The Only Ant-idote to Stress

Scott Leonardi

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Where did all these ants come from??

Here I am, trying to make something of my life by trying to put words in a recognizable order when all of a sudden — tickle tickle. For the second time, I look at my calf and see just the teeny tiniest little ant roaming around on my calf.

Come on, man… How lost can you guys be?

There have been a few times over the past couple weeks where I’ve neglected to empty the little garbage can next to my desk that may or may not have held some old coffee grounds, the odd banana peel, maybe even the scraps of some Mexican take-out amongst whatever else I may have hucked into the ol’ “It officially no longer exists in this dimension” bag.

I’m not necessarily the laziest person in the world, but I may have an unhealthy penchant for leaning on the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality when it comes to anything below the rim of that little trash basket.

As you can imagine, one day too long ‘out of sight’ and when you finally do lock eyes with that forgotten bag of waste you can’t help but also notice that it’s crawling with little micro-soldiers, all relishing the abandoned refuse as they feast upon your household incompetence.

I had no choice. Trespassers shot on sight.

I took a bottle of multi-surface cleaner and soaked the lot of them. Like a god looking down upon his creation and thinking, “Naaah, a few of them don’t think I’m cool, so genocide it is, I guess. You know what they say about bad apples.” I took my mighty paper towel and wiped the cosmic slate clean. A holy smiting for the ages if any of them had survived long enough to regale the tale to future generations.

I threw out the trash and plugged up the little spot under the baseboard they were all pouring out of with a chemically-soaked paper towel. Innovation at its best.

One satisfying job-well-done-hand-smacking later and that’ll do it! Right?

…not so much.

In the infamous words of the illustrious Jeff Goldblum’s character Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, "Life finds a way."

Next week comes around, the same exact thing happens for the same exact reasons. Same tickle on my leg and everything. Sneaky little buggers.

In a huff of frustration, I move everything off the ground, grab a broom, sweep the entire area, then get on my hands and knees to clean the entire floor by hand to make sure there aren’t any crumbs of anything anywhere.

Once again, I plug up the baseboard with more paper towels like an absolute genius.

Now, do I really think that’s going to be a permanent fix?


Did I basically just try to find a quick solution so I could get back to what I was in the middle of?


So, as I’m sitting here squeezing the sponge in my skull trying to wring it dry of any lingering creative dribbles, I can’t help but see this Invasion of the Garbage Snatchers as an absolute parallel to the miniature problems in our life and our habit of willfully neglecting to handle them.

There are so many problems in our day-to-day lives that go either unattended to, or entirely unnoticed. This can be for a number of reasons, as we’re all normally distracted by the bigger picture of our lives to worry about the smaller, more insignificant things.

We may have chores around the house, or a few unimportant phone calls to make, or emails to send, or any number of forgettable items to take care of. Most of the time, they aren’t even physical objectives but things about our state of mind that we aren’t attending to. Maybe it’s being more mindful, or being more present in the company of other people, or forgetting to practice gratitude for all that you have and have done for yourself and others. They all may not seem like they require your immediate attention and are easy to forget about, but over time, the things you’ve told yourself you need to do — physically and mentally — build up and start to coalesce into a horrifying amalgamation that simply calls itself… The List. (rated-R)

The biggest threat that this unspeakable horror of responsibility truly presents, is the resentment and sudden bursts of hostility we become prone to out of sheer pent-up stress.

In the same way that my leg felt one tickle too many causing me to explode into a hasty half-hour deep clean of my room, how many times have you been going about your day and someone says just one thing that you interpret the wrong way and suddenly you lash out like they are the ones stealing your banana peels, tickling your feet, and giving you the finger on the way out?

You can’t just keep stuffing paper towels into your baseboard. Those micro-annoyances live in your walls by the swarm. If you don’t make the effort to tackle the horde head-on, they will find a way back in, guaranteed.

The only way to find true peace of mind is to find the source of these frustrations. To cut it off at the head by cleaning house…so to speak. We have to take our time to trace the line back to its origin and understand how these pesky little problems accumulated in the first place.

Why are you feeling so stressed? Can you fix it right now? If you can’t, do you think it’s healthy for you to let the stress of it affect your current state of mind?

I understand that a lot of people have a hard time not stressing about things even when they can’t take care of them immediately. I think we all have a tendency to feel guilty about not stressing about something in the future because if we’re not stressing about it, we must not care about it, right? It’s as if when the pressure of future responsibility isn’t weighing on us, we feel we must not have very much concern for it at all. At least, I think that’s where a lot of us get stuck.

The thing is, is that it’s okay to not feel guilty about things out of your immediate control. It doesn’t mean you don’t care or aren’t concerned, but it does mean that there is still an important hunt to go on; the quest for the elusive Source.

I struggle with the exact same things. I know that I avoid facing my own source of frustrations at times, but I also make an active effort to not let it affect my current mood if I can. It’s an ongoing process that becomes easier with time and the more we change our attitude about it, that’s all.

Unless, of course, they manifest themselves in the form of a militant ant army hellbent on stealing away my precious fruit peels and cracker crumbs. Only then will I jump to attention with feverish ambition and an absolutely temporary fix that will not work in any way then proceed to write an article about how you should do the opposite of that.

Although you know what, all of this peaceful warrior talk and I may have just inspired myself to take on the horde solo. Because naturally, for all of us, we gotta go it alone.

Helmet on.

I’m comin’ for the Queen.

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I write a lot about self-development and personal growth. I want to help people uncover their authentic selves through creative expression and in the process understand their place in the world a little better. I also enjoy writing screenplays, short stories, and poetry. All of which can be found at

Imperial Beach, CA

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