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March 22, 2016

Gratitude or Ears Full of Sand. You Choose.

ostrich man head in sand

Being an adult is hard.

Expectations force us to do things we’d rather not; responsibilities require us to participate in activities we’d prefer to avoid; obligations compel us to behave in inauthentic ways.

I long for the days when the big challenges seemed to be dressing appropriately for the weather, trying to sound prepared when called on in class, and making it to the office in time.

Nowadays, my biggest challenge seems to be applying simple logic to the world around me. I have grown weary of the state of the politics in the US. I have felt saddened in the knowledge of those fleeing their homes abroad.

I have spent countless hours wondering what sort of planet I am leaving to my children.

The levels of anxiety and stress can reasonably lead even the healthiest among us to depression and self-abusive behaviors for many. While I’m not concerned that I will return to my former vices, there are days when it would “just be easier” to escape into numbness. Although I’m not one who is prone to depression, there are times when I feel so awful I wonder whether I’m finally on the verge of a legitimate nervous breakdown.

It is then when I picture the ostrich, the largest land bird on our planet. Its shape and appearance make me think about the ostriches’ long-departed relatives: the dinosaurs. I imagine an ostrich kicking up clouds of sand in its wake as it runs away from a lion and then pivoting to kick its predator square in the face.

Even with its ancestry and size-based bravery, on occasion, it dives its head into the sand. What an image that is. Tail feathers to the sky, the bird escapes from the world and into near total sensory deprivation.

While I’m sure there is a reason for this bird’s behavior, I don’t really want to know. It’s enough for me to wish I could do the same.

However, I cannot.

Regardless of any wish to be a large flightless bird running over the hot sands of the African Savanna, I am an adult.

So what’s a not-so-large, flightless mammal to do instead of all of this hand-wringing, especially in light of objective good fortune?

Feel gratitude.

Look around and do what is possible within the circle of your life. Knowing there is little I can do to effect racist rhetoric at political rallies, the involuntary migration of displaced people, and the leaky pipes of natural gas storage facilities, I redirect the energy it takes to worry about those matters toward that I can change. I can run for local public office. I can help the poor in my community. I can reduce reuse, and recycle.

While escaping into the sand is a quick fix, it’s juvenile.

Real adults say, “Thank you” and “How can I help?” And realizing those realities is just as hard as facing the expectations, responsibilities, and obligations of life as a grown up.

The difference comes out though, with a sense of appreciation and a commitment to making it better, one small step at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Jenna Brownson

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Peter at Flickr 

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