What does the last straw look like?
It looks just like the first. Small, lightweight, no big deal. Blow it off with a puff of air and attitude. The second one looks identical. Then the third and thirty-fourth. Gradually it gets worse. Pretend you’re in the middle of a cyclone at a hay farm. Aside from a lot of sneezing, everything seems fine. This is the only normal you’ve ever known so you don’t realize the danger you’re in.
After all, you still have a brain.
But let’s say you get stuck there, right in the center of that hay field. Now it’s so windy it makes Tornado Alley feel like a summer breeze. If you’re resilient, you can handle it. That’s what all those child psychologists say, anyway. But maybe they didn’t grow up standing in the middle of an alfalfa farm like you did. Maybe resilience isn’t the antidote to suffocation. Just look at you. You’re completely covered up by a mountain of chaff, as if you’d been tarred and feathered in a hay field, barely breathing. If you’re very careful, you can still inhale a little oxygen through tightly closed lips, though.
That’s when it happens. The last straw.
Though a tiny, little piece of you can still be seen through the beige decoupage which silences your voice, it’s obvious that speaking up is out of the question. All you care about now is remembering how to breathe.
“If I stand very still,” you think to yourself, “the chaff will fall off on its own.”
That’s when you’re glad you can’t talk, since anyone hearing that comment would think you didn’t have a brain.
“Surely the wind tunnel I’ve always lived in will blow this stuff away . . . eventually . . .”
But it doesn’t. It’s as though straw is magnetic and you’re the Tin Man. It’s heartless.
Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.
You have become a living mound of straw. Not because you love the feel of it. Not because you deserve it. Not because you are afraid to escape it. But because it is bigger than you. Survival is your only option. Breathing your only luxury.
Until the last straw. The final nail in your grassy coffin. The piece that found your only connection to the outside world and covered it up, covered you up, threatened to smother you.
But you. Brave little you. You refused to be suffocated.
For a minute there, you thought you were a goner. Everybody did. Everyone thought the last straw would be the most powerful piece, the one to take you down, shut you up, bury you. Instead, the last piece was the one to inspire you to speak up, push back, dig your way out, and refuse to stop breathing.
That's when the wind blew harder. But now you knew what to do. You turned around. You faced the other direction. You kept your back to the wind and watched the straw blow past you as you walked away from the hay field where you once were stuck.
It took a million little pieces to glue you to the ground. It took one last piece to set you free.
Thank God for the last straw.
Thanks to Karmatosed for the photograph at the top of the page. Love it. You can view the original at https://www.flickr.com/photos/karmatosed/5291199462/in/photolist-94yMfW-ei15yW-ocEN5f-creKMJ-5wja9w-a9GcBV-vJedRq-oeYYxo-ytv7Mp-aXJsyR-k5ywch-k5wBqB-iMhYP7-e53Vyy-JAaDtL-iMhjS4-4ZwCPj-uTuNbJ-fYUMfd-k5w1x2-oeTVQ7-k5yqTm-o7ECEz-ousu7b-owuJnM-826KCJ-iKf7ye-dehN8R-othVeR-oeSksS-k4YPpb-rQTTwM-ouq6f1-tCR1Np-k5wvtB-A4fUAt-aKwpft-k5wwPc-aaQ8F3-p6JfDk-k5wwwt-ouK4dP-oeUCYR-p6Jfyk-bXjrMz-a9JZdG-ounF8K-BSkTaB-a7eSCx-obZ6Nw