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  • Writer's picturecocodensmore

How do you eat an elephant?

February 13, 2024

I went out yesterday and ended up chatting with Ben at the bar. We’ve chatted before. It was a lighthearted conversation until it wasn’t. I told him I admired his tranquility, his inner peace, that I wished I could achieve the same.

“I used to be the angriest person in the world. And now I’m just not.”

“What did you do? How did you change?” I asked, desperate for the magic.

“I just made a choice. Anyone can do it. You just choose.”

“So it’s not about brain chemistry, it’s not about the things that come against us in life?” I asked. That sounds like a question, but it really wasn’t. It was me realizing that once again, there is no one single missing piece. Ben doesn’t have the magic that might transform me for good — once and for all. Much to my dismay and embarrassment, I started to cry. And then I apologized and apologized.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted to come here and have some lighthearted bar conversation. I didn’t mean to do this. It’s not right to lay my pain on people at the bar!”

“It’s OK… it’s OK,” he assured me in the gentlest tone. “Get out and take a walk tomorrow,” he said. “And do that five days in a row and let me know how you feel.”

Later that night, he texted: "Forward Motion Creates Balance."

I responded: "Unfortunately you witnessed a few moments of despair in what has been an incredibly positive period since I left my role as my mother’s caregiver and moved to Portland. Comparatively speaking, I’m living for the first time in years and years. But the bad stuff doesn’t magically fall away. Struggles don’t leave us. They subside, and then there are more struggles. But I do appreciate your words of encouragement."

This morning, he texted: “One day at a time!”

I responded: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. -Desmond Tutu”

I get it. I really get it. There is no magic. It really truly is all on me to do the work. I’m doing it, but I still foolishly seek shortcuts.

There are no shortcuts.

I Persevere. And life goes on.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” -Nelson Mandela



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