Ants, Bacon & Life Lessons
If we were to look towards the ant for inspiration, we would learn that- circling around the problem or the stress first and seeing it from every possible angle would give you perspective, then opening your mind to various ways to fix or handle
it would give you some idea of the best course of action and then, bit by bit,
you break it down to manageable proportions.
This morning after finishing the housework that I had been neglecting as of late, I decided to reward myself with an iced coffee before getting down to writing. So I jumped in my truck and headed up to the coffee shop. Realizing that it was past breakfast and that my belly was rumbling, I decided to pick up one of their chicken and bacon sandwiches too.
Bringing my tasty treats back home, I made myself comfortable on my deck, making sure to put my phone on silent, and had a peaceful lunch. I listened to the sounds of nature that surround my house; the cry of the black bird from its nest, the buzzing of a passing bumble bee and the rustle of leaves as a couple of chipmunks ran amok among the trees. I noticed a small black ant wandering aimlessly around the far corner of the table that I was sitting at. Round and round he went, zig zagging back and forth in no discernible direction. I found myself staring at his movements and following along to see where he went next. I don't know about you, but I have never spent any time contemplating ants, well aside from trying to get them out of my house every spring.
After a few minutes of watching him run around, I decided that he must be hungry. Don't ask me why, I have no idea. But I felt like doing something nice for the little guy, so I tore off a small corner of bacon from my sandwich and placed it near him.
Yes, I shared my lunch with an ant. No, I am not crazy and no, I most definitely do not have too much free time on my hands. But the little voice inside my head said to share some bacon with him - and to find the lesson in it.
A lesson from an ant? Yeah actually - a couple of them.
The chunk of bacon I gave to the ant was no bigger than my fingertip. To the ant though it must have appeared to be the size of a mountain. I watch as he carefully approached the bacon, circling it a few times, crawling up on it and walking the length of it, to standing next to it for awhile. Knowing instinctively that he couldn't handle it all at once, he began attacking it bit by bit. Over the course of time breaking the chunk of bacon down into manageable bits that he could carry on his own back to his colony.
Reminded me a lot of the problems and stress we all have in life. Taken as a whole - stress and life's problems are often overwhelming. We don't know where to start. We don't know how to handle them. We don't know what to do. We look at them and to us they can feel as big and unmovable as a mountain. We fall to our knees and lament the injustice of it all. We stick them into a corner and hope they solve themselves. We throw a sheet over them and hope that after time the stresses and problems will just disappear. But if we were to look towards the ant for inspiration, we would learn that- circling around the problem or the stress first and seeing it from every possible angle would give you perspective, then opening your mind to various ways to fix or handle it would give you some idea of the best course of action and then, bit by bit, you break it down to manageable proportions. There is no sense in allowing yourself to get overwhelmed, no sense in throwing up your hands and quitting or giving up. Take the lesson from the ant - examine, ponder, break it down, handle it one piece at a time and before you know it - you will be over that particular mountain. Sometimes one must think logically when faced with a huge life problem or stress, when it would be far easier to let your emotions run the show.
When I first discovered the ant he was wandering aimlessly (or so it appeared) all over the far side of the table. This way and that he would scurry, pausing occasionally to sit on his back legs and wiggle his antennas. After a brief pause he would continue his traversing of my table, each time he would come to the edge he would simply go left or right and head back the way he came. Aimless. When I decided that he looked hungry and shared some bacon with him all of a sudden the aimless scurrying stopped. He now had a goal. An ants main concern in life is bringing food back to the colony; as they have been doing for over 92 million years. With the sudden appearance of the food- he had a goal that he wanted to reach and immediately got to work on it.
Made me think of all the goals I want to attain and how that list seems to be ever evolving and changing as I grow older. I thought back to the stretches of time in my life when I had given up on my goals or my dreams. How I aimless wandered through my days - going this way and that and never really thinking too much about it. How unhappy I was when I wasn't working toward something. Or how much I missed that feeling of accomplishment when I attained something I had worked so hard for. Watching the ant reminded me that while sometimes opportunity may fall out of the sky (for him in the form of bacon) it is usually up to us to set our sights on a dream, a goal and then work our asses off to attain it. I don't care if it is losing weight, buying a house or getting an education, in order to live a happy and fulfilled life - you actually have to live it. You dream and then work on making your dreams a reality. You set goals. You plan out ways to get, to learn, to achieve them and then when you do - after that moment of pure pride at your accomplishment - you move on to the next one.
I went back out to sit on my deck a few hours later and was amused to discover the chunk of bacon had been broken apart and there were 4 more ants working at it. Made me think back to all the times I should have asked for help but didn't. How much more manageable certain periods of my life would have been if I had only admitted that I needed help to handle it all. Periods of time that had I reached out to my friends and told them what was going on, would not have felt so lonely and overwhelming. How it is ok to call on those that care for you and ask for help. Doesn't make you weak, doesn't make you any less capable. It makes you stronger in the long run for it.
The world is filled with strangers who we walk pass without noticing every single day. People not all that different from ourselves. People walking their own journeys, fighting their own battles and totally insignificant to our life - unless we stop once and awhile and actually see them. So easy it is to get caught up in our day-to-day that we fail to connect with those around us. I had absolutely zero intention to having lunch with an ant today. My mind was on getting food into my belly, my coffee and my writing. I didn't have to notice the ant, I didn't have to share my lunch with him and spend a few moments of my life with him. He could do nothing for me on the onset of this. He meant nothing to me. But after spending some time watching him scurry about and deciding that he looked hungry and sharing my bacon, he taught me a few lessons at the same time.
The lesson - Be open to the people around you. Regardless of how insignificant they seem at first glance, offering a smile, a random act of kindness or even simply holding the door open for them could change their whole world or at least their day. And pay attention, because it is in the seemingly unimportant moments that you could learn a whole lot from someone you normally would have walked right passed. Strangers are just friends waiting to be made and no one in this world is too insignificant to not warrant your time.
As for lunch dates - this one may go in the most unique category. I did have to laugh when, after that first taste of bacon, the ant sat back on his rear legs and put his front legs up in the air waving them all around - to me it looked like an ant doing a happy dance. I guess it's not every day a big chunk of bacon falls out of the sky - so really who could blame him for doing a little jig? As for me - well maybe I will try having lunch with one of those chipmunks next weekend. Who knows what they can teach me?
Just call me Dr. Doolittle.
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