Front Porch Stories: ‘Eat that elephant one bite at a time’

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By KATHY BOHANNON, Special to The Weekly

Mama always said, “Eat that elephant one bite at a time.” 

The first time I heard her say this, I was probably six years old and all I could imagine was my mom sitting on the Serengeti somewhere, gnawing on an elephant. It just didn’t make sense; mom loved all animals and besides, she never traveled outside of her trek from our house in Georgia to grandma’s house in North Carolina. 

I’d hear mom share her elephant analogy time and time again as I grew older. At some point I realized she meant that I should just take things one step at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed, don’t despair over the task. Just take it piece by piece. 

Though mom left this world in 2008, I still hear her advice at times I need it most. 

We moved recently and I planned it well; or so I thought. I had a foolproof plan of packing, but that fell apart in the first week. Moving day was an absolute nightmare. What should have taken four hours turned into an exhausting eight.

After the move, Ninja Man and I sat in our new home with boxes all around us as we took time to recover from the past several weeks. It took longer than I expected, but we are in our sixties and apparently, we have to chew a bit longer on our elephants than we used to.

We have now been in our new home about two and a half months. We have unpacked a lot, but there are still boxes in the garage. Boxes that can “wait”. Boxes that are holding the stuff we keep looking for, but there’s that elephant thing, so those boxes just have to sit a while longer. 

One thing I discovered in my empty nest years is that I cannot cope with what I call “visual chaos”. Clutter, even if it is intentional like decorative items filling a shelf, makes me anxious. I am far from being a “neat freak” or a minimalist, but there’s a limit on how much stuff I can look at day to day. 

I’ve had literally two full days since our move that I was either not in pain, not sick or not on deadline with my work that I was able to dedicate to getting my house “together”. It’s been a hot flaming mess. But mom’s elephant has given me a bit of patience with myself, and I’ve been slowly picking through the priorities. 

The desk I’m working from right now overlooks my back yard. I have a battery-operated snow globe with a winter scene that is in calm, yet constant motion just to the right of my laptop. I absolutely love it.

Until yesterday, this desk was piled high with all the elements of a cluttered life; receipts, mail, notes, piles of things to shred or burn. I could hardly see my little snow globe. At some point yesterday when I felt well, was not on deadline and not overwhelmed with the clutter, I began organizing and making this a better space. 

I was able to take that motivation from the desk to all other places in the main area of the house. As a result, this morning I awoke to a neatly organized space and it gave me so much peace. 

One day I’ll see mom again, and I hope she will be proud that I took her advice and could finally eat that elephant one bite at a time. Thanks, mom. 

Kathy Bohannon is a freelance writer and Christian speaker. She can be reached at [email protected].

1 comment

  1. Chere Mortensen 16 January, 2023 at 17:42 Reply
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    So very, very true! Great lesson for today.

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