Chores often get thrown into the category of worthless things one does to get to all the things that we want to do. They, indeed, are the things that are routinely done, task-focused, and usually offer no immediate reward. However, they are, even more, the things one does to get to the place one envisions. They are the routine tasks and tests of the willingness and desire to continue moving toward the fulfillment of visions.
Last week, Sonya and I got to go to Ponte Vedra beach for a week. The beach was deserted, with the time of year and the offseason. I was running sprints (at least, I call them sprints) by the ocean waves below our cottage one morning, feeling myself getting faster and faster. Some say that I still carry the imagination of an elementary school child. I like to hold to the illusion that age hasn’t affected me, like the commercials that show people who say that age is just a limit we impose on ourselves. Based on my experiences, though, I don’t think the commercials are very truthful.
Anyway, perhaps it was an illusion, since I never use a stopwatch and no one was watching; my imagination is better than any stopwatch. I believe I ran the fastest sprint of my years. I pictured myself like Rocky running with joy and possibility in the streets of Philadelphia! I hope there are still readers who can remember the scene, if not the movie. It is hard to believe, but the movie came out 41 years ago. Ugh. By the way, I mentioned Brad Pitt to a twenty-something the other day, and she said, “Oh yeah, the old actor.” Oh well.
Anyway, like I was saying, I think I ran the fastest sprint ever. No one saw it, no stopwatch recorded it, and the waves quickly washed away any evidence that I had even been on the beach. Gone as fast as a blip. I told Sonya that I thought it was really fast. She is smart about such things and was glad about the story, but didn’t say much after, “Good.” She may have mumbled something about men, but I didn’t quite catch it if she did. Besides, I had a pretty good idea what she may have meant, if she had mumbled something.
We talked later that evening about a bunch of our trips to beaches. We laughed hard about the time I was running down the beach to get a kite into flight, tripped and fell face first in the sand. I remember looking back at her, and she was doubled over laughing. She was so far away that I couldn’t hear her, but I knew exactly what she sounded like, having heard her laugh like that many times before. Essentially, she had watched me run down the beach, bouncing the kite behind me, and then crash into the sand. I had forgotten that you don’t have to run to get a kite into the sky.
We talked a lot more that night about trips with our children, favorite times, places we had been—all kinds of experiences that don’t get washed away, things that can’t be recorded by stopwatches and an audience.
I believe very much that we need to push ourselves. We need to be able to take the next step, work hard, find out that we can persevere in hardship, and find within us the ability to get the job done if at all possible. We need to be able to press on because doing so is very important.
We need to know that we can go the extra mile, not as a matter of pride, but as a matter of knowing that what we are doing is important for us and others.
Equally important is to know when to stop for the purpose of replenishment and restoration. Knowing when to stop is a litmus test to identify the difference between ego-centered pride versus genuine heart-connected purpose.
Yesterday, I was doing some writing on our back porch. Beyond the back porch is a courtyard full of our plants. The day was hot, especially for late September in middle Tennessee. One of the plants that has large leaves and is about five feet tall was drooping over in the heat. Its leaves hung limp from top to bottom along the stalk.
My first thought was that I would water it later when I watered everything on the courtyard that afternoon. All the other plants seemed okay, though the one that was drooping had been blasted by the sun most of the day. I sort of figured that it could “wait in line” like all the rest of the plants, tough it out. You know, “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Finally, I just couldn’t take it. I got up and watered it and a couple of others before going back to writing about relationship, life, love, leadership, and caring. Within five minutes, the leaves had risen and were stretched back out to receive the sun. One shot of water and five minutes replenished and restored the plant.
The name of the plant is an Angel Trumpet. It can grow up to seven feet tall, has a tough stalk that almost requires a saw to bring it down. If cared for, its blooms can be larger than two hands, and its sweet scent is remarkable in terms of how far it can reach. All it needed was some water and five minutes.
Its leaves had dropped in need. It “knew” its limits. It needed some water and five minutes to get back to doing its “trumpeting.” The Angel Trumpet passed the litmus test. It had no ego-centric pride. I often fail the test.