Competition Submission – Gratitude


Photo courtesy of Google images


I was reading in the sun the other day when a delicate brown moth landed on my finger just before I lifted the next page. Afraid of scaring away this new friend, I froze and observed quietly as the tiny creature rested, gently waving their antennae to gauge the safety of their surroundings. Their choice of perch was flattering, considering how moths are drawn to sources of light, and when their papery wings carried them back into the nearby woods, I felt the lingering warmth of connection. In this suspended quiet, I considered that if this moth had chosen to land on any other creature that was less trusting of the unknown, the feeble thing could have suffered a sudden end. I was grateful to have been around for the moth to land on.

This revelation sent me sifting through my past- for the past three years, I had been recovering from anorexia and managing clinical depression, and the most constant struggle I ran into was finding the motivation to prioritize my own needs. For a while, I had lived under the distorted impression that I was disconnected from all other life, that it was possible, selfless, even, for me to throw my full energy into other people and neglect myself. Connection isn’t optional for living beings, however, nor can it flow in only one direction, and countless interactions with the world eventually taught me that not caring for myself was the same thing as not caring for others. I imagine there were plenty of moths in need of rest that could have used my fingers on the days that I spent trapped in bed, stagnant. In this way, by neglecting myself, I neglected them. Mental illness has a way of twisting the mind to ignore reason, but simple connections threw irrefutable evidence into my face that I had a reason, a responsibility, even, to put my best effort into being alive. This revelation is represented well in a lesson I taught to my young campers at a nature preserve over the summer. I had them all stand in a circle, and unraveled a huge spool of brown yarn, creating a web with at least one corner being held by every child in the circle. If one camper pulled their string, five other kids giggled as they felt their own strings go taught. When the campers inevitably grew bored and dropped their strings, one by one, the entire weaving collapsed. I have experienced moments where I let go of my string, assuming the network of people around me could hold themselves together, and I have witnessed those people’s strings begin to slump to the floor in my absence. I still struggle to admit pride in most things, but I can say confidently now that I make a positive difference in the world when my cat sleeps on my chest for warmth; when the lemon balm I planted shoots toward the sun; when I wake up in the morning and just exist as myself, providing balance to life’s intricate web. 

In the past, expecting myself to noticeably change the world caused me to create immeasurable, looming standards for myself that I could never seem to perfectly fulfill. Knowing this, I no longer expect myself to enter society and leave an immediate, visible mark. I’ve settled into the mindset that in my pursuit of knowledge and connections, I am simply making myself into the best landing pad that I can be for whoever needs me. Whether I end up teaching, counseling, or in some mystery field that isn’t yet clear to me, I want be available as my authentic self to connect with other beings. It’s a goal that is both broad and simple, and I hope to lead by example and teach other lost souls that even in today’s turbulent world, being is enough.