A Burned Out Cynic Notices Tiny Miraculous Things

Photo by Author

OK, I am going to suggest that noticing tiny miraculous things can keep you afloat when the world seems marinated in garbage juice. You may now be picturing me as a bipedal yellow lab that believes you only need to “think happy! be happy!” Perhaps you think I have not matured past the toddler stage when most of us scampered through the world, drunk on the joy of tiny miraculous things: popsicles! markers! water in a bucket!! You suspect I haven’t experienced the unavoidable atrophy of Curiosity, Joy, and Wonder and the imperial rise of Efficiency, Productivity, and Self-criticism.

Well, let me assure you of my snarky cynic credentials. I’m a middle-aged woman who worked as a doctor in the U.S. healthcare system while raising a blended family. I was trained to rely solely on Efficiency, Productivity, and Self-criticism while Curiosity, Joy, and Wonder became like the desiccated, shriveled umbilical stumps that fall off newborns.

Several years ago, I didn’t just burn out, I got fucking incinerated. I spent weeks mostly face down on my living room floor believing that, without some sort of massive and highly trained spiritual swat team, I was down for the count.

Author Photo

But even though I was dangerously depressed, it was also the first time in my life that I spent any significant time in quiet stillness. And in that quiet and stillness, I started to hear the faint, long-dormant whispers of Curiosity and Wonder. They were pointing out that many of the things that Efficiency and Productivity filter out as uninteresting or unimportant are, in fact, extraordinary. And, despite Cynicism’s mockery, I started listening and feeling glimmers of awe and gratitude. I understood that there would be no epic rescue. It would instead be tiny miraculous things that got me up off the floor.

This does not come naturally. It has taken a lot of practice to allow my mind to notice, my body to feel, and my soul to take in these tiny servings of goodness. And, given the decibel of my skepticism, it is often less a practice of gently taking something into my soul and more a matter of jamming it in there! That’s why I’ve taken to loudly declaring why a thing is actually miraculous.

If you are like me before my sabbatical on the floor, you might be wondering what the hell miraculous things I’m on about. So, I’m going to give you a short list of examples, accompanied by things I may appear to be shouting to a companion (or my dog) but am actually shouting to myself.

  • Lightning bugs (“Their butts light up! They LIGHT UP, David! Their BUTTS!!”
  • The ferocious red of Japanese Maple leaves, especially when viewed from below with a summer-blue sky behind them. (“Look at that red! That’s a real color! REAL, I tell you!”
  • Popcorn. (“Dude! These tiny pebbles are exploding into crunchy snack clouds! Hard pebbles. . . then cloud snacks, whaaaaat?!”)
  • I am a female who had a male baby which means that I made a penis inside my uterus. (Hey nurse! Check it out, I made a penis! A PENIS, I say!”)
  • Summer thunderstorms. (“Yo! ELECTRICITY is cracking out of the SKY! That shit could burn this all to the ground! TO THE GROUND, motherfuckers!”)
  • Ferns look like frost which looks like amniotic fluid smeared on a slide under a microscope. Don’t believe me? Check it out:
Photo by L’eau Bleue on Flickr
Photo by Schnobby on Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Paul_012 on Wikimedia Commons

I know these tiny things may seem inconsequential when the earth is disintegrating, we are all hostages to leaders driven by hate, ignorance and greed, and our angry texts keep auto-correcting to “duck.” But that doesn’t mean we are not also surrounded by beauty and wonder. Taking in the good doesn’t mean you deny the horrors and horseshit humans pump out. Rather, it keeps you upright when you need to fight and fills you with the compassion you need to truly rest. At least, it does for me.

I’m always on the lookout for more good shit to jam in my soul so feel free to share the tiny miracles that stopped you in your tracks this week (and what you shouted). Thanks!

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Ylfa Perry, MD (she/her)

Ylfa Perry, MD (she/her)

Overgrown tomboy, doctor, teacher, writer. I like your dog, rollerskating, and adolescent humor. I’ll be honest with you. . .