Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Gentle Reminders

There are days when I need some gentle reminders.

It would be inaccurate to claim that taking a moment and looking at pictures I enjoy and writing something that reminds me of the good things in life is always enough for me to be happy and content.  Sometimes, on the days when these gentle reminders to myself (and perhaps others) are most needed, they are simply an effort to stop actively looking at how difficult, depressing and ugly things feel at a given moment.

It's ok if you're feeling down and not feeling like smiling.  It's ok if you don't want to pretend for everyone else that you're fine.  But, it is also important that you remember things that make it worth the effort to get through those down times.  It is important to keep that light at the end of the tunnel visible - even if it is just in the corner of your eye.

When the hole you are in gives you no hope, broaden your view and look outside that hole.
The picture above was taken after (yet another) rainstorm several years ago.  It was the first of several years that we got too much rain for us to perform our tasks as vegetable and poultry farmers with any degree of success.  I took this picture as the sun went down on this early July day.  It was the first time in some time that I had even put the camera in my hands because I was tired of taking pictures of puddles and failing crops.

We were considering calling a halt to our farming operation at the time.  While that might sound depressing and sad, our willingness to consider moving away from what we were doing actually allowed us to look outside the hole we were in.  We were still unhappy about how things were going.  But, we gave ourselves permission to look elsewhere - and found a glorious sunset on the farm.

I wonder how many of these I might have missed as I walked to and fro on the farm, looking at my feet as they sank into the mud? 

Enduring some discomfort can lead to rewards you would have missed if you only lived for comfort.
Everyone has their own threshold for struggle and stress.  And, I am guessing that most people routinely make decisions to not do things because it seems like 'too much trouble' to do them.  I agree that there is certainly a healthy balance between knowing when to say something is too much to do right now and pushing yourself to get out of the comfort zone to accomplish something that might have some reward.

I suspect, however, that most people say no to some discomfort far too often and they miss out on some wonderful things in the process.
Take the time to get a different perspective and you might also gain a new appreciation.
The trail really didn't look like much, and the waterfall was largely visible just off of the parking area.  In fact, most people seemed to think it was enough to get out of the vehicle, walk fifty feet, take a picture and leave.  A smaller percentage took the time to walk down to the base of the falls, which was certainly rewarding.  Even fewer took the path from the falls to the other side of the stream and back towards the bridge.  This is still one of my favorite short hikes from a trip we took to Oregon a few years ago.

Looking at things from new perspectives isn't always comfortable because it can shake your personal assumptions.  But, once you process what you have observed, you will walk away richer for the experience and more able to relate positively to a broader range of people and places.

Be silent.  Be patient.  And wait for the magic to happen.
Sometimes you can just feel the magic building.  But, when you are busy or your mind is on other things, it is too easy to just push past it and let it happen - but without your participation.  Sure, there are moments in time where this is necessary.  But, don't let it be necessary all of the time.  The next time you feel the magic building, give yourself permission to watch it unfold.

Iowa can have some pretty amazing sunsets.  If you are outside frequently, you begin to understand and recognize the signs that a beautiful sunset is on its way.  With chores to be done at the end of the day, it can be hard to justify stopping and just watching as the sun slips between the clouds and the horizon.  But, I have yet to regret it when I give myself permission to do so.

Keep setting new goals and creating new dreams.  Then make the time and create the energy to go get them.
Certainly we all have limitations on what we are able to do.  Maybe we don't have the resources or the physical ability to do some things.  Perhaps a new goal or dream might seem too modest to even call it a 'goal,' much less a 'dream.'   Don't let that stop you.  Do not let anyone judge you for how grand or how mundane these goals might be (including yourself).  If they give you purpose and they give you joy as you move towards them, they are good enough.

Learn and relearn how to appreciate and celebrate someone else's achievements without allowing them to taint your own (and vice versa)
Here's something I suspect most people have a problem doing.  Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil reference this concept in the Sympathy Vote when Taylor says, "There are three things in life that have any certainty.  One of the them is death.  One of them is taxes.  And the third is... professional jealousy!"

Summarized that way, it certainly seems pretty shallow, but I know it runs deeper than that.  If you spend your time comparing your own accomplishments with others, it has a tendency to allow yourself to either dwell on your shortcomings or to dwell on the shortcomings of others.  While it is not necessarily bad to identify problems, it is quite another to focus on them to the exclusion of all else.  Comparisons are useful for learning and improvement.  But, don't let the comparison prevent you from celebrating about has been done and what has been accomplished thus far.

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