In our house, Dan is the one who cares enough to feed the fish.

Four or five little swimmers live in a big tank on the kitchen counter. I didn’t put them there; they were a birthday present to my son from my parents after his goldfish passed on.

We gave the goldfish a good run – he lived nearly two years in a little bowl on our counter, being fish-sat by relatives whenever we went out of town. When he died, we said goodbye ceremoniously and breathed deeply. There was space on the kitchen counter and space in our hearts.

My parents felt so badly for Asher’s loss that they arrived one day with a huge tank, many times bigger than the former fish bowl. I had no idea, and seeing the excitement on Asher’s face, I couldn’t say no.

For nearly four years, I’ve endured this tank. The filter long ago stopped working, and I guess I didn’t care enough to get a new one. When it grows mucky with algae, I clean it. Dan feeds the little guys, one of whom has grown so big, he terrorizes the other fish but miraculously has not yet consumed them.

So often, we are afraid to let go of things. We forget how freeing it can be to shed what doesn’t work and make room for what might.

Saying NO when something doesn’t work – bowing out of a volunteer commitment, even letting go of a client or employee when the synergy is gone – creates space for creative flow. In that new space, you never know what will come in.

But as long as we hold on to what isn’t working, we’ll stunt your growth.

This morning, as Dan left for work he said, “I think one of the fish has died.” It’s the littlest one, of course, and he said he didn’t bob up to claim his part of the morning feeding. He couldn’t find him, though, in the bottom of the tank. Perhaps the big guy finally did eat him.

A wise friend once remarked, upon seeing our family of fish, “As long as you keep living things caged, you are imprisoning yourself.”

Think of all the space we could claim if that tank magically disappeared. 

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