Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Lesson of the Reef Tank

I am putting this out as a re-post. I shared it initially in the second month of my blog and though a few of my readers got a chance to read it live, I know that many did not. I thought I would share this with you all.

This was written during a particularly dark time in my life and it carries a number of lessons with it. What I wrote here was born of a simple question asked of me by my dad. Many of you who know me, understand that I struggle with perfection and an often unattainable goal of it. With that in mind, know that I often start a blog post, returning to it several times for many edits prior to its being worthy of your eyes.

This answer was written straight out as an answer to the question. I feel that it was passed through me to the "paper". Call it "inspired" or perhaps God was giving me an answer. Hopefully you will allow me to reprint it here outside my normal snarky cynical posts.

(This was actually the reef that resided in my living room)

 

For years I had a reef tank.
I made time each night to check its temperature, its salinity.
I cleaned its glass to remove algae.
Once a week I did water changes to keep everything in balance.
I purchased new corals and fish to make it beautiful.
I fed those corals and fish the best food to keep them healthy.
It was the kind of thing that required attention and money.
I loved my reef tank.
It was my most cherished possession.
Its beauty was a reflection of my time, money and energy.
I enjoyed having people over so that would admire the tank.


I began to let other things creep into my life and steal time from my tank.
Often the temperature and salinity would require larger fixes.
The glass became acceptable "a little dirty" and I would promise myself I would fix it the next night.
The once a week, 5 gallon water changes became every other week 10 gallon changes, which became, once a month 10 gallon water changes.
The tank became unhappy with the wild swings in attention.
As the attention waned, the corals and fish began to look unhealthy and some died.
It was no longer beautiful.
The food that was so good for them was overfed in attempts to make up for the lack of attention.
As the tank became less happy and the inhabitants died, my attention became less.
It was still a reflection of the lack of time, lack of money and lack of attention I showed it.
I didn't want people to see it.
I realized that I couldn't fix it in a single long moment, but that it would take consistent, intentional extra time over months to slowly bring it back to the equilibrium that I had achieved before.

I Gave Up. The tank was broken down.

 


I only wish that I was referring to my tank.

 

 

 



Once again hitting up the YeahWrite since I'm completely in love with the writing there.

 

58 comments:

  1. Jennifer WorrellMay 8, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    WOW! Neglect is hard on an ecosystem--the fish one AND the human one. Hope everything is okay...have you ever watched that show Tanked on Animal Planet?

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  2. Jennifer WorrellMay 8, 2012 at 12:13 AM

    Here's my address: http://jenniferworrell.wordpress.com

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  3. pay attention and nurture the tank back to it's beauty....

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  4. I admire your commitment to the tank, even though it waned, with tragic results. I don't know much about coral, but I hope you can bring it back. It looks so peaceful. I find a lot of peace in simple, daily tasks.

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  5. This sounds like too much pressure. I couldn't deal with dead fish on my conscience. Sure was pretty when it was up and running, though.

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  6. I've always admired salt water aquariums. I've never attempted one though because I just know I would not look after it. I require pets that demand attention.

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  7. There's so much to think about and maintain with a tank like this. Sometimes the number of tasks becomes overwhelming. And addressing one or two aspects of it doesn't alleviate the problem so it's easy to let it slide. I hope it's sparkling now :)

    Jade
    http://jadeluxe.wordpress.com

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  8. I think you may be the only one so far to have seen the hidden meaning. I guess at 1AM people are far more literal...
    I have DVR'd the show on a recommend from a friend.

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  9. Well, the tank was broken down, but the "tank" is not sparkling but it is receiving my attention.

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  10. I love aquariums but they are so fickle and needy that they almost always prove me to be a bad caretaker of such things. I like the larger metaphor and the implication that you have moved on from this dark place. Nice work, Erin

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  11. Thanks Erin. I have.

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  12. Ah, nice metaphor sir! Realizing there is a problem to be fixed is the first step, methinks.

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  13. I'd like to hear more about what you were talking about. I hope that the tank is looking better these days.

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  14. So glad you got it, many people just think its about the tank.

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  15. Wow, that was hauntingly beautiful. I can say that now as you seem to be in a better place now. Take care of yourself my friend and thank you for sharing.

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  16. A beautiful metaphor for life. We have a fish tank, my husband and I. It looks AWFUL. I mean AWFUL. When we first bought it, we had the best intentions. We had these great tropical fish and kept it cleaned, as you described here. And then it became less and less interesting and fun, and so as the tropical fish died off we replaced them with hearty catfish. Now our tank is a metaphor of sorts for our lives. Low maintenance and lazy, ha!


    But seriously, beautiful and haunting post. Hope the tank and you are in a better place now.

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  17. Thanks Sheila. By the way, I lost the Game (because of your reply)

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  18. Thanks Katie, the tank is not (for now) but that gives me time to make other things better.

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  19. I felt this one. I feel like your tank a lot of the time lately. Great post.

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  20. I felt this one. I feel like your tank a lot of the time lately. Great post.

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  21. You fooled me! Thought you were actually talking about your tank. Since you're not...nice metaphor!

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  22. I only hope that my tale is a cautionary one, I hope others can read it and step away from the abyss.

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  23. Thanks. I'm glad that the surprise was minor and the metaphor was meaningful.

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  24. I guess my comment went through after all! I really related to that post, great writing- as always!

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  25. Holy goldfish man, what a metaphor for perfectionism. As I was reading about your tank - and your intro about how you struggle with perfectionism (I know a lot of friends who struggle with this) - I totally got what the tank represents for you. You know - some of these friends I have who are "recovering perfectionists" (and several of them are writers, too - funny how that works! - have realized that they actually live in a heap of dirty clothes or unwashed piles of laundry not because they are slobs - no! - but because they are perfectionists. How counter-intuitive. Anyway, I saw your tank as a symbol of that perfectionism. Here's my unwarranted advice: maybe get a goldfish bowl next - one that you can let be dirty once in a while - and invite people over who won't notice the goldfish or the bowl. Then work your way back up to the tank - but next time hire someone to look after it. (-:

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  26. I love this. There is a lot going on in this. I need to come back and read this again in a day or two. This one needs to sit in my brain a little...

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  27. Great post love the metaphor, now on to the important part of this comment........if my life was a reef tank it would have so much algae you wouldn't be able to see the fish...........lol

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  28. I really want to get a nice big fish tank - I love them. But I know that I would get lazy about taking care of it. Thank you for giving me fortitude to resist the call of the reef.

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  29. Thanks again...

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  30. Interesting! I actually hadn't meant it as that particular metaphor but I suppose it fits as well. The perfectionism comment was more related to how I wrote this with zero edits.
    Now I'm going to have to re-read it!

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  31. Wow, I have dreamed of being deep. Thanks!

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  32. Yeah, reef algae, the hair kind, is the worst.

    You know the purple on the rocks is actually algae.

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  33. It isn't as hard as some will tell you, but it does require consistent effort.

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  34. This hits home. Perfectionism, for me, was very crippling.

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  35. Interesting. You are the second person to reflect on the metaphor being to perfectionism. I really need to re-read it with that light. Thanks for the comment as always.

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  36. Sounds like a metaphor of depression to me. I suppose it's like a piece of art. You may interpret it any way it hits you. Its a good one, though, the metaphor, however it gets to you.

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  37. *evil laugh* You're welcome, anytime.

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  38. Wow. This post deserved to see the light of day again.

    Perfectionism is a deceptive word. It sounds so good, but it is really so destructive and crushing. I've been working on my issues with perfectionism in my Bible study for about two years now. Here's praying we both have balance. :) Ellen

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  39. Thanks Ellen. Another person who sees a metaphor for perfectionism. I love it.

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  40. I'm so glad you posted this again and I'm so glad I got to read it.
    This was like an arrow to the heart for me (in a good way, the best way). I needed this. I struggle with wanting to do it all and 'being all', and I just can't.
    I wish you well on this quest. I think half the battle is being self-aware, knowing what you're up against and then finding some middle ground.
    Great, great post.

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  41. By the way, are you on Twitter? I wanted to tweet this post but I couldn't find your handle. :)

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  42. @WilyGuy is my handle

    And thanks for the kind words!

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  43. Yeah, it was pretty much right in front of me and I didn't notice it. I'm quick like that sometimes. Got it now! And tweeted.

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  44. I'm thinking the same thing Michelle. This is one of those posts that needs to be read, thought about, and then reread.

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  45. What an analogy! Great post!

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  46. Thanks Jackie, I won't give away my metaphor just yet.

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  47. Thanks Adrienne. This was a tough write initially.

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  48. I love how this post leaves so much to the imagination and so much to reader interpretation - allowing for everyone who reads to insert their own experience into your tank metaphor.

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  49. It is interesting to see how our own life parallels that of the reef tank. Little things chip away and we find ourselves giving up parts and pieces that we might not otherwise do.

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  50. Indeed Jack, Indeed.

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  51. Thanks Carrie, it has been interesting seeing the interpretations. I wonder if I hadn't said anything above it if I would have gotten an even more diverse group.

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  52. Beautiful. Sad, but very well put.

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  53. Thanks Brett, and congrats on the 100th post. I was a bit surprised you weren't there already.

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  54. AWESOME. I really loved this. Great analogy and heartbreaking but yet I understand so completely. I really do. Thank you for this. I agree. It was God inspired

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