I live in a fishbowl.
We all live in our own fishbowls.
Our fishbowls can be pretty awesome! They house our vibrant memories, family and friends, our lovers, the times we were brave and courageous, our hopes and our dreams of who we know we can be.
But it’s a fishbowl — a container.
It also collects our poop:/
Our crap, our shit, our baggage, our ugly memories, our failures, the times we were cowards, that thing our teacher said to us that one time, painful breakups, bad habits, self-destructive addictions, the time we’ve wasted.
And while the good stuff accumulates, so does the bad stuff.
As it does, a subtle — often imperceptible — change starts to occur.
That pristine water we once frolicked in becomes a little less clear.
We may still not notice when the water turns murky.
Even if we do, we might brush it off, saying to ourselves, “I mean it’s not THAT murky. I can live with it.”
But gradually over days, months or years it changes how we see all the good things in our fishbowl — that is if we can still see them at all.
We know we should be doing something about the water. We want to. But it’s just easier to accept, and get used to the water.
It’s not thaaaat bad
Little do we know, the water we’re swimming in is starting to morph us in ways we’re not proud of. It’s making us weak, even sick. We might let this go on so long that we think this is a normal way to live.
Instead of identifying ourselves with the things in our bowl that nourish us, we’re more inclined to define ourselves by the shit.
But hey, you built this bowl, goddamnit.
You own this bowl.
It’s YOUR bowl.
You’re proud of your bowl. Comfortable in your bowl. If threatened, you will defend your bowl!
However, you can’t deny it is getting dirty.
Finally — hopefully — the day comes where you wake up and say, “HEY, I don’t want to live like this anymore.”
“I’m gonna make a change!”
So you start taking action. You open up and tell other fish about the poop in your bowl. You explain how your bowl came to be in the state it’s in. You read about how to change yourself so you can change your bowl. Other fish are now sharing with you about the poop in their fishbowls.
You start making changes. You build a filtration system for the water or you throw your poop out little by little. You rearrange your bowl, you take up a new activity you’ve always wanted to do, you start eating better, you lift your fish weights, you help other fish with their bowls.
You’re improving and you will clean the bowl over time, goddamnit you just can’t seem to catch a break.
“Because you idiot! You’re still in the same dirty-ass bowl, and you’re not doing anything about it,” your little inner fish voice screams.
“But I am doing something about it!” you retort.
“Well it’s not enough. It will never be enough!”
“I mean, I want to do something about it. I thought I was doing something about it. Other fish have done the same thing and it seems to be working for them, but why isn’t it helping me? You’re right, I’m not doing enough, I’m not and I don’t know why I’m not, I try, but I shouldn’t be trying — I should be doing, like Yoda says, but I’m not Yoda-worthy, no matter how much I want to be, I’ll never be able to, why can’t I just get a hold of myself and CHANGE!”
You’re snatched up out of your water.
“What the hell is this?”
A net — something you weren’t expecting — has grabbed a hold of you and ascended you from your familiar environment.
Perhaps you feel light and freed, but you might instead struggle against it.
On one hand it’s taking you out of your old dirty bowl, but on the other it’s stealing you from all that was familiar to you and that you had taken so much pride in.
Before you can contemplate too long, SPLASH!
You find you’ve been dropped into a clear world — a clean bowl.
This bowl has been decorated with all your good memories and personality traits. All your past triumphs and achievements.
You look around and notice, “Hey, I think this bowl is bigger.”
It has plenty of space for new hopes and dreams — plenty of room for you to grow.
But you’re confused.
You had done so much to clean and improve your old bowl, your old world, who you were.
Then all of a sudden you find yourself here, in a beautiful new bowl? Because of a random net?
“Was it really that simple?”
“Could something that brief and unexpected have been the only thing separating me from this new world?”
Deus ex machina seems a little too convenient, a little too lucky, a little too…easy.
But then you look back and remember, “I’ve experienced this sensation before.”
You referred to it as something “clicking.”
Or you had an “ah ha” moment.
You worked on a problem or a script forever and then in the shower something just “came to you.”
Sometimes these moments appear out of nowhere with no prior work.
But often they come when you’re simply looking for them, even asking for them.
They show up even more when you’re open to them but without expectation.
And even more when you’re already doing the work.
And this leads me to…
Why I am writing here
I’ve put in a lot of effort into cleaning my fishbowl — into doing what I want to do, focusing on who I want to be and in working through my shit.
And this hard work is necessary if I or anyone expects to move the needle.
But every once in a while, something will intervene that launches me into another way of thinking and changes the course of my life (no matter how hyperbolic that sounds).
So I want to share with you those things that have pulled me out of my old dirty fishbowl and revealed to me a new perspective.
These things could be a simple word from a friend, a line from a poem, losing something, a YouTube video.
Some references are well-known, but most of them are seemingly insignificant. If they came from someone else, that person likely doesn’t even remember saying it to me.
But for whatever reason, they made a massive impact on my life.
Not everything that I write about will resonate with you, but maybe — just maybe — something will.
And that will make this all worthwhile.