What It's Like to Be a Sloth in a Land of Cheetahs


I am a sloth in a land of cheetahs…

This is how I feel on most days. Especially those days where my brain just won’t make the connections and my body won’t perform how I would normally expect it to. Those days when simple words escape me and minutes pass as I attempt to form a sentence and get it past my lips.

Take yesterday morning. I was triggered, I felt my frustration reach a boiling point. “Normally,” I would throw on some shoes and go for a walk to clear my head. But yesterday, my body wouldn’t cooperate normally; each time I even attempted to find my shoes, my head would swim, the nausea would start to consume me and the fatigue pulled me back under.

On these days, I refer to myself as a sloth. But not just your average sloth… no, I’m the one that keeps falling off the freaking tree. The one with the wildly confused look on her face who is at least five steps behind both mentally and physically. Somewhere in the murky depths is clarity; somewhere in there is me. Some of the time, who am I kidding, a lot of the time, I can’t reach that far in, the energy just isn’t there anymore.

I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat this – it’s quite a scary place to be. I used to be the one my family relied on as the navigator. As a child, my mom would inevitably fall asleep if the car was moving, leaving me to be in charge of the map and getting us to our destination as efficiently and quickly as I could. We didn’t have GPS in those days so I would sit in the backseat of the car and scour the map for the best route and as a military pilot, there was no room for error with my dad… you did not get lost.

But lost is exactly how I feel now. Sometimes I can’t even remember where we parked the car. Sometimes I can’t remember what I am doing. Sometimes, I can’t remember what I am saying. How did this happen? Why did this happen? I am not old. When will it end? Will it end?

I went to Venice, Italy once on vacation. If you’ve ever been, you know how easy it is to get lost in the narrow maze of streets and canals. I have no idea why this happened, must have been my confidence? Too many random people to count would approach me on the street and ask me how to get to various places around the city: “I can’t figure this map out, do you know how to get here?” I felt like I had a sign that said, “Lost? Just ask me for directions!”

You can imagine then how disconcerting it was recently to move to a new state and feel completely and utterly lost just navigating to the local grocery store and home.

On these days, I watch the cheetahs from my beige vantage point, as they seemingly glide by, floating on a cloud of energy. I research solutions to my unsolvable puzzle until my brain hurts, then stare blankly at the wall hoping the buzzing in my head will stop long enough for sleep to finally take over.

The cheetahs fly past me, running back and circling me as I slowly move up the tree. On this day, I will not reach the next treetop. On this day, I will be lucky if I make it halfway up the tree. The cheetahs meanwhile have blazed trails across the land; fading dreams of past lives.

On these days, writing is out.

Can you just imagine a three-toed sloth attempting to peck at a keyboard?

Hours, sometimes days later, the words that were able to come out form nonsensical paragraphs that remind me of high school. My friend and I would pass paper back and forth; we would each write two words and by the end of it had a corny story that barely made sense.

I have always taken pride in my ability to think on my feet and get shit done. A problem solver from an early age managing a 200-acre farm by the age of 12, I moved across the country, raised two children, put myself through graduate school and ran several multi-million dollar companies. Now I can barely remember where I left my water bottle or whether or not I took my digestive enzymes.

This is truly a foreign feeling, this level of helplessness is beyond even the feeling of losing my mother at an early age. To have to rely on others to take care of my basic needs is a lesson in humility, patience and grace. Sometimes I am so weak I cannot stand in the shower, let alone wash my own damn hair. Let me tell you, it is very humbling to have to have someone wash your hair because you don’t have the energy to reach your hands up over your head.

Life from this view is different than anything else I could ever imagine it would be. The other day I sat and watched a snail slowly slime its way down a leaf, its whole body jiggling with the effort. Its little eye stocks moving from side to side, making sure the coast is clear. Incredible that these slow moving, fat little creatures, a lot like sloths, have survived on this planet for millions of years. You’d think something a little quicker would have wiped them out by now, but they keep going.

Sloths may take it slow, but the effort they give is definitely not wasted. Life as a sloth has taught me more than I can articulate in a thousand-word article. Probably the most important is that while I may not get to run with the cheetahs, I can still put one foot in front of the other carefully, and I will never, never give up.

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Thinkstock photo via janossygergely.


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