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On Spitfire’s 22nd anniversary

At milestone moments, I have a practice of sitting back before leaping into life and work again. I start with James Baldwin, who wrote “Inventory/On Being 52”:

My progress report
concerning my journey to the palace of wisdom
is discouraging.
I lack certain indispensable aptitudes.
Furthermore, it appears
that I packed the wrong things.

Taking inventory is not easy. You have to be honest with yourself and the world, un-sugarcoat a few truths and be willing to practice that intellectual humility everyone is going on about. But taking inventory grounds you. It gives you that solid feeling of “I know who I am and where I am.” It also signals what needs to change.

My first step during milestone moments is to have the courage to really look. Understand where I am. Face disappointments and celebrate successes. I see clearly what is in the mirror.

My second step is to see where the world is calling me to focus. We live in dynamic times, and change is indeed the only constant. Where are my talents, energy and expertise most needed? This requires deep listening to my heart as well as my head.

My third step is to face what might be holding me back. It is easy in turbulent times to pause and use uncertainty as a reason to take a wait-and-see attitude. Human emotions conspire to urge us to seek this comfort place when visibility is low. Here I turn to Rebecca Solnit, who in “Hope in the Dark” wrote:

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone…It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it.

My last step is to set off once more, not with trepidation but wholeheartedly in a direction filled with uncertainty and possibility. I read John O’Donohue’s “For a New Beginning” to start off with spring in my step as I consider his words: “Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk …” Beautiful words that are hard to live up to, but I am going to try.


For a New Beginning

by John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 2, 2024 at 08:48 am and is filed under Spitfire anniversary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.