A Fish Story
Wikipedia says: “The Siamese fighting fish, also sometimes colloquially known as the betta. They are aggressive towards their own species. Lifespan: 2 years (In captivity)”
Fish might seem like a funny thing to write about, but I discovered that there's a life lesson expertly taught by these fish, and since they are terrible typists, it's up to me to share their message.
Several years ago I gave in to the sympathy I would feel whenever I walked into a store and saw the poor betta fish living/dying in the cups while waiting to be sold, and I adopted several...gave them room to swim, a varied diet, clean water, and some interaction. I really didn't expect much back from the fish, it just made me feel a little more human to help out something that I perceived as being miserable.
I usually purchased the fish that looked especially sad or were obviously sick. Some of the sick ones didn’t recover. But the ones that weren’t beyond healing sprang into life. It was fascinating to watch the initial reactions when they had the first opportunity to swim in a straight line, rather than just the small circle that living a cup allowed. Some were scared at first, while some took full advantage of being able to move freely around and they practically danced in the water. Some were afraid of the plants that they’d never seen before, while others cuddled right in and napped on the plant leaves like hammocks. I took in a personal satisfaction by giving a helpless creature a chance to feel better, so there was mutual benefit involved.
Among these first few “rescues” was a fish I had named “Mesmer,” and he ended up teaching me a little something. You see, if you looked down on Mesmer and got your face near the water, he would jump right out of the water at you! This little guy thought he was a shark! It would make me laugh every time that he didn’t care how big I was and he wasn’t the least bit intimidated. I liked that he acted out of such fearlessness. I had Mesmer for 3 years. Eventually, when he saw me he would swim to the top of his tank and wait to be petted like a dog. His display of fearlessness and trust gave way to the opportunity for something unique to happen.
Then there was "Felix", raised from a baby. Felix was spunky and a little bit of a brat. He lived to be 5 years old (3 years beyond life expectancy).
"Mick" is a quite a fish. His once glorious, huge fins have now shriveled, just like muscles on an aging human. He has a cataract on one eye and his other eye actually FELL OUT last year but he shockingly made a recovery. Since he is blind, I have to spread food out all over the water and sometimes will drop food right into his mouth, which he expects. He is now 7 years old, a seemingly impossible age for a betta.
Then there's "Napoleon" and "Patriot" (both age 6). Old man Napoleon swims sideways these days when he is not napping on the leaves, and Patriot likes to be talked to at eye level or he will get depressed and will sulk for days.
I even have some bettas that will swim up and predictably sit in my hand, and groups of girl bettas that live together quite peacefully.
So what’s to be learned from this fish story? Perhaps it's to show us that if we take off the limits of what we think is to be“expected” according to some definition, we might be able to discover the potential of what “might be” instead. Perhaps it’s to show that when you apply the right amount of care and love, sometimes unexpectedly great things happen.
What might happen in your life if you applied more fearlessness, trust, caring, and love?
What if you stopped being defined by expectations and embraced the full potential of what might be?
What if you decided to live to your own best potential rather than someone else's definition of what that is?
If a fish can do it, surely, you can as well.