I read today about pearls. Basically, when something gets inside an oyster shell, be it a grain of sand or some very tiny ocean resident, the intruder makes the oyster uncomfortable, so it responds.
Now we get technical. An oyster has an organ called a mantle, and it produces a substance called nacre. This nacre lines the inside of the shell, making it smooth and comfortable for the oyster.
However, an intruder can make our little oyster uncomfortable, so the mantle gets busy and produces more nacre and covers up the sand or shrimp or whatever it is that got inside the oyster’s shell.
More and more layers of nacre are produced as an oyster grows, so once a little irritant has been covered with nacre, it will receive more and more layers, thus forming a beautiful pearl.
The point of this, for me, is that’s what life is: irritants that can lead us to create change, and that can result in something positive. Surely not always, but when we’re irritated, we try to a) cover it up, b) get rid of the irritant, c) find a constructive way to deal with it, or d) flee.
Covering it up doesn’t work. Drugs and alcohol are common masks, and sometimes depression is a mask that covers an irritant. If the irritant is a cold, we might take Vitamin C or cold medicine to get rid of it. If the irritant is something like a whiny two-year-old, getting rid of it is not an option, so it’s a good idea to find a constructive way to deal with the child.
The fourth choice is to flee. I don’t mean all the way to Zimbabwe, necessarily, though if I had the money and felt the need to flee, I just might head there. There are simpler, more affordable methods of fleeing. Consider the following, all positive methods of flight:
A walk at dawn. The world looks different at dawn than during the day. The colors, the sounds, and even the energy of the earth at dawn are more gentle. It can be a brisk walk, a meandering stroll, or a walk with the dog (unless that’s the irritant). Walking at dawn has been a wonderful way to give me an attitude adjustment when I’ve needed one.
A good book. Some would say that reading is a form of covering up an irritant, and I can’t disagree. However, it is also a form of fleeing. Books can take you places you may never go. I used to tell my students that books could take them anywhere, and at the end of the semester I always encouraged them to read a book and go somewhere they’d never been. At the beginning of one spring semester, a student I’d had the previous fall came up to me as I walked across campus. He said, “Guess what? I went to Alaska over winter break!” I was glad for him but said that probably had been a pretty cold time to go to Alaska. He grinned and said, “In a book, Miss. I went in a book!” He’d fled the desert for Alaska and loved the trip.
Lunch with a friend. You don’t necessarily have to go out for lunch, though there is something delightful about getting together with a friend in a little cafe or a restaurant you’ve never been to before. But you can also invite a friend over for lunch or arrange a simple potluck lunch with a few friends. If you invite someone over, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A large salad topped with tuna or chicken is a wonderful meal. Or grill some veggies and a piece of salmon. If it’s winter, consider a pot of soup.
Have some more money? Get a massage. Spring for an extra half hour and spend ninety minutes “elsewhere.”
Museums. No matter where you live, there has to be a museum. I live in a town of sevenhundred, so although there isn’t one here, there is one in Bisbee, a fifteen minute drive from me. Or, I can walk six blocks and be at a little museum in Mexico.
Art. If you’re feeling creative, inspired, or simply brave, create some art. If you’re not up for that, visit a few art galleries. If you’re near a university there are likely several on campus. When I’m in Tucson, one of my very favorite things to do is visit The Center for Creative Photography on the U of A campus. There’s also a gallery downtown called the Etherton Gallery that has wonderful exhibits. Both are free, and fleeing to either one can cure almost any bad mood, guaranteed.
There are many more ways to flee. Rivers, lakes, oceans – being by water can sooth away almost any kind of irritant. Simply taking time to watch the sunset can do it, too.
Next time life is irritating you, don’t cover it up and don’t think you have to get rid of the irritant. Consider a creative approach to solving the situation, or simply flee. Create the pearl.