There is an ocean of ideas that flow through my writer’s mind at all hours and in most circumstances. I can’t possibly write down, remember, or record most of them. Sometimes I feel like a tugboat trying to get my broken-down steamer of inspiration into a workable dock of manageable sentences. Other times I’m a luxury liner just observing while my fingers produce a tide of thought almost without effort (less often, sadly).
I remember once a long, LONG time ago when I was walking home from Jr. High. It was a horrid year full of new-everything. New home, new friends (or lack thereof) newly blossoming body and new emotions of all sorts. I felt adrift and unruddered. The deluge wasn’t merely coming from the cloud-filled sky, but there was that too. It was pouring, and it felt like a long way home. Getting home to warmth and safety required a long walk down and across a spacious, muddy, weedy field to get to the main sidewalk. I was fourteen, cold, shyer than shy, and eager to disappear back into my safe haven as soon as possible.
I took one long, critical look across the field and decided to navigate the shortest distance diagonally. So I hunkered down and started plodding off as I was pelted with angry drops of unrelenting nastiness. I kept my feet straight and my eyes on my internal vision of my goal and walked, and walked, and sludged, and slogged, and stumbled. Then I looked up.
I was across the field all right, but not where I’d intended. I was barely a few feet from a ninety degree angle of where I’d begun. I still had the same distance I’d already traveled to continue!
I was soaked, disappointed, confused and not a little angry. Why hadn’t placing one foot firmly in front of the other worked?
I return to the feelings of that day now and again. In my life it has often seemed that I’ve arrived elsewhere from where I expected. I start off with all good intentions, good plans and a firm idea of my destination and then end up, well. . . here.
I loved President Monson’s comment from the 2012 April conference, related in a talk by Carl B. Cook:
I recognized that voice—it was President Thomas S. Monson. I quickly looked up and responded, “Oh, nothing.” . . .
But he had seen my subdued countenance and my heavy briefcase. He smiled and lovingly suggested, while pointing heavenward, “It is better to look up!”
“It’s better to Look up!” reminded me of my day in the field.
Those times when I have a heavy briefcase of real or perceived failures, it is better to look up. On the days when I find that where I am is more like a tiny rowboat than the yacht I’d envisioned, it is much better to look up asking the question, “What does this require of me?” rather than “Why me?”
I’ve asked the “Why me” question, and honestly, it has never ever led to peace. Usually it just exacerbates my pain. So I’ve finally realized that it is better to change my framework. Why not me anyway? Deciding to focus on what my new circumstance requires of me really helps me move forward. So what if I’m not where I thought I’d be, or wanted to be? Is this such a terrible place? Are there things here that I can learn and discover? Probably. If I learn only that my directional navigation system is faulty, I’ve learned something valuable.
I’ve had my share of looking down days and I’m sure I’ll have many more. If I can remember that even if where I end up might not be where I intended, I can still get where I want to go; especially if I can remember to include a glance heavenward now and again.
My vessel might not be a cruise-ship. Maybe it was never intended to be one. It might just be a little dingy that has one broken oar and a small leak, but you know what? I know the best boat-maker/carpenter in existence and he knows my name: he knows my final destination.
- What does it feel like when you’re off course?
- What do you do about it?
- What course corrections help?