On not being a parrot

24th April, 2017   |    By Xin   |    3 min read

A little while ago, I was struggling with learning how to enjoy life despite walking alongside anxiety (a process at which I’m much better versed since seeing my counsellor. I was working at a pet supply store, and I was thinking about parrots (who are really intelligent birds) being locked in cages, so bored and unstimulated that they would pull out their own feathers in distress. I couldn’t stop thinking about how horrible it would be to be a parrot without any toys or social interaction, and I eventually got so upset that I brought it up the next time I saw my counsellor. She looked at me right in the eye and said, “Well it’s a good thing you’re not a parrot.”

That simple sentence has changed my life. There are so many scenarios I imagine that stress me out. I stress about what to do if I failed uni, what it would be like to be a youth worker again, how I would respond if someone asked me to babysit their kids etcetera etcetera. I project endless situations that cause me stress, and I often work myself into a bit of a frenzy. Then all of a sudden I stop and ask: “Why am I worrying about this? Right here, right now, I don’t have to deal with any of those problems. And if they come up, I’ll worry about them then.”

How many of your problems are “because you’re a parrot”? And how many times have you actually turned into a parrot? I would venture to guess the answer would be less than one. We often worry about things that are going to happen in the future, but the simple truth of the matter is that no one knows what the future is going to be like. For instance, I was really nervous about giving a presentation a little while ago, so much so that I had trouble sleeping for days. The day before I was due to give it, I got a call from the organisers who told me the event had been cancelled. The world is full of infinite variables, and 99 times out of 100 the things we worry about turn out differently from how we imagined. Yet we waste so much time and energy worrying about them for no reason!

So my advice to you is this: whenever you find yourself worrying about some event in the future, take a deep breath and ask yourself: “Where am I? What time is it?” (The answer, by the way, is “Here” and “Now”.) Practice mindfulness, and by the time the future rolls around, you’ll probably find that there was nothing to worry about.

All the best everyone. I hope you’re finding joy in all your moments.


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