How do you eat a whale?
This might sound like a ridiculous question but it has been a source of motivation and inspiration for me over the past decade. Every time I feel overwhelmed, exhausted or defeated by something I asked myself that six word question.
One bite at a time.
Everyone has a whale in their lives, or many whales. A whale could be a project at work, a fitness goal or a struggling marriage. Anything can be a whale. If it brings on a sense of dread, if you’re tired just from thinking about it or if you’ve attempted it numerous times only to come up short, it’s a whale.
Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.
And everyone said, “You’re much too small,”
But that didn’t bother Melinda at all.
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a good girl should…
…And in eighty-nine years she ate that whale
Because she said she would!
Whales are big. In fact they are the largest animal in the world. Their sheer size is breathtaking and will leave you in awe. To imagine yourself in comparison to a whale is frightening and somewhat humbling. They are meant to intimidate by their size which is why they do not have any natural predators. The same thing happens with the metaphorical whales in our lives. They become so big it’s almost impossible to take them down.
When faced with a whale such as, starting a new life in a new city, taking on a new job or starting a family it difficult to know where to begin. There is a huge whale sitting in front of you that would be impossible to consume.
Exercising is a perfect example of trying to devour a whale. You can take 100 bites out of whale and every time to sit back and take account of your progress, you see more whale than work. Just like changes in your body. You could work out 12 hours a day for 7 days a week and at the end of the week you won’t see very much change. You will be tired, sore and probably a little disheartened. Just like seeing notable changes in your body from exercising it will take time to see progress when consuming a whale.
In the She Silverstein poem above Melinda Mae started eating a whale when she was young and didn’t finish until she was 89 year old. I love that. Not because it took her so long but because she never gave up on it. As daunting and frustrating as it must have been, she kept at it.
Give yourself time, give yourself grace and give yourself a chance. Don’t let the whale beat you by the only defense it has, its size. If you can get past the size of the whale then you will realize they are actually pretty vulnerable. Their hide is surprisingly softer than you’d think. They do not have sharp teeth to bite or claws to scratch. They are slow and cumbersome and fairly defenseless. If you’re willing to devour a whale and willing to see it through to the end you will come out on top.