Most of us have probably heard how an oyster creates a pearl. But in case you haven’t, here is the gist:
An irritant enters the oyster’s shell and imbeds itself in the mantle (the layer inside the shell that surrounds its body). The oyster secretes nacre to smooth over the irritant, and a pearl is formed. Nacre is sometimes called “mother-of-pearl” because of this process.
If you Google search “oysters” and “pearls”, a slew of inspirational sayings pop up reminding us how an oyster turns an irritant into a pearl. Which is a REALLY good reminder in these times. Because most of us are probably as irritated as can be with the circumstances surrounding us right now.
Irritating Grain of Sand
Most of these inspirational quotes and memes tell us that the irritant which enters the oyster’s shell is a grain of sand. And it is impressive. Have you ever had a rock in your shoe? Imagine turning that rock into a precious gem by simply covering it with your skin cells. That’s not an exact comparison, but it’s pretty close.
But what most of these quotes don’t tell us is that the sand is usually only an irritant in oyster farms where the people implant the grain of sand into the mantle. This isn’t the case for most wild oysters. It is exponentially more impressive than a grain of sand.
In their natural environment, the most common “irritant” that enters oysters’ shells are parasites. Think about that for a moment. What is a parasite? It’s an organism which feeds off its host- draining it, depleting the host’s resources and life, and causing great harm. Parasites often kill their host. So, calling a parasite an “irritant” is like calling cancer, or coronavirus (to stay tuned in with the current environment right now), an “annoyance”.
And this is just amazing. Life throws a parasite at an oyster, but instead of letting it take over and drain the oyster of life, the oyster turns it into a precious gem, the only gem to be made from an animal (don’t quote me on that). Something, by its very nature, hellbent on destroying the oyster, is instead made into something beautiful. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!
Life’s Parasite for Us
I have been churning this idea in my head ever since coronavirus became a global pandemic. Life has thrown us a HUGE parasite, and it is causing a heck of a lot of damage. I’m not discounting the trials that we are ALL facing right now. Unemployment is at unprecedented levels or people worried they won’t have a job. Parents are staying at home with the kids, trying to stay healthy while also trying to maintain some normalcy.
I myself got thrown for a loop with the early restrictions and shut-downs due to the quick and deadly spread of this pandemic. Having just made a decision to return to the animal care profession, I had 7-8 resumes under review. I also had two exciting volunteer opportunities lined up, with orientations scheduled for sometime in April. On top of all that, I was getting hired as a part-time/substitute fitness instructor for the YMCA. Not to mention the half-dozen talks lined up for March and April. All of that crumbled away with the coronavirus.
Obstacles into Opportunities
But instead of letting this huge obstacle crumble my life like it did my potential opportunities, I saw this as a giant opportunity. I was playing with the idea of doing more videos and one-on-one coaching, but the idea of learning something so technical scared me and isn’t in my list of strengths. But the universe decided it was time for ZooFit to broaden its horizons- YouTube, Zoom, video editing!
So, I dove in. I learned how to edit some of my videos, and started cooking demos. I also gave two 30-minute presentations on ZooFit for Earth and Ocean Month. Inspired by Optimize’s Philosopher Notes, I started my own similar project, presenting the big ideas from inspiring books. I reached out to friends to practice one-on-one coaching, and I’m working with a few to improve my skills AND help them be the best versions of themselves.
I realized soon that everything we are experiencing with COVID-19 is what I’ve been preparing for these last five years. ZooFit was MADE for instances like this! Gym closed and no way to workout? Check out my workouts along with DIY homemade workout equipment. Struggling with meals because you aren’t used to doing ALL your cooking at home? I have dozens of recipes on my blog, not to mention my book, ZooFit Safari comes packed with five weeks of meal plans and recipes. Stressed out? Not sleeping? Anxious because of environmental concerns or health concerns? That’s what I’ve been training for! To help in THESE exact situations!
I’ll admit, it’s actually fairly easy for me to see all the great opportunities open to me, even in the midst of a pandemic. But I am not naturally such an optimist. Pollyanna is not my middle name. I was able to bounce back and stay positive because as I mentioned above, I’ve been training for this.
And this goes back to the oysters and the pearls. Would YOU like to get better at turning parasites into pearls? Practice by cultivating them. Intentionally implant irritants in your life that you can turn into pearls. This is a great time to practice. Implement new habits that will improve your life, your health, and even have a positive impact on the planet.
Cutting out sugar and processed foods is simultaneously the simplest habit to install for better health, and yet the most difficult. It’s probably the most irritating grain of sand we can implant, but the pearl that results from the process is astonishing. Our health improves, the risk of cancer drops, we paradoxically have more energy, and our cravings for unhealthy foods diminish.
Shutting down our electronics an hour before we go to bed is irritating, but the pearl we cultivate is a better night’s sleep. Sleep is the foundation upon which exercise and nutrition stand upon. So, getting a good night’s sleep helps us rock our day more- improving our willpower, our motivation, energy, and focus.
The only way to get a pearl is to start with an irritant.The more irritants we intentionally implant, the more pearls we cultivate. The more pearls we cultivate, the better we are at dealing with parasites life throws at us.
What are some irritants in your life you can turn into pearls? What about the parasites life has thrown your way? How can you turn obstacles into opportunities and create beautiful, precious gems to improve your life, your community, and your world?
Let’s do it today! And tomorrow. Forever.