Last week, as I was taking a walk on a drizzly spring morning, I was attacked by earthworms. No, they didn’t mug me. And it wasn’t like a swarm of bees – they didn’t actually touch me. Well, maybe the soles of my sneakers, but I gingerly tried to avoid that.
No, I’m referring to the assault on my nose. The sidewalk was like opening day for earthworm little league and it stunk worse than a sweaty kid-crammed locker room.
The odorous onslaught reminded me of my “earthworm story” that my sister has been begging me to tell, so here goes:
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. Spoiler alert: you didn’t.)
Now, what does one do when a thought like that bombards your consciousness?
Don’t look at me – I thought I was losing my mind. Earthworms have it so great?
It was time for some serious reevaluation.
That’s exactly what I did, after I got inside and examined my pupils to be sure nobody slipped some LSD into my morning coffee.
I took a good hard look at my life, at what would 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.
So, with a deep breath and a big gulp, at the end of the school year, 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.”
– James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.