Consumption is a progressive disease*

One benefit of pregnancy which counters the joys of lightning crotch (Google it, I dare you) is the guilt-less freedom to say no. 

At first, I felt like a wing-clipped bird but now it’s as though those secret fantasies of having an extended period of mild but debilitating sickness so as to grab some respite from the chaos of modern life have come true.

Because most of the time, pregnant or not, I’m exhausted. 

Got to return that library book, get petrol, buy a card for Sarah, clean the car, reply to that email, call Mum and Dad, clean the windows, organise the pantry, fix the bike, paint the house, invite the neighbours over, befriend an elderly person, get my Masters, start an NGO, find a cure for cancer. 

I need everything done by yesterday.

Which brings me to awe.

The last 33 weeks, I’ve experienced an increase in awe. 

Every time there’s a kick or roll or I see the tiny complex figure on an ultrasound, I feel awe. Every time I imagine this completely new being equipped with personality and soul who will never exist again, I feel awe.  

I wonder if it’s the missing ingredient, the brown sugar to my Weet-Bix, the antidote to the busyness scourge. 

Awe is the moment when ego surrenders to wonder.

A few years ago, I was in the Whitsundays with some friends on a yacht. We’d visited the sacred Ngaro island, rich with Aboriginal significance that day and had docked for the night.

The air was still and enveloped in silence, punctuated by the lapping the water on the boat’s hull. I was lying in a hammock looking at the extraordinary fabric of stars glittering across the sky.

I could hear a dolphin, puffs of water exhaling from its blowhole emerging and submerging under the water’s surface, presumably looking for fish.

I got up and looked in the water and saw a network of phosphorescent algae glowing, sparkling like the stars in the sky. I breathed it in, this feeling.

I am a tiny speck in a huge universe which is not remotely aware of my first world problems.

Our whole world is contained in the palm of our hands, faces aglow in the iLight. We are in the driver’s seat, controlling every aspect of our lives. No question left unanswered by the glorious Google oracle. 

The perception of control is exhausting because at any point we could drop the ball and the responsibility lies squarely on us.  

The New Scientist talks about ‘the profound effects’ of awe. ‘Feeling awestruck can dissolve our very sense of self, bringing a host of benefits from lowering stress and boosting creativity to making us nicer people’ (Jo Marchant, New Scientist) 

“The irony of our existence is this: We are infinitesimal in the grand scheme of evolution, a tiny organism on Earth. And yet, personally, collectively, we are changing the planet through our voracity, the velocity of our reach, our desires, our ambitions, and our appetites. Consumption is a progressive disease.” (*Terry Tempest Williams) 

Consumption of our precious time for the sake of control. Being unable to say no because we wear busyness like a badge of honour. 

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting in the backyard with my brother who’s down from Sydney. We’re both tired and watching the clouds drift over, waiting for a moment of sunshine. The stormy textures of the clouds which shift and morph hold our attention for at least half an hour. 

I realise that maybe awe isn’t an elusive emotion reserved for exotic holidays on a yacht. I can find it in the everyday, the mundane. 

Perhaps when we surrender our control to the grand and complex universe, embracing our smallness, we can breathe again.

Cherie Lee is a writer living in the surfing capital of Australia: Torquay, Victoria. She still can’t surf.
Cherie Lee is a writer living in the surfing capital of Australia: Torquay, Victoria. She still can’t surf.

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