Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress

 

Ripple Effect

When I was seven, my family moved into a newer, bigger house to fit our growing family. The best feature, though, was not the house’s size, nor the fact that I would get my own bedroom instead of having to share with my sister. It was the small creek just down the hill in the woods behind the house. Even then, I recognized its significance.

While my siblings and I spent our childhood playing in the woods beside the creek, I never took time to stay still and observe the water. Being a teenager changed that. The creek became my refuge.

I would come home after a stressful school day and walk straight down the hill. I would balance from stone to stone until I reached a big boulder in the middle of the creek, and there I would sit and write in my journal, the water bubbling around me.

Countless times, I ran down that hill to escape a fight with my parents. I’d sit on one of the stones and cry as I watched the water. But something about the sound of the water, its continual sloshy flow, slowed my tears. I found myself watching the tiny ripples, thinking about how there were so many of them that you couldn’t begin to count, how they constantly, consistently appeared. Even with all its activity, the creek had a steadiness, and it steadied me.

Now I am an adult in New York City, and my location makes it hard to hold onto any kind of calm. Busy people constantly surround me, blocking the sidewalks and crowding the subway cars, and the fever pitch of their hurry is contagious.

On one very stressful day, I called my trusted friend Sara during lunch. I was sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park and tons of people were walking by, but I couldn’t stop my tears. My ex was in town, I told my friend, and I explained how the ex managed to make me happy one minute and angry in the next. My co-worker got a promotion, I said, and I was happy for her in theory, but seeing her in a new position freaked me out about my own job. Was I performing well enough?

“You can’t hold onto these feelings,” said Sara. “I mean, don’t be mad at yourself — we can’t help feeling the way we feel sometimes. But you can’t carry your jealousy and anger around and let it stress you out. You have to let it go.”

“I know that,” I said. “But I don’t know how. How do you just drop feelings? How do you let them go?”

“I don’t know,” said Sara. “Maybe you need to meditate or something.”

Meditating seemed as good an idea as any. I hung up the phone, prepared to take a few deep breaths before heading back to the office. I tried to think of an image to hold in my head while I breathed. Something that signified calm.

Then I let out my breath and laughed. I was sitting right in front of a fountain! I approached it, remembering the creek that had helped me growing up. The water spouted from the top of the fountain and fell into the pool below, creating a million ripples that flowed into each other as new ones appeared. Water was steady — it didn’t disappear, but it was constantly changing. I needed to go with the flow, to let myself change.

I walked back to work calmer than before, grinning at almost-forgotten memories.

~ Eve Legato ~

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