the oyster understanding


Oysters weren’t really in my head today, until I wished a two year old “Happy Birthday” on Facebook.

Ellie was sitting atop a table as if she were in charge with a firm handle on her two year old life.

“Congratulations!” I told Ellie. “The world is your oyster.”

For someone so young, with so much runway in front of her, I thought my salutation appropriate.

Then there was the word “oyster” again.

For some reason I selected ‘A House of My Own’ by Sandra Cisneros, from my library. A birthday gift in 2016 that I had not yet read.

There it was, in the middle of a blank page:

The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography – FEDERICO FELLINI

Whenever a word appears more than once in my day, I know I need to pay attention.

On page five of the introduction, Sandra went on…

Often I had to tell the story over and over till it felt complete. When this happened, it’s likely I couldn’t remember the “true” event anymore, but I could understand myself better. I think it’s like this for most people. We tell a story to survive a memory in much the same way the oyster survives an invading grain of sand. The pearl is the story of our lives, even if most wouldn’t admit it.

I sat with this for a bit.

So what exactly is it that the oyster does to survive an invading grain of sand?

In order to protect itself from irritation, the oyster will quickly begin covering the uninvited visitor with layers of nacre — the mineral substance that fashions the mollusk’s shells. Layer upon layer of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, coat the grain of sand until the iridescent gem is formed.

We tell and retell stories, each time, taking the sting out of the story, making it more palatable until we can present to the world “the pearl” we are finally comfortable with. It’s our augmented truth. It’s the way we can survive pain, tragedy and despair.

So what’s my takeaway today?

There is beauty in irritation.

Just shy of perfect are the really great, but slightly broken moments that make up a truly marvelous existence.


There are many grains of sand in Ellie’s future as I’m sure there will be in mine and yours. If we spend time trying to keep those irritant grains out of our oyster, we are going to expend a lot of energy playing defensive.

What if we didn’t resist?

Especially now, we need to do the best we can in a VERY unpredictable world.

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