Last Sunday night I was feverish with a racing heart; between severe sunburn and a humid Melbourne evening, I had little chance of falling asleep easily.
Having Googled “racing heart and sunburn” and discovered that I probably wasn’t dying and was just suffering from too much time in the sun, I was happy to lie awake and wait for the feeling to pass. I threw off the covers, opened the window and ranch slider and lay in the darkness of my bedroom with the curtains open and the city lights in the distance.
It was then, for one of the first time, I noticed, even in the middle of Melbourne, that I could see the stars. Sure, it didn’t compare to stargazing in small town New Zealand, with no pollution and no city lights, but it was still magical to be in a bustling city and see stars in the night sky. Having taken no notice since moving in, the sighting was a reminder of my insignificance in the world.
On the family farm, watching the night sky was one of my favourite things. The shooting stars, constellations and satellites all only visible only after gaining night vision, taught me that there was so much more to the world than our little planet.
When we think of the universe, most of us probably think of the eight planets, (or nine as we were taught in school) which orbit our sun. But many of us know that our sun is one of two – four billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. And that’s just one galaxy – estimates are that there are at least 200 billion galaxies, 40 billion earth-like planets and some 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in total.
Interesting to note, on earth there are currently seven billion people, but estimates are that around 107 billion people have lived here.
Reminding myself of those numbers (with the assistance of an online search) was the perfect way to feel insignificant, unimportant and, to be honest – free!
Those numbers are a huge reminder of our very small place in the world. It’s easy to forget about the billions of other galaxies, the millions of other people (and maybe many, many more), the hundreds of other countries and assume that the world, our world, is just the few people we spend time with, the area near our home and work and the one person we can never escape – ourselves.
But there is so much more in existence, so much more than we can ever understand and so much that is greater than ourselves that it’s hard to imagine how we manage to suffer stress’ and anxieties and worry about things that in the grand scheme don’t really matter at all.
As Stephen Hawking put it, “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.”
I reminded myself of all of this on the come-down of weeks of severe stress. This severe stress affected my sleep, my health and my mental wellbeing (the sunburn was nothing in comparison). It was the worst stress I have ever suffered.
The sad reality though; I was worried about things that didn’t matter. Sure they mattered to me, and they would matter to most people, but they shouldn’t have mattered. The pressure I was receiving shouldn’t have rocked my equilibrium logically, but us humans aren’t always entirely logical.
I know I’m not alone in suffering from stress or worry over things that we ourselves cannot control – it’s human and I don’t suppose it’s something that can be resolved (without a lot of medication).
So what do I propose as a solution to stress? If it doesn’t feel right, don’t keep doing it. We can’t control everything, but by and large we can control the environments that we expose ourselves to, we can control whether or not we spend time with certain people and we can make decisions for the benefit or the detriment of our health. We can put ourselves in the way of beauty, or choose to live in underground caves, for the most part, the choices are our own.
Any choices we make, however big they seem to us, are minuscule when compared to what lies around us and within us. We are powerful beyond measure and yet sizeably insignificant.
I hope catching a glimpse of the stars can serve as a reminder that since our place in the universe is so small; what can we really get wrong? How can we ever truly make a mistake that has any measurable impact? And what can we achieve if we aren’t afraid to fail? Focussing on the big picture and forgetting about all the tiny details will hopefully lead us to choose beautiful, safe places and align ourselves with happiness.
In the meantime, while I’m thinking about the stars and the cosmos and the infinity that is life, I’ll be nursing my burns and adding sunblock to my shopping list.
Until next time,
Safe travels xx