In the last few weeks there was a situation in my life that could have had a large negative impact on my finances. This would have caused me to make some big changes like moving, job searching, rethinking my whole future. I had no control over the outcome, I just had to wait and see how everything would shake out. Then it was up to me to work with what was left and move on. Putting me in a weeks long waiting and watching game as all the players scrambled to meet a goal that would affect me. My only recourse was to keep holding on to my faith that I could and would make any result work. In the moment I forgot all the other times where the winds of fate turned my life inside out, and not for what I thought was the better, but I still picked up the pieces and figured out a way forward. Sometimes what I thought was awful in that moment turned out better than I planned but I couldn’t see it at the time. That is part of problem solving: growing and learning and getting twisted up in our worry in the process some of that time, ok most of the time.
Waiting was not an easy feat. Staying calm in the storm of uncertainty, slipping in and out of trying to find a solution to a not yet known end result was crazy making. The added bonus to this roller coaster was struggling not to spiral down and catastrophizing menu of what could go wrong. This became harder and harder as deadlines approached and things were not improving. I watched helplessly and tried not to spin out over and over, wrestling my mind back from the what if game every couple of hours. It was exhausting like negotiating with a two-year-old.
I couldn’t concentrate on complicated or creative tasks, but thankfully working out and doing mundane stuff like cooking held my attention and helped me shift my focus in fits and starts all day long. One of those mundane tasks was clearing out my tagged emails, tagged because there was good reference material in them, I might need to find easily. In one email I found a YouTube link to a Namib Desert live cam pointed at a small watering hole in Namibia between two game reserves. I clicked on it, turned on the sound and was transported to this wonderful faraway place watching all kinds of critters. Most times it was birds and listening to the wind but there were other times when bigger wildlife came for a drink. I would tune in 5-6 times a day for a couple of minutes. I saw an Oryx, a type of giant Antelope, a water buffalo once, a porcupine family, warthogs rolling in mud, hyena pups jumping around and playing with a very patient mother, a lone ostrich with an impossibly bendy neck and jackals on a regular basis. Each time I watched critters chase birds, take a drink while watching for predators bigger than them or otherwise just going about their day I was transported to a place away from my worries. It was so calming. It was a wonder to me that they were across the world having a drink trying not to get eaten in the exact same moment I was sitting in my little house watching them. It made my worries melt as I marveled that the world is so much bigger and smaller at the same time.
During the first few months of Covid where there was nothing but questions with no real answers, I found the Jelly Cam at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They have many live cams but for me the Jelly Fish is the most beautiful and the sound track is lovely classical pieces creating a graceful watery dance of light and color with the jellies. It was a go to watch during those first long uncertain days, weeks then months amid the chaos in the world; a way to rest my busy brain. These scenes of life, not humans but rather animal and marine life in a foreign environment from mine is a balm for how small my life gets sometimes when I am hyper focused particularly in times of uncertainty. These wonderous creatures pull me out of the day to day of planning, worry, tasks, to just sit and wonder who will show up at the watering hole next.
I am lucky enough to live in a place that I can regularly watch deer, turkey and a flock of 20-30 Robins land in my yard and work their way around the house pulling on worms and popcorning around in the grass like it was their job. I take time to watch these nature scenes too stepping out of my head and into the world around me for a few minutes of quiet and calm. Though recently I pleaded with an ostrich to kick a pigeon in the face who was making a racket near the camera. Small steps, small steps here folks. When I go visit the Namib critters, I bring my tea or coffee and sit for five minutes, just watching their behavior, looking at the sky, listen to the song of the whistling wind and appreciating the day. This is a meditation of sorts that evolved over time without me ever paying attention to it until now, years later, realizing how it came to be and how much this stillness benefits me in stressful times, in good times it doesn’t matter.
Years ago, in the 1980’s when I lived in NYC, I did the same thing but watched more people than critters since critters there are pigeons (rats with wings), some dogs, alley cats and once in a while a rat. Looking out my window in Chelsea I witnessed the life happening around me, not in the Bewitched Gladys Kravitz way, but rather a dance of others moving through their lives in day-to-day tasks. Watching taxies jockeying for position as they raced down 7th Avenue, pedestrians dart between cars, elderly women with they pull carts of shopping slowly traverse cracked pavement and globs of spit on the sidewalk. I would notice the smells of the pizza place two doors down mixed with the Chinese restaurant on the ground floor of our building. I would immerse myself for a few moments in just watching the world around me rush about which stopped the rushing about that was happening in my head.
I didn’t know what I was doing then, it was a way to calm myself that I didn’t think about. I just knew it to be soothing and helped me collect myself. Much later in life I learned about stopping my internal mind from ruminating by focusing it on external tasks or witnessing the world around me helping me to recalibrate my worries, overthinking and planning and just be in the present. Now watching the animals come into the watering hole, interact with each other and just be is yet another tool in my tool bag. Even when the pigeons showed up at the watering hole in a small flock, what the hell? Even watching those cooing clucking bastards helped me cope. In the end the stressful situation resolved itself with an amazingly good outcome for me, miraculously really. This helps me to remember that amazing things can come out of uncertainty too, and that both good and bad came help propel me down the road. I still stop in to the Namib Desert watering hole several times a day to hang out with the locals and see what’s going on. Because community, calm, and solutions are found most everywhere with a bit of creativity, curiosity, faith and a good internet connection.
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