I have a hard time making up my mind. I could be shopping for deals at T.J. Maxx, believing that I have found an incredible buy on some random kitchen item, coffee mug, or, even worse, a candle, none of which I actually need. Imagine life when I have a more significant decision, like rescuing a dog, taking a vacation, or, most recently, retiring from a once-in-a-lifetime career.
While reading the book How to Retire and Not Die, I followed Gary Sirak's friendly, at times amusing advice and constructed a bucket list. What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? All of that good stuff. At the top of my list was spending more time reading and writing, doing the creative stuff I love.
I wanted to get back into some daily journal writing. The author of the book makes the excellent suggestion of taking stock of my life daily. I have about four or five unfinished journals in various areas around the house. A couple are standard composition books easily found at Dollar General; others are those neat leather-bound journals on display in a secluded corner of Books-a-Million.
I have a favorite leather-bound one that I had just barely started. I had written ten-fifteen pages worth of entries and then stopped. I had an inkling for over a week to start journaling daily again. The time was right. Of course, I had a dilemma: should I pick up this favorite journal where I stopped four years ago or find another new one, making this a fresh start for me? Of course, choosing a journal is not an earth-shattering dilemma, but it was a decision that prevented me from moving forward.
I remember being captivated by a video I had seen on social media. I rewatched this video countless times before I realized the message I had been formulating in my mind.
The video is simple enough. A small boat full of passengers glides down a watery passageway. A man stands at the back using a large pole to steer the boat. As the boat nears a shallow bridge, the passengers duck to make their way under the bridge while the person steering climbs out of the boat only to stride calmly over it. Once the boat moves from under the bridge, the passengers are amazed to witness the steerer jump back into the boat from the bridge. Short and straightforward. Amazing to watch over and over.
There has to be a message here, a metaphor intertwined throughout the Japanese music and beautiful locale.
In life, we find ourselves floating down our river. We know when the river runs wild and remains smooth and calm. We understand that it may run narrow and wide depending on the opportunities and choices we find in front of us. Often, an obstacle appears in front of us. In this video, it is the bridge.
The boat continues its forward progress as it rides the current. And so, in this situation, the passengers and steerer are faced with multiple choices. They can fight the current by thrusting their hands and the steering stick into the water to paddle against it, perhaps delaying the inevitable collision. They could abandon the boat by jumping into the muddy water to climb to shore. As the passengers do, they could duck down and ride the boat under the bridge. Or they could be the man with the steering stick, crawling over the bridge, walking calmly to the opposite side before jumping back upon the boat as it exits.
Regarding my journal dilemma, I settled on reading my four-year-old journal entries before making any decision. I revisited times when I had many of the same choices as the people on the boat.
I found those instances when I wanted to prolong the inevitable, hoping that the longer I took to address it, the less sting or pain I would feel. I have had moments when I needed to abandon ship out of self-preservation; I needed a new path, a direction I had never considered. And oh! The countless stretches of my life when all I could do was duck my head and ride under the bridge, praying to God that I would be intact when I reached the other side! But I have had those times when I did what I thought was impossible. I climbed out of the boat and confidently crossed over the bridge, knowing I had what it took to jam the stick in the water and jump back onto the boat on the other side.
We all have confronted obstacles in our lives. When we look back and consider the person who made the choices we made years ago, we should always do so with kindness and understanding. We didn't know then what we know now; we have grown from our experiences, becoming new and different people.