My sweetie said something to me recently. “When you see a four legged animal, see a horse, not a zebra.” And, if this were in regards to art, or imagination, or living a generally colorful life, that would be terrible advice. However, it’s about none of those things. It’s about, specifically, in this instance, the fact that my life long asthma has been working as much overtime as a workaholic firefighter on a multi week string of 24 hour shifts, and we’ve been freaking out about it a bit. Because this isn’t something that happens. In fact, in the 10 years we’ve been together, as she pointed out well before the referenced horses, it’s never happened. It’s never been this bad. So, much like the writers at WebMD, we immediately assumed the absolute worst.
Then, after a few weeks of increasing anxiety (and inhaler usage), we got an alert on our phones. From the weather app. Regarding an orange alert for air quality, which is on top of the in-the-red allergens rating that’s been going on for at least a month.
When you see a four legged animal, see a horse, not a zebra.
We live in an anxious time right now. Not only that, but we also live in a time where it is very, very easy to be very, very informed. Just as it’s true the cynical grumbling that ‘we have the knowledge of all of human existence in the palm of our hands and use it to watch cat videos’ we also use it to unendingly research topics we would previously have had to go talk to a professional about. Or at least look in a professional’s book. So, put those two things together-raging generalized anxiety and obsessive font of knowledge-and, well, we tend to see zebras everywhere.
Sometimes it’s just a horse, ya’ll. Can’t breath? The air might be terrible. Cranky and irritable and oddly blah? It’s entirely possible you’re PMSing, or overworked, or underfed, or badly fed…meaning it might be totally physical. (I say this from experience. It’s amazing how many times existential dread is simply low blood sugar.)
I’m experiencing this in a few areas of my life right now. Zebras are turning out to be shadow speckled horses everywhere (which is freaking out the dogs, let me tell you). Another saying that comes up is “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” and that is a really complicated truth when your ‘hammer’ is over-contemplative introspection and anxiety.
So, note to self, and to you. Revisit your zebras, and your nails. Squint at them a bit, rub your eyes. It might be the problem is a lot simpler than you’re telling yourself it is.