Over the span of two weeks back in August I got really old. All of a sudden, I had become a person who groaned when getting up in the morning. Getting out of bed had turned into a slow, creaky process practically overnight. Everything ached.
What the heck was going on? What had changed that could explain this?
Well, upon quick reflection, 2 things rather swiftly came to mind. In the past 6 months my wine consumption had essentially doubled. I was now having a glass of wine most every night, the glass waiting for me at the end of the day just a mere 13 steps away from my desk.
And then there was cake. My cake consumption had probably quadrupled. Instead of my nightly 2 squares of dark chocolate, a spoonful of natural/no sugar added peanut butter and a couple of grainy oat grahams for dessert, I was now having a recklessly unregulated serving of whatever outrageous cake or confection I’d made the weekend before, a creation I would have spent the entire week plotting.
What was I thinking! Sugar is an inflammatory. A pandemic doesn’t change that!
I brought my rapid aging up to a co-worker on a Zoom call a little while later, wondering aloud what other people out there are doing to cope. “And where on earth are we all going to be in a year?” I implored. “What on earth can we do about it?”
What he said hit me as infinitely, realistically wise to our circumstances. “That is the big elephant in the room,” he agreed. “But we can’t change the pandemic. All we can do is sweep up some of the droppings as we make our way through.”
There is something so reassuring and reasonable and realistic and ultimately do-able about taking such an unambitious and measured approach. These are not ambitious times. These are just don’t-get-buried-in-the-shit times.
What I also appreciate about this non-ambitious approach is how it makes every swept-up dropping meaningful, a fully contained success in its own right. The energy it took to sweep up that one dropping is not part of some bigger goal to sweep the world clean of elephant droppings. That’s just not possible right now so every dropping we’re able to put a shovel to is good on us. It’s like an uproarious cheer from the world goes up every time I eat dark chocolate instead of chocolate lava cake with triple ganache and whipped cream. (I’m just making that up. Triple ganache doesn’t even make sense.) In fact, the world roars encouragement every time someone is able to get their child’s school connectivity issue resolved or make that phone call or deal with those dishes or solve that problem or start in on that project or anything else that’s piling up around them.
Surprisingly, what I have found is that there is something deeply satisfying about shoveling a single elephant dropping when that’s all I’m holding myself to in any given moment. It’s so deeply satisfying I often just treat myself to another dropping. That is the beauty of a low bar.
At the same time, I know elephant droppings are not all cake and wine. In fact, cake and wine might be the only thing someone has to hold onto. There are times when cleaning up elephant shit isn’t something we’re meant to be doing alone or should do alone. Then it’s time to get practical and put in a call to professional just like we put in a call to our mechanic when our car starts chugging weirdly. It’s the customary thing to do when something needs repair. It’s that simple.
Just one dropping at a time will do you. Take care of one dropping and then the world will cheer.
This is a story from a weekly column I write on being whole and healthy for Northern Light Health.