Every now and then, being the younger, forever smaller sibling, I would end up in the shadow of my big brother’s angry side. Vic was six-feet tall in seventh grade. To this day, he still outweighs me by two large bags of dog food. On a couple of occasions, I wound up in need of medical attention, but most of the time, I was just a little bruised. In retrospect, I ended up being the one who used size to my advantage; it just sometimes took Mom a little longer to save me than I hoped, and then Dad would handle the rest. Often, being the little guy, one must be resourceful.
Find Your Pace in the Race.
A few years back, I began running local 5k races, not so much as a hobby, but more to check my personal fitness level. I’ve noticed that my friends are getting older, which means I’m aging as well and need to be aware of my personal energy levels and stay on top of my health. Many of us have found that “acting our age” may not comply with how we think or feel.
March is upon us; the early blossoms are sprouting from their twiggy branches, and the fields are greening with lush grasses and young clover. Soon, my backyard will be hopping with rabbits, and a few young deer will eventually appear and provide quick sprints of joy for my dog, Riley, each time she steps out for a walk. One of my simple pleasures is relaxing in a cool pad of clover, reflecting on my day and enjoying the new evening sun after a day on Main Street. After a few years of running my fingers through many hundreds of clusters of clover in my yard, I have resigned myself that there are none of the four-leaf variety taking up residence there. Truth be known, I feel lucky even in their absence, which has me generally questioning this whole “luck” thing.
Each morning as I am getting ready for the day ahead, I’ll check the forecast, review my “to-do” list (a mindful catalogue of items that will help me along my way) and set the day in motion with a tall glass of water, a light breakfast and a few moments of good ol’ fashioned reflection, soul searching and gearing up. I would imagine most of us do something similar as part of our morning routine.
From our earliest recorded history — through the imagery of cave paintings, stone tablets and scrolls — we learn that the willpower of mankind — the ability to adapt, overcome and strive toward the next dawn of day — propels us forward. Our failures incite us to push harder, and our hopes fuel our drive toward success. When down, we reconsider and recalculate then position ourselves to look forward and move ahead. We rest only to rise, to gather strength.
As they learn to walk, toddlers are known to “toddle,” clumsily propelling themselves forward, often on the verge of taking a spill. No one is born with all the necessary abilities and skills needed to take one step at time when learning to walk. Many of us still struggle with this concept in other areas of our lives. As we grow, we learn that balance is key, not only for walking, but for many of life’s obstacles. Over time, we come to understand that there will be challenges placed before us, and in the long run, it is our responsibility to muster the drive to overcome them.
There are many people who I’m proud of that I have never even met. It’s good to feel that way, and it works. To find the best in people who you admire from afar is a wonderful quality in our society, especially as it stands today. All too often, we may become overwhelmed with the negativity that is so pervasive that we fail to realize that our focus has wavered from the greater good that exists in so much of our surroundings, in people, our community and our lives.
Recently, I have started waking up before my alarm goes off in the morning. Now, this used to happen from time-to-time; however, I now find myself staying up and getting started on the tasks of the day. Being blessed with more time early in the waking day allows me the opportunity to get through my “to-dos” as well as more time to enjoy doing less obligatory items that may exist or cross my path. It has been brought to my attention that I appear to stretch myself a little thin, so I’ve promised to work on that by better prioritizing my tasks.
Inspire someone. Help someone grow. Help them rise above a period in their life whether or not you understand their situation. Discover the power of empathy as an incredible resource and the strength that may manifest from it. An essential ingredient of our daily life is kindness, and it needs to show in all of our actions if we truly want to succeed. It’s imperative to know that becoming an inspiration is our way of paying it forward because making any one person’s life better improves the overall wellness of society. Be that beacon of light for someone who may be struggling in darkness, if only to afford them the opportunity to see a glimmering flash. For in that, they may find hope.
Some days, sitting in my office, it can be hard to concentrate on one of the many items on my task list. As my fellow employees would truthfully tell you, I may, at times, get completely off task altogether. There seems to be an abundance of “squirrels” in the life of Jack, so I find myself deferring to the needs of my trusty dog, Riley, for a reason to step out, enjoy the outdoors and reset in order to move forward. Supposedly, that puts me in the same category as an out-of-date computer in need of an upgrade or one that has too much information spinning across the drive.
Ever since I was a young boy, dreams have been interesting and intriguing to me. Seldom do I recall dreams I have while sleeping; however, on occasion, I may wake in the night to revisit a dream I’ve just had. As early as fourth grade, my most memorable, recurring dream would be the one of flying from the second story balcony of a large concrete building, drifting in the wind like a well-piloted kite, soaring above misty mountain tops and the still waters of a vast lake.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to take a little break from the home zone. The little cabin where we stayed was down in a valley, where the only rush we had was the soothing, rumbling water of a wide mountain creek. There was no cellular service, so no fussing over devices, and no television, so no drama over channels. We made sure the children knew what to expect, and we were upfront about the pending uselessness of their electronics on the journey north. Saturday was spent mostly in or near the water, next to a roaring campfire or relaxing with board games after dinner.
Growing up in central Cherokee County on a small, rural farm with my parents and brother, I learned a lot about simplicity. My father was the head of household until I reached my teens, and then my mom took over that role. Mom was stern and to the point. After some back talk from my brother or me, mom often would say, “period, end of conversation.” Nothing else would be said. There was no gray area. You were going to be good, or you were bad; simple enough.
There have been times in our lives when we’ve found ourselves in situations where we may not have been very sure of which way to turn, yet we just trusted “the flow” and went for it. Our life is often like a wild river and tends to carve its way through the sands of time, frequently without regard to our desires or plans, and push us along in its wake. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, we all end up downstream a little wiser, a little more well-rounded and often eager with anticipation as to what may lie around the next bend.
We will plan the work, and work the plan. Other follies may enter our route and find us making quick, last minute adjustments to stay on course. We might find that we make some moves instinctively. Often, our faith is what ultimately moves us to react.
March is here, and my favorite season is about to burst forth with all the splendor of spring’s abundance of life. I hope everyone had a great vacation and enjoyed time with their families, had some time to reflect on their goals for the year, or I hope you were at least able to share in the joy of making memories with a friend during a time of departure from their daily routine.
Now we are ready to march forward. Spring is a battle cry that we simply cannot ignore. Everything changes from the ground up during the wonderful season of spring. We made plans in January, laid the groundwork last month, and now the time has come for us to take root and grow so that we make positive changes for ourselves.
A couple of months ago, I was enjoying one of our annual, southeastern meteor showers with friends. I was asked, “Why do stars twinkle?” I stumbled over my words, finding fault in what I was trying to say, as I was saying it, as I admittedly do sometimes. Growing up, I was told, “think before you speak, not as you speak.” Suddenly, I caught a twinkling planet out of the corner of my eye, which stopped my blundering explanation. So the very next day, after an extra cup of coffee, I went and scoured through the archives...and “Googled” it.
When I’m active, I get tired. The activity is certainly remembered longer in my muscles than it used to be. Back in my younger days, after running around in the woods, riding up and down Toonigh Road on my bike, working in the garden with my dad or completing other chores, I would soon be sleeping on a pillow, surrounded by shag carpet, while being comforted by the breezy hum of an old metal fan. So I think I like being physically active. It reminds me of when I was younger, enjoying youth and simpler times.
Each one of us is born with certain gifts and various combinations of talents that set us apart from those in our circle of friends, family and others around us. Our talents and gifts may change as we progress through the years, or perhaps, that which makes us special matures and gets better over time, becoming even more precious. The joy of having our individual gifts, no matter what they are, is the fact that we have the ability to share them with others.
Sometimes, I have to admit that blessings go unaccounted for in my life and may go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle. Even if for a short time they do, I am usually reminded of how wonderful it is that even the smallest of blessings can be used as a daily reminder to be thankful. It’s about the little things, little things that add up to greater things. Just the other day, I was picking up laundry to do a load of darks; my arms were full, and I was fumbling around trying to keep from dropping socks. Then, there on the floor was the last piece, a burgundy towel, and it was large enough to hold everything together. That may sound like just a coincidence to some, but to me, it was a tiny reminder of how good life really is, one moment at a time.
Crisp fall mornings have made their way back into our lives, and the time has come for us to settle like the tree sap, and slow down a little. The forests will soon be covered in the magnificent hues of our southern autumn, and the time to frolic in the leaves and enjoy fall festivals has arrived. To me, fall is a time to relax and recover from the busier days of spring and summer. It is a time for a sort of inner renewal, not like the aesthetic, external rebirth of spring, but more of an internal reflection or evaluation of who we are at our root level.