The Ugly Fish

Once again, I’ve come upon that lonely, murky pond where nothing seems to thrive but the delicate little herbs along its western shore. Their tiny dew soaked leaves glisten as the muddy roots whisper “grab me up and rub my soul over the wounds of yourself and all those you see!”

But, like a fish in a fitful, feverish dream, my fingers stick together, unable to reach for anything but themselves. I want to shout to the world “I’ve seen something new! I’ve realized something unique! I know it can help you AND me!” Silenced by every unanswered request, struck by each gust of wind in the lives that surround me, my intentions fail to manifest.

I feel life whispering something about the occasional uselessness of language, the meaninglessness of speaking that which can’t be understood. But I am not listening. I’m insisting on saying the things I need to say, confined by my need to release the pressure, hopelessly attached to the outcome of being heard from my core. In this sticky place, my phrases mean nothing to anyone but myself and my pride is the last to let go in its desperate attempt to exist and belong in the normal world.

Enraged, I scream and shake and lose my footing near the water’s edge. “No one can hear me. No one is listening. No one can see the theory behind my pain, merely the mechanics of my strain, ” I try to say. But the forest hears only a tiny whimper as I inhale before going under.

The icy water soothes burning nerves and collapses my tired lungs under the weight of my own unmet expectations. Finally, I exhale and the fighting is over. At last, my limp frame can drift down to the quiet place in the center of the pond, where all the ugly fish go.

“Ah, here you are!” the ugly fish say, catching me with their fins, filling my lungs with bubbles of fresh air.

“We’re so relieved you’ve come back! We’ve been yearning to hear your stories but the mud is so thick. It keeps us from understanding what you’re saying.”

“I didn’t think anyone could hear me!” I exclaim, astonished. “I didn’t think anyone was listening! I felt ashamed, angry and alone!” I cry and cry for hours and the water turns clear and warm. The ugly fish smile and suck at my face, drinking the tears. “I only got here because I lost myself.”

The ugly fish smile. They smile like only ugly fish can smile and tell me, “Isn’t that the only way we do get home most days?”

Because the truth is what’s most funny – I giggle and giggle until I can hardly see their faces through all my giggly bubbles. I giggle until I completely lose the need to take myself seriously. Until I can’t even remember what I thought was so important to say.

“Silly Stephie”, they say. “Silly me,” I agree. With this they scoop me up and set me upon a little rock covered in slippery green moss.

“Please tell us everything you have words to share. We really need to hear anything you really need to say.” I know what they’re saying is true and real because ugly fish don’t say things to please anybody. They don’t say anything they don’t need to say. And they always swim with ugly fish so everybody feels the same way.

I breathe in their bubbles and start from the beginning. And speak and breathe until both become easy for me. And when I’m relieved of the need to speak, I just breathe.

And when there’s nothing left, the ugly fish suck the last tears from my lashes, the last giggle from my lips and give me a gift only an ugly fish can give. They say, “You don’t need to be frightened of getting lost. It is a blessing, because it will always lead you home to us. Fall into the muck of life anytime you need to, Stephie. We will always be here, listening for your stories. We take these stories and weave them into the big Stories and tie them with the threads that unite all lives. We need your stories to keep weaving.”

And then they ask something from me, and I promise to do it. “Bring others’ stories from the world above whenever you come, too. Listen as we listen. Weave as we weave. Broaden the fabric that holds us all together. Live as a part of the whole… as you are a part of the whole.”

And I do and I will, ugly fish. Thank you. And I do and I will.

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