You know the sigh a dog makes after a long day of napping? The audible and dramatic “ugh, rough day” sigh? Sometimes I catch myself. Whether or not it is because I forgot to breathe or because I’m actually caught up in something challenging, it slips out.
I made the sigh the other day. After being diligently present in church, the grocery store, and the kitchen (hello, brunch), I set up camp on the couch to read and sip a scant glass of Merlot. I set my book on the arm of my couch, my stemless glass on the end table, and averted my attention to Cutler getting sacked for the fourth time.
Somewhere in the handful of moments, my book slid off the couch arm and into the stemless glass and a river of deep mahogany wine flowed over the eggshell fabric on the end table and splashed all over the carpet.
Initial reaction: *sigh*
As both a responsible renter and a wine enthusiast, I know red wine is a Stage Five Clinger when it comes to fabric and you can only get so creative with furniture placement and carpet concealment in the middle of an entryway. Dramatic worst-case-scenarios: I’m going to have to re-carpet the entire living room, or flee.
Two amazing things immediately followed: First, the end table’s material was miraculously 100% liquid-repellent and the all-purpose kitchen cleaner was literally all-purpose (I take risks). The carpet is now cleaner than it was before and the table looks sublime. Second, I opened my book feeling blissful from the resolution and read a revolutionary four-lined poem that triggered an emotional and overwhelming downpour of thought.
“Let us, then, be up and doing
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
After far and few full-hearted revelations in literature classes, I have gained an appreciation for interpretation and an annoyance toward confusing word choice. Thankfully, Henry is simply telling us we have to work toward our dreams. That I can’t write and publish a book without putting in the time, planning and thought first, that you can’t pursue your masters in a few short moments of wanting it, that I can’t wake up in optimal physical shape overnight, that we can’t repay our parents for all that they’ve done for us over the years without first getting paid ourselves.
Let us, then, be up and doing; get up.
If we are blessed enough to be given the ability to walk, work, and speak, let’s get to it. If there is an email you’ve been waiting to send, send it. Or a phone call between yourself and a new opportunity or relationship, make it. If there’s a part-time florist position with your name written in cursive all over it, go get it.
We’re all entitled to a night on the couch watching SVU reruns, but there is something so personal and sacred about the accountability involved in pursuing your own reality. Don’t let it get away from you.
With a heart for any fate; Don’t settle on one beaten-down path. Let your thoughts explore new possibilities whenever they surface. Some mornings, I think endlessly about pursuing law school. (That may be because I work next to the courthouse, but whatever.) Other days, I let my mind paint out a handful of futures because 1. escaping reality and taking a mental vacation is invigorating, and 2. if you lose awareness of where you want to end up, you may end up nowhere at all.
Still achieving, still pursuing; We have small feats every single day. Whether you made dinner without burning your right thumb on the middle oven rack for the first time in a while, installed a new door knob without having done so before, or hung new paintings on the wall without a level and they’re actually in alignment, you better seriously feel like a rockstar. These little successes feed our Big Picture hunger and remind us what it feels like to be unstoppable. Applying that forward onto undiscovered endeavors will only set you up for everything that you deserve in this life.
The sole idea that you are doing and trying every single day is a foundation for welcoming opportunity, challenge, and change.
Learn to labor and to wait. Remember when Sponge and Pat were stranded on their camping trip and a gourmet picnic fell from the sky? That is not real life.
Life is about work and patience, but never one without the other. If we work hard without patience, we will crash and burn. If we wait patiently without putting in any effort, we give outside forces complete control of our future.
Most of our lives will be spent working hard for what we have and where we end up. Learn to endure, persevere and hold on to every piece of faith in your bones that what you want and what you deserve will eventually be yours.
It has been said that we should starve our egos and feed our souls. Our egos are the source of our courage; they are home to our confidence. Confidence fills our soul with action and results. Let your ego and soul eat at the dinner table together, and eagerly welcome the fact that strive and struggle precede success.
If you are like me and your dreams change every day, that is OK. Write them down, but use pencil. Let go of the external pressure to have it all “figured out.” What does that even mean? If it’s anything like learning how a magic trick actually works or finding out that Santa is not real, I would like to formally take a permanent raincheck from figuring life out.
I hope my wine incident has encouraged you to drink fearlessly in the living room, but more importantly, I hope Henry’s poem has helped fuel your fire and reminded you of life’s most challenging but rewarding virtue.