Life in a Fish Bowl

The other day I stopped at a friend’s house and, while I was there, noticed their bright blue beta fish sitting in a small clear bowl. His name is Henry. He lives on the bookshelf away from the window.

There was nothing else in the bowl with Henry. Just him, his thoughts, and a little bit of water that he doesn’t even know is there. I stood for a minute, watching him swim round the bowl, bumping into the edge over and over trying to get to the big world just on the other side of the glass. It made me sad watching turn and turn in his endless loop to no where.

What a horrible way to live. Your only purpose to be glanced at every now and again. And I thought about how, for a while now, lots of us have been stuck in our own little fishbowls. Though ours are a little better – and a little worse.

Through life in a pandemic, lots of us have felt like we’ve been dropped into a glass fishbowl. Just swimming round and round in the same place, waiting to be let out again. But what Henry will never know is the world he’s missing outside of six-inch sphere. He will never understand that there are bigger and better places to swim. Never understand that there are sand bars and fishy schools he’s missing out on. But we do – we’re staring out through our fishbowls at a world we know is better than the one we’re living in now. The ignorance of the outside world is truly bliss for Henry.

Of course, we also have one key advantage over Henry. Though he may yearn for something more than his endless laps, he’ll never know why he’s in his bowl. There’s no purpose to hold on to. But we have a reason. We stay behind the glass for all the other fish.

But soon the bowls will break, and we’ll all be able to swim to open oceans again.

Life without a skeleton

There’s nothing really giving my life structure in this season. Sure, I can create my own schedule. I can give myself firm end and start times or specific hours for work. But without any sort of external influences – going in to an office each day, evenings out of the house, Sunday mornings at church, etc – days are passed without a skeleton to keep the different areas of my life supported and suspended.

Instead, everything piles together – work flops into every hour of the day, swapped and rearranged constantly with household tasks. Interweaved with internet musings and nature documentaries. There is no ‘off limits’ time for any of these without any set schedules telling me when I have to show up for work, or when I’m not allowed to simply lay on my couch and read a while.

With the lack of structure in my schedule comes a lack of structure in my energy and emotional state as well. I find myself drifting fluidly, constantly throughout the day into and from states of laziness, exhaustion or purpose-driven energy. Sadness, happiness, loneliness, inspiration – every moment of the day is seemingly fair game for these and more.

It’s an odd way to live. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Often it’s frustrating.

I have much more than others, and I’m sorely lacking much besides. But days, weeks and months spent without a skeleton can be a messy way to walk for anyone – no matter what else they’ve got.