the other. They come out of one only to plunge enthusiastically into another. To round pegs they seem exhaustively insane. They don’t know how to hold back. When they talk, they will talk all the legs of a proverbial donkey off. When they are taciturn, they resemble a glassy-eyed stuffed trout. Their reactions are of a magnitude that make the Niagara look like a mud puddle. Large is not a word large enough for them. The entire extreme vocabulary was created for them. Not that they are happy with the extreme vocabulary though, they find it painfully insipid and cloyingly mundane.

Yes, they are extreme people.

To be with them is to be on the world’s biggest roller-coaster. The transition from dizzying heights to utter depths make you feel detached from your internal organs. You feel sure they are either left behind on the high you just came swooping down from or are still lying in panting repose in the low you just climbed out of.

Don’t bother getting your breath back when you are with these magical (maniacal?) creatures, you’re going to lose it again soon enough. They multiply your senses many-fold, they expand your experience of the universe in multilayered ways. You wonder why the colors are suddenly so bright, the sounds so deep, the lights so luminous. They make you vibrate at frequencies you never imagined existed. You realize you never lived before… or at best you lived in the murky world of underwater… where life was viewed through a film of shifting, debris filled water.

When you are flung out of your underwater world onto the high mountain ledges of crystal clear perception, do yourself a favor. Don’t peer down your lofty perch and seek the comfort of your habitual murky depths. Don’t voluntarily, deliberately and willingly become oblivious of the world you see around you, and refuse to believe it for real. Ask yourself instead if the world of diffused approximations… the almost… the nearly… the someday… the maybe… is the only world you will permit to be real. When your soul gives you an answer, I hope your courage will not abandon you. I hope you will face the answer and accept the benediction- and the freedom- it will bring.

Living with square-pegs is not easy. They don’t permit dull moments in their reign. You will be kept on your toes and pushed beyond your limits. If you envisaged a even paced, predictable life for yourself, abandon the thought. If you are weak-hearted, square pegs are not for you. Go find some nice smooth round peg and live out the days of your life in unruffled peace. I am sure you will never step on a single toe all your life. No, I didn’t snigger. You must’ve imagined it!

I am not promoting porcupines. I am merely introducing them to you so that your life becomes a larger than life experience like mine. I am merely trying to give you a road map for the terrain that lies ahead. It may look daunting but trust me it is not all that tough. Moreover, it is incredibly rewarding.

You go to the mighty ocean and you beg him to climb into a bottle. He is fond of you and would like to do it, just to make you happy. But he CAN’T… no matter how hard he tries. Believe me, when he sees he cannot, his heart breaks before yours does. He is devastated before you are; he hates himself long before you can. Then YOU turn around and tell him it is his fault he can’t climb into a bottle! Can you imagine how he’d feel? Have you never been accused of a committing a sin you never committed? Have you never been blamed for something that wasn’t your fault? Don’t you remember how it feels? Didn’t it kill you, inside?

The truth is, you simply CANNOT hold the ocean in a bottle. If you try, you will only end up fragmenting him. You will break him, denude him of his magic and strip him of his ocean-ness. You may bottle the salt water and fool yourself into thinking you have bottled the ocean. Far be it for me to rob you of your delusions and earn your wrath. It would be well to remember though, that the ocean is more that just salt water.

Roller coasters are meant to be roller-coasters. The ocean is born to be the ocean. A porcupine can only be a porcupine. A square peg will always be square. If you don’t like the extremes of a roller coaster, the vastness of the ocean, the spiky back of a porcupine or the inflexible square-ness of a square-peg, stay away from them. Believe me, I say that with deep regret because I hope you will  not stay away. I hope you will hold on to your courage and let yourself be swept away. I am sure you will never want to get off once you get a taste of the ride.

If you choose to stay with them, do yourself a favor. Don’t try to bind them in rules. You cannot pin a cloud down, nor hold water in a closed fist, nor stem the flow of wind. Like everything else in the world, square-pegs are a package deal. The very extreme-ness that makes you feel divorced from your innards is the one that adds so many hues to your life-experience. You cannot pick up one end of the stick… it must be picked whole… or not at all. If the vastness of their (emotional) responses make you feel like you are drowning, please remind yourself that it is this vastness that adds the depth of pulsating life to your days. If their raised hackles poke you sometimes, please remember the softness underneath. The spikes are a protective covering, not a weapon of war. The protection is not rigged against you, but against the world at large. You getting poked is truly incidental, there is no point in taking it personally.

The rules governing round pegs don’t apply to them. If you feel naked without rules, I can share the only one they have.

They will make their own rules.


Picture from the internet

Square Pegs

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35 thoughts on “Square Pegs”

  1. There’s something about them to be admired, isn’t there? But it takes great skill to live with them…..You know what you are talking about, so I’m sitting up and listening, dear lady.
    Love ya!

    1. Dear Corinne…

      I wouldn’t say it takes skill, it just needs an occasional shift in perception perhaps. Just so that you don’t miss the forest for the trees.Because, the forest is the point, not the trees. 🙂
      So good to see you here, and to know you are listening. 😀

      Love ya too…

  2. I was a good reader, I swear. I nodded in all the right places, shook my head in the rest, and overall, reveled in how you answer all of my queries without my having to ask you. That ocean in a bottle thing? Made me sigh and smile at the same time. You made my day. And you are to blame for that slightly obnoxious smug feeling I will carry with me from now on 🙂

    1. Sam…

      You ‘were’ a good reader..? As in past tense…? Not a good reader now…?
      I answer queries before you ask me..? Do I do that really…? I thought I was just stating a few facts… 🙂 Feeling smug haan…? He he…. fabulous…! Exactly what I wanted to tell you the truth.

      So glad to see you here…


  3. i am sure each one of us likes to believe ‘i’m unique’. but when someone else finds the ‘uniqueness’ in you and then is magnanimous enough to point that out – not only to you but to the world at large…i guess, then one really cannot be faulted for feeling smug.

    “The quills of my square-pegs are…”

    i am also sure that “your” square-peg would definitely be on cloud nine now…hope you feel as blessed as yours must be feeling.

    1. Shiva…

      I know you can understand my feeling of smugness and of feeling blessed. My square pegs really do bless my life. As for cloud nine, well, its time a lofty perch was claimed for life. Wouldn’t you agree…?

      Thanks for the visit… it is good to see you here… even when you don’t leave your pug marks behind. 😀


    1. Mast comment likha Pramathesh. You actually called me by name…! 😀

      Good to see you here…


  4. Your blog is a lovely find – I’ve just read a number of posts and will definitely be back to enjoy more.

    I had to stop and comment on this post before heading off to get some work done. Ohmyword, a porcupine mascot – love the idea! I’ve been writing as & for Square-Pegs since 2005, and have also gathered a little collection of porcupine figurines (because, to me, they’re adorable) – but never thought of the two things (Square-Pegism and porcupines) as connected. Who knew? Well, YOU, apparently!

    Great writing! But oh, I hope not all you’ve written here is true about Square-Pegs – grin.

    1. Karen…

      You are equally a lovely find for me. I am so amazed…. you are a square peg AND been fascinated with porcupines…? How cool is that…! This is like an endorsement straight from the horse’s mouth…!!

      You didn’t need to wonder if all I wrote here about square pegs is true surely..!? You would know… you are one too…! Isn’t this EXACTLY how square-pegs are…? I see your nod.. 😀

      Do visit again, I’d look forward to your visit. I am pleased you liked reading me… 🙂


  5. Dagny, I found your blog via Karen Caterson’s FB and have been looking back at past entries. Fabulous writing! Definitely will be back!

    I work doing intensive in-home family treatment, with high risk low income kids 0-18, and their families in the home setting, Many of the kids have ODD, ADHD, PTSD, or are on the Autism Spectrum. I doubt you had that particular population in mind when writing, but then again, there are square pegs everywhere! Still, what you have written resonates deeply with my experience with these kids and their families and others in my personal life, heck, I’m a square peg too :-). We all know porcupines, they can be difficult to dance with, prickly and reactive, and lash out to wound when rubbed the wrong way. Still Maybe if the round holes were willing to change a bit a square peg would fit in, or maybe, the round pegs need to try to adapt themselves a bit to fit themselves into the openings in the world of square pegs!

    1. Luna,

      I am very pleased to see you here.

      You are right, I was not thinking of ODD/ ADHD or Autistic children when I wrote this. But one of my daughters is dyslexic and I have home tutored her myself in the remedial methods she needed to learn. I agree with you completely when you say ADHD, ODD PTSD and autistic children are square pegs in some facet of their personality or the other. My daughter is surely s square peg, and I have others in my life too. I Guess we find each other by mutual affiliation. 🙂 Or maybe I am a square peg too somewhere. 😀

      Here’s hoping for more acceptance and appreciation for all square pegs. I hope you will visit again. It was a pleasure to interact with you.

  6. One of the best things about giving is not in the giving itself – as most would have you believe – but in the appreciation that comes by when others – other than the receiver – notices that. It is often said not to look for the fruits, but just to do your bit and move on. I am one who does not adhere to this norm…I look for the fruit. Not merely to satisfy my ego, but to ensure that the fruit is enjoyed for those whom it is meant.
    Very often the receiver does not realize that he/she is enjoying the fruits of others’ labor. But when someone notices your labor and also the receiver’s joy, and then points it out, the ‘job satisfaction’ is multiplied manifold.
    You, madam, seem to have not only appreciated the ‘odd’ ones but I am sure also done your share to ensure that the Square-pegs are made to feel at ‘home’. If that is not unique – and Square-Pegish – then what is? I am sure there are many who have benefited from your word, and the timely shoulder.
    I hope – and pray – that the world is blessed with more of your kind.

    1. Nosmo King…

      You are right in a way, I am square-pegish too. Perhaps my square-pegish-ness is only in recognizing people who are truly square-pegs. I would say I am the kind who can make a competent enough copy of an original, but I couldn’t create an original to save my life. To my credit all I can claim is that I know the ‘creator’ when I see one. And to offer appreciation in homage- and with gratitude.

      I am gratified that my words have helped to multiplied your ob satisfaction. I know how a validation of this kind feels. I am very pleased my words have given you that feeling.

      I think the world not only needs more like me… but also many more of my square pegs. I wonder why I feel so proprietorial about them. 😀

      Hope to see you again… in one form or another…


  7. Pingback: So long, MCA « Of dreaming, dabbling and daring…

  8. Dags, loved this post. Had a big grin on my face reading it. I can identify with the porcupine so well. 🙂
    The problem comes when one porcupine encounters another then there is a kind of fencing around dance that goes on which is actually amusing but also very engrossing. I personalyy believe that square pegs make the world very interesting and worth living in 🙂
    One more thin have you noticed for all the quills and pokeys the porcupine has the face is quite endearing really!! LOL

  9. Dags, Loved this post. I wrote a long comment and posted but it disappeared 🙁
    I could identify with this post well and I’m sure many will too. The porcupines make the world more interesting, that’s for sure. Uniform round pegs would be boring 🙂
    It’s also funny when 2 porcupines bump into each other they do a kind of fencing around which is engrossing and amusing too! But of course the porcupines with all their quills and pokeys have a cute face ;))

    1. Suja…

      Your comment didn’t disappear. I think perhaps you were not logged into wordpress when you made the comment and so it went into the ‘awaiting moderation’ section.

      Porcupines surely have a cute face. They look so solemn..! 😀

      You had to identify with this, aren’t you a square peg too…? I agree with you, round pegs give one nothing to hang on to… and are consequently a tad boring. 🙂

      Love to see you here… Hugzz..


  10. The highlight of this article is the analogy you have brought out. There is a very strong message beneath the simplicity of this article. Life is an easy bargain for the ones who have sharp boundaries to their minds. But for the ones who do not have well-defined boundaries…the ones who are born with a wing on their shoulder, life is lived on an entirely different plane. They will never try to fit into the mould. They will never be understood….they will always be misunderstood…except by people who belong to their same ‘intellectual caste’.

    I particularly love the bit on the ocean- When it can’t get into the bottle, its heart breaks before yours does. And if you bottle a fragment of it, you have denuded it of its ‘oceanness’.
    The sensitive ones are just like the ocean. They have so much of emotional depth. When they can’t live upto someone’s expectations, their heart breaks much before the other’s does. And their depth is something you can’t bottle.


    1. So pleased to see you here Vidya.

      I am SO very glad you could connect with the ‘ocean’ metaphor. It astounded me too when it popped up in my head. I guess God sits in his heaven and gives me a leg up once in a way.

      There is a story called ‘Venerated and Enshrined’. You’ll find it in the ‘FICTION’ tab. I’d like you to read that. 😀


  11. Dagny,
    I love this one. ..through and detailed. and a great analogy!
    I just am wondering as to what I am! Square or round! Can you guess from my contributions to your blogs so far what I am!!? 😀
    Whatever is your guess, I am what I am and you are what you are..and for which we are not responsible! Blame it on the creator!! ;))
    we are all in the same basket..and we have to accept one another as we are .. and it is futile to try to change you the way I want you to be and the way you want me to be, but accept each other as we are. I know it needs lots of strength, endurance and understanding to cope, compromise and adjust accordingly to a situation..but life should go on!:(
    “Help us accept each other
    as God almighty accepted us
    teach us as sister, brother
    each person to embrace.
    Be present God, among us
    and bring us to believe
    we are ourselves accepted
    and meant to love and live….”

    friday night here…so am keeping awake and reading your blogs! 😀 😀
    luv and regds

    1. Bharathi,

      You are a square peg who doesn’t yet know how square she is… for she is still exploring herself… still granting herself permissions to be what she is…. to be the way her Creator made her. 🙂

      I agree with you when you say- it is futile to try and change another person. It IS futile indeed… for the core of what we are, does not change. Which is good in many ways. Or we’d have turned into photocopies of each other. Which would have been SO very dull. 😀

      To know what another person is like is a big help though. While we agree that changing a person at the core is futile, why should we not understand and accept..? And if acceptance is not possible, why should we not move on and grow separately instead of heaping recriminations on each other…?

      Hence this post…. and others like this. 🙂

      Is this how friday nights are supposed to be spent…? I hope you are asleep now… or I am going to be ANGRY…! 😀 😀

      Love and regards,

  12. I dont mind turning into a photocopy of someone called Dagny! 😀
    so that i could write and post many wonderful blogs here there and everywhere!;) ..and
    how nice!! how wonderful it would be!! 😀 sigh! 🙁
    you have a great weekend!
    luv and regds

  13. there are many nights in a week but friday night is so special ‘cos Dad is on call on friday night ..mostly that is!! so he stays in hosp… and my lil bro any mom sleep and snore to glory till late in the morning. so i am all on my own! isn’t that nice!?:D nope! I am still up..gonna bed soon 🙂

    1. Bharathi,

      Trust me, you don’t want to be a photocopy of anyone, least of all of me. You see just one aspect of me… what about the other sides… some of them not very pleasant. You will probably say you don’t mind.. or that I couldn’t have unpleasant sides to me. To both I’d say- But why deny the universe of the ONLY Bharathi in creation..? It’s such a waste of potential being a duplicate of someone. You had do MUCH better by being yourself.

      Henry Van Dyke is reported to have said: It is with rivers as it is with people: the greatest are not always the most agreeable nor the best to live with.

      Peace and quiet are surely nice. It is true you manage to get a lot done. But still, I hope you don’t over-do things. 😀

      Love and regards,

  14. Wish it was easier for the square pegs to know that they are not alone. A lot of others are trying to fit in or are being fitted forcefully into a round hole. Each attempt of fitting in unsuccessful.

    1. I hope this post is a step in that direction Jaibala. Sometimes it is enough just to show your own light to the world. Like also attracts like sometimes. 😀

  15. aha! I hear you!! having been a square-peg all my life, I can so relate!!
    trying to fit into a round-peg is exhausting and painful and I have been hugely unsuccessful in my attempts!

    But, I like being a square-peg with shiny emeralds!! Its nice to be labeled unique or “namoona” as a dear friend calls me! (you know who he is! :D)

    Thank you for this post. It’s come at the right time! 🙂

    1. You had to hear me Hema. We speak the same language, don’t we? Namoona is an accurate synonym for Square Pegs… 😀

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