Imagine for a moment you’re a centipede, and you’re just crawling around the ground hunting earthworms, exploring the impossibly colossal landscape of someone’s backyard.
All your legs are in working order. You don’t sit and contemplate why humans call you a centipede when you only have 71 legs. All you know is that you’ve got a gut full of earthworms and perhaps a cricket or two because your hunting skills are as sharp as your fangs.
And if a centipede friend ever came crawling up next to you and asked if you’ve ever seen a centipede therapist, your reply (speaking in centipede dialect of course) would be something like, “What do I have to be unhappy about? All my needs are met. Plenty of water. Plenty of land and shelter. I have all the earthworms I could ever eat!”
But then, another backyard creature slinks up and asks a question:
The centipede was happy, quite,
Until a toad in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg goes after which?”
This worked his mind to such a pitch,
He lay distracted in a ditch,
Considering how to run.
The circumstances haven’t changed in your centipede world after the toad’s inquiry, yet you sit idle in a deep ditch. What has changed is your perception of self in trying to solve an impossible problem made up by the toad.
A gut full of earthworms suddenly doesn’t seem important anymore. The mind is stuck, paralyzing your 71 legs as if they were useless wooden stumps attached to your creepily long body.
I can’t tell you how many toads I’ve run into in my lifetime. Perhaps you’ve met them, too?
Toads that have told me to question myself and be ashamed that I’m a guy who likes other guys. Toads that have told me I should feel lost because I’m not a Baptist; or a Democrat; or a Republican; or that I should be an angry, science-book wielding atheist.
Toads that have told me to be embarrassed because I don’t “act” like a gay man, or because I have long hair, or because of how I dress. They are everywhere, eager to tell me why I shouldn’t be content. Some of these toads have been people I respected. People I loved.
I see a human therapist (not a centipede therapist), and I take medication to help stabilize the constant cycle of depression and anxiety that is my month. I hope one day to be medication free with no pending therapy appointments.
And for me, the key in illuminating that path is guarding how I think, reexamining the parameters I cultivate in my mind for being content. Those dark ditches aren’t as cavernous only because I work to dismantle fabricated social conventions of what it is to be a happy human — all coming from people who have had zero experience in being me!
I’m learning to trust myself more, ignore the toads more, and just be content when I have a gut full of earthworms.