A story about precious discomfort.
On the inside of an oyster’s shell, there’s a layer called the mantle that safeguards its vital organs. When a grain of sand sneaks its way between the mantle and the shell — as is bound to happen in the unruly current of the ocean — the oyster produces a protective substance called nacre, which coats the grit to reduce irritation. Little by little, layer by layer, it wraps around and around the discomfort until it forms an iridescent gem. Sometimes, this process takes six months. Larger pearls can take up to four years to develop. Only the oysters whose first pearls prove to be well-formed — the ones that are particularly good at gently transforming their unease into art — repeat the process. … I haven’t written one of these blogposts in nearly three weeks. I’ve started, then stopped; I’ve planned, then detoured. Things keep getting in the way: a pesky cold, or an unexpected work assignment, or wonky blood sugars caused by my type 1 diabetes. As the small stuff sneaks under my skin, I find myself feeling far behind on various personal projects, unable to accomplish anything beyond what’s absolutely necessary. In the moments of disruption, it’s easy to slip into frustration. I am trying to get somewhere. I am trying to make things that matter. How am I supposed to produce and progress if stuff keeps getting in the way? Somehow, when I set my grandiose goals, I always forget to leave space for the stuff that gets in the way. It’s the same reason I repeatedly underestimate how long it will take me to get anywhere on the New York subway: I check the route on Google Maps, and I take its predicted time estimate for truth, neglecting to allow an extra ten minutes for whatever is going to go wrong. Nine times out of ten, something goes wrong. The train inexplicably stops in the middle of a tunnel. I have to wait for the next one, because every car is too jam-packed. My Metrocard needs to be replenished. How much less frustrating might our lives be if we could just accept that there is always something? There is always something — some grain of grit that sneaks between the shells and under the skin. We get irked by the disruptions because we want to believe that we command the currents, and that the tides…
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