It’s a rainy spring day here, which reminds me of the earthworm story I shared last year on my old and now-defunct website. It’s one of my favorite stories, so I’ve copied and pasted it below.
In rereading it, I’m amazed that I left out a critical part–about why I left my job last year.
It’s true that I was overwhelmed with life and chronically. But the real reason I left my job is that several years after my son Matthew’s diagnosis with a brain tumor at age 11, it finally became clear to me that his and our family’s recovery was going to be a long haul. We were all floundering, and the only way we would survive is if I dedicated myself full-time to our healing.
My first wake-up call: I needed to become a stay-at-home mother.
And the only way Matthew was going to graduate from high school is if I became his full-time cheerleader, mentor, and tutor.
I’m not sure why I left that detail out of the original story, other than perhaps I didn’t want to get so deep at the time. As a fairly new writer, I tried to separate my “cute” stories from my brain tumor stories. I didn’t know how to weave them together. I didn’t know if a reader who liked one type of story would like the other.
It’s a sign of how my writing has grown, that I can better integrate all the parts of my life, all the nuances of what makes me me. And I think my readers like that. It’s honest. It’s real.
As for Matthew, he not only graduated from high school on time, but he completed a bachelor’s degree (in four years!) and continues to amaze us with his success in life.
I have it so great. Earthworms got nothin’ on me. What a wake-up call.
Here’s my wake-up call earthworm story:
It was around 20 years ago. I was married with two rambunctious sons, a demanding full time job, and an old house. I loved it all, but the all of it was starting not to love me back.
I was frequently losing my temper with my kids, quibbling with my husband, yearning for low-maintenance apartment life. Non-stop sinus infections, colds, headaches, digestive problems, and exhaustion plagued me. I felt like my body was on the fast track to destruction.
One spring day, I pulled up in the parking lot at the elementary school where I worked as a counselor. It was raining and the parking lot was a regular Eau de Earthworm convention. I tip-toed through the conventioneers, juggling my umbrella, purse, lunch bag and briefcase, with no third hand to hold my nose.
Out of the blue, or should I say “gray,” an unedited, spontaneous thought popped into my head:
“Earthworms have it so great.”
(I’ll pause for a moment because you’re probably reading that statement again to be sure you didn’t misread it.)
Now, what does one do when a thought like that bombards your consciousness?
Don’t look at me–I thought I was losing my sanity. (Spoiler alert: I was, a little.)
To clarify: I witnessed putrid earthworms congregate on the chilly blacktop. Their life consisted of brazenly risking bald tires, low-heeled pumps, and hungry robins. If they survived, they’d wiggle back home to eat dirt and poop it out.
I thought that was a good life?
I realized it was time for some serious reevaluation.
So that’s exactly what I did, after I got inside and examined my pupils to be sure nobody slipped LSD into my morning coffee.
I took a good hard look at my life, at what could stay and what could give. The kids and the husband? Stay with a capital “S.” The old house halfway through rehab? Stay. We’d need to pay someone to take it off our blistered hands. That left my school counseling job. Which I loved. But the needy students and fractured families were slowing sucking me so dry that not even a monsoon could rehydrate me.
“At the end of the school year, with a deep breath and a big gulp, I gave my notice and quit my job. As a family, we made some sacrifices, but we regained our equilibrium and I slowly regained my health. I believe it saved my life. And I owe to it earthworms.
Wisdom in this universe is everywhere, sometimes right under our feet.
“I am not a slimy beast,” the Earthworm said. “I am a useful and much loved creature. Ask any gardener you like.”