Lessons I Learned from Playing with Mercury


outdoor thermometer nestled in pine
Photo by Jarosław Kwoczała on Unsplash

As a child, we would play with the mercury from a broken thermometer, not knowing it can be toxic.

I was 7 when the thermometer broke and my father scooped it into a cardboard box with shallow sides. 

“Here, did you want to play with this? It’s pretty neat.”

He was right. 

This shiny metal ran like a liquid but also beaded. I could separate a little off with the slightest touch and watch it bead around and roll in the box. 

I don’t recommend you do this, or allow your child to do the same, but at the time we knew no better and I have this memory to remind me of some important principles about life.

  • Stay fluid — go with the flow
  • At times you need to break out on your own
  • Clump — find your tribe
  • Shine 

Life is full of change. Stay flexible, fluid. You may plan to get married, have kids, settle down. 

No one plans to get divorced or face disease, but it happens. Flexibility keeps you on your toes, knowing you are nimble, able to move and work with whatever comes your way. 

Flow like mercury.

Even though mercury flows like a liquid, it is a metal. You can be flexible and strong. Keep that image in mind.


There will be times when you move away from the mass. Be your own little bead.

Shine. 

It may happen as a child, in school when you realize you weren’t made to be a cheerleader or a sports star. Find your niche. Be the nerd who likes competing on the debate team. Work with the elderly because they appreciate you. Find your passion and what gives you joy. 

If you are true to yourself, you will shine with the joy of doing what makes you happy.


Life is going to force you into places that may feel uncomfortable. A little bead clumps without seams on a larger bead of mercury. In time, we find our tribes, friends, colleagues, like-minded support that understand you and vice-versa. We fit together without much fanfare. 

Until then, stay fluid, friend. 

Flow and shine.

By Catstrav

Reindeer handler. NDT tech. Mother of four. Aspiring astronaut.

4 comments

  1. Nimble is one of my favorite words! Absolutely loved this. Be willing to pivot, do your thing, and you can shine in the midst of mud if needed.

  2. I do love you friend . You shine through your tenacity, kindness, bravery and your writings .

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