Grasping at Straws

The modern phrase “grasping at straws” actually dates back to the 1500s and is mostly attributed to Thomas More and his “Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation.”

He that in tribulation turneth himself unto worldly vanities, to get help and comfort by them, fareth like a man that in peril of drowning catcheth whatsoever cometh next to hand, and that holdeth he fast, be it never so simple a stick; but then that helpeth him not…for that stick he draweth down under the water with him, and there life they drowned together.

We are in a time of uncertainty in virtually every aspect of our lives. And we are each grasping at anything and anyone that we believe can save us.

Today I want to focus a little on health and health care. Every day there is a new study, a new book, or a new expert extolling the one true thing you must do to keep yourself healthy.

You must meditate.

You must be mindful.

You must eat vegan (now popularly called a “plant-based diet”).

You must avoid carbohydrates and eat like a caveman.

Eat like those from the Mediterranean. But not if you’re not white and relatively wealthy.

You must exercise a little.

You must exercise a lot.


Keep a journal.

Use olive oil.

Avoid olive oil.


Buy a coloring book.

Turn off social media.

Avoid alcohol.

Drink a glass of wine.

This doesn’t even include the myriad tracking devices available out there to monitor every move, every heartbeat, every calorie, every wink of slumber. Never mind the growing body of evidence that shows these tracking devices are woefully inaccurate and make little or no difference in behavior.

We are told to hack this and maximize that. We must innovate or die.

Oh, and don’t forget making an impact. Anyone who is someone is making a damn impact, for chrissakes. What have you done lately to leave the world a better place? So in the middle of all my self-care, I also have to figure out a way to care for everyone else. Damn exhausting.

I feel like I’m drowning in advice and expertise from all sides. Where did all these people come from?! Who are they and who decided they’re experts, aside from their mom and their PR person?

And if I’m not doing all these things, I am failing. Drowning. So I grasp at the straw that is closest to me. I’ll commit to the virtue du jour so I can join the ranks of the Very Smug and Self Satisfied. This morning it was yoga. And my egg white omelette with 1/8 of an avocado.

Except it’s not working. I don’t feel smug or self satisfied. I feel distracted and restless and scattered.

So what do you do when you think you’re drowning? You stop struggling and grabbing for the straw. You breathe deeply and just…float.



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