BAADER MEINHOF (n) otherwise known as “frequency illusion” or “recency illusion,” this phenomenon occurs when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced, or been told about suddenly crops up constantly.
Before I left for Fort Lauderdale last week for work, the temperatures dropped pretty drastically in Florida.
Apparently, iguanas — which reside down there, along with senior citizens from the Midwest and rabid Dolphins fans — normally perched precariously and horrifyingly up in the trees, get so shook by the cold, they lose their grip and they fall out of the trees, potentially onto the heads of passing Floridians, which is more precarious and more horrifying than the iguanas being up in the trees in the first place.
So FYI it was raining iguanas in The Sunshine State.
A little flux of stress bubbled up inside me during that week, as I commuted in dense Super Bowl weekend traffic between Fort Lauderdale and the Miami Beach Convention Center — not because of the iguanas, BTW, I’m pretty sure, but just because of the cumulative down-field drive of life — and it became especially noticeable since for the most part I’ve been going through a period of relative hyperchillness.
Perhaps what I’d noticed most was not how I was handling the stress itself, but how I’d been handling the absence of it.
What I mean by that is I hadn’t really been handling it at all. And the most important thing about stress isn’t necessarily the presence or absence of it, but the presence or absence of you handling it.
There’s a great saying in the Buddhist practice of Nichiren (which I’m sure is ubiquitous throughout many faiths) that goes something like, “When the sailor’s at shore, he prays no more…” —
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always gotten pretty absorbed in the machinations of the universe re: my life, and so forth; convinced that its external influences (good, bad, but mostly bad) were all the result of life being “for me” or “against me” (but mostly “against me”). But I understand now that the reality is, it isn’t. Furthermore, the reality is, as sailors, we are not, and will never be, ashore. That rolling tide, that gradual and sometimes sudden tumult of life — ebb and flow, high and low — is both.
The sea is the shore.
The only real constant is how cool-headedly we sail our fucking ship in it.
There’s not much of a story or lesson to the rest of this, so take what’s already here however you will. I got back home to Colorado late yesterday, burdened by acid reflux, waterweight, acne breakout, overwhelming muscle fatigue — all the grotesque and glorious presentations of my anxiety — and have already started to feel the hyperchill return.
But, I’ve been thinking, going forward — and having sailed through some rough waters anyways — how am I gonna cool-headedly sail this ship when the waters get really rough again?
Now, while I was down in South Florida for those eight straight days, everyone kept talking about those iguanas. And for most of my trip, I didn’t see a single fucking one —
NOT. A. SINGLE. FUCKING. ONE.
But then, on a mid-morning jog through the Coral Shores neighborhood of Ft. Lauderdale, I decided I was going to actually look for them.
What do they call that? Manifestation?
Whatever the case, almost immediately after that determination, as I approached a canal bridge, I saw an iguana roughly the size of my sister’s yorkie, Nixon, skitter across the sidewalk into some low ferns, then down the embankment of the intercoastal waterway.
Startled at first, I caught my breath and cautiously looked over the rail of the bridge…
And there, bathing in the balmy peninsula sun…
Was another iguana.
And another and another and another and another.
Until, suddenly, all I saw were iguanas, languidly drooped on that same embankment all the way west up the canal, as far as my eye could see.