Saturday, April 25, 2015

"You Have No Option."

“It's a very funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”

William Somerset Maugham

“In the end that was the choice you made, and it doesn't matter how hard it was to make it. It matters that you did.”

Cassandra Clare, City of Glass

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“Fight one more round. When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired that you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round - remembering that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped.”

James Corbett

Sometimes when I tell my Muse I want to spend my life with her, she whispers, “You have no option.”  She’s right.
Purpose, a real purpose, one worth pursuing, can be hard.  It’s hard because of all the external factors – interruptions and problems.  It’s also hard because of the external factors – self-sabotage, procrastination, fear, lack of knowledge, self-doubt.
Difficulties are normal, even though the particular problems don’t seem normal.  They seem extraordinary and insurmountable.  But they are part of the difficulty package.
In the end, difficulties don’t matter.  All that matters is determination.  In my case, I am going to get my Master’s degree, my house on the beach, and my life with my Muse, no matter what or how long it takes.  This is not a solemn vow.  It simply is.
The reason for determination is simple – I have no other option.  I mean this.  I don’t mean I will end my life if I don’t reach my goals; I mean, I will have no life if I don’t reach my goals.  I think of the alternative and when I do, I see nothing but a life full of sadness and regret because I didn’t do everything I could to get there.  This isn’t about money or success, though I imagine those will come eventually.  I simply have no other option.
Not to put too dramatic a point on all of it, but the day my Muse came into my life, though I didn’t know it at the time, my life as I knew it was over.  A new life awaited me.  There was no choice, no turning back.  There was nothing to turn back to.  The past was gone.  It happened again when I began my Master’s degree.  Life as I had known it was over, except that now my Muse was with me.  But again, the past was gone, except the past I’m studying.  There is no other choice, no turning back.  There is nothing to turn back to. 
Why a Muse? 
Why history?
Why me?
I don’t know. 
All I know is that despite obstacles and interruptions, I am on the right path.  How do I know this?  Because God did not give me another path.  He gave me this one, with all its delays and difficulties, this is what He chose for me.  I accept it gladly.  I keep writing.  I keep studying.  I keep working and waiting.
I know an artist who does wonderful work that very few people see.  She keeps working anyway.  I know a writer who wrote an excellent book, but for legal reasons beyond his control, he may never be able to publish it.  He keeps working anyway.  They have no options. 

We do what we are born to do.  Or something in us dies.  We Get Started and We Keep Going.  We have no options.  We don’t need any.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Some Things I've Learned While Pursuing a Master's Degree

Some things I’ve learned about Purpose while pursuing a Master’s degree.
·      Something can be very difficult and still bring a lot of joy.
·      When pursuing a Purpose, a goal, a dream, a vision, obstacles will arise.  Some of those obstacles are drama, that is, they aren’t very significant and will pass quickly.  Other obstacles are quite serious.   They are not drama.  They are real.  The response should always be the same: How quickly can I deal with this so I can get back to my Purpose?
·      Purpose may take up most of your time.  More precisely, you may not want to spend your time doing much else.
·      The opposite of failure is not success, but focus.
·      When in Purpose, you may find yourself wondering what you did before your Purpose.
·      Life will become limited in width, but become greater in depth.
·      You may want to share your experience with others.  Some will understand.  Many won’t.  The ones who understand are also pursuing their own Purpose.  The ones who don’t are to be pitied. 
·      Time will become much more precious.
·      This cannot be done alone.  One requires a Muse.  At least I do.
·      Your Muse, your driving force, your creative spirit, will become even more precious during this time.  At least mine has.
·      You will not have to remind yourself to Get Started and Keep Going.  That’s about all you will do.
·      You will wonder how you will manage your life.  More, you will wonder how you managed your life previous to your Purpose.  You will wonder how you managed life before you met your Muse. 

·      At least I do.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Mandolin Wind"

“I recall
The night we knelt and prayed
Noticing your face was thin and pail.
I found it hard to hide my tears.
I felt ashamed.
I felt I let you down.
No mandolin wind
Could ever change a thing,
Could ever change a thing,
No, no.
The coldest winter
In fourteen years
Could never, never change your mind.”

Rod Stewart – Mandolin Wind

Nobody likes difficulties.  Less than I like difficulties, I dislike seeing those I love go through difficulties.  For some people I love, it’s been a tough time.  There seem to be seasons that are particularly harder than others, and if we allow them, these seasons can change us or make us forget our Purpose.  In my own life, it may seem I’ve forgotten mine.  At one point I was writing at least one blog a day.  One month I wrote 55 blogs.  This month I’ve written one.  My difficulty was one I’ve chosen, a Master’s degree program in history.  It feels like the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time and it takes up most of my time.  And perhaps some are wondering if I’ve given up on my Muse, on my house on the beach, on the dreams that I wrote about so often.  Or perhaps some are wondering if I’m just taking a break from all of that until school is done.
Here is my answer to both questions:
I’m not giving up.  My goals are the same.  I’ve just added a new one, one that takes up a lot more time than I had imagined. 
But here’s the thing:  I’m never, ever, ever leaving my Muse.  Granted, I still need to schedule things so I can start writing again.  I still need to use my time more efficiently.  I’d still like to write blogs, if not every day, far more often than I’ve been doing this year.  I’ve found a new Purpose, but it doesn’t replace the first one, my commitment to my Muse.  (In fact, I’m still writing three pages a day in my journal every morning.)
What does one do when life gets in the way of goals? First, life didn’t get in the way.  I made a decision to get more education and my Muse told me it was a good decision.  (She was more prepared for this than I was.)   Life getting in the way includes things like needing to buy new shoes or get a haircut or put gas in the car.  And even those activities aren’t obstacles if I stay present.  I needed the shoes.  I needed the haircut and the gas.  But everything I do, however seemingly significant or insignificant is meaningful.  And in everything I do my thoughts go towards my house on the beach and a life with my Muse.

Giving up cannot be an option.  Even pausing isn’t an option.  I need to be here every day.  I need to write and I need my Muse like I need to breathe.  And, as difficult, as my education is, it was not only the right choice, it is the choice that will help me reach my dreams.  No “mandolin wind,” no matter how cold and hard it blows, no difficulties, no delays, no amount of work will change a thing.  I will Get Started and I will Keep Going.  It’s all I know how to do.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

JLA: Year One and Purpose

“Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash
As we fell into the sun.
And the first one said
To the second one there,
‘I hope you’re having fun.’”

Paul McCartney – Band on the Run

JLA: Year One written by Mark Waid and drawn by Bryan Augustyn is a revisionist origin of the Justice League of America, featuring four of the original seven, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter.  This version adds the Black Canary, who in the original stories didn’t become a member for several years.  JLA: Year One also omits Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as part of the membership.  The membership is incidental; what really matters here is the story.  The story is powerful, full of hope, pain, disappointment, struggle, defeat, and, ultimately, redemption and victory.
I’d like to think of JLA: Year One as an analogy for life.  It seems, at least, to be an analogy for my life.  In almost every area of my life, things, just a few weeks ago, looked, like the first chapter of JLA: Year One, promising, colorful, and in a clear direction.  Then difficulties set in.   In JLA: Year One, over 300 pages long, the heroes are constantly beset with difficulties. 
There are external difficulties, enemies to fight, a public to convince, and relationship and job difficulties in their personal lives.  But there are also internal difficulties.  The five super-heroes have to learn to trust themselves and each other.  There are mistakes, misunderstandings, and even seeming betrayals by one of the team members and by a representative of their financial benefactor.
There are points in the storyline where things seem absolutely hopeless. In fact, they are.  There are no alternatives – except one: Keep Going.
What does it really mean to keep going?  What it doesn’t mean is to ignore the peril or ignore the past.  It means to take a full assessment of the risks, to change where change is needed, but to not quit.
For a brief moment, I wanted to quit school.  In my online courses, I was strongly critiqued in, of all areas, my writing.  Besides feeling embarrassed, I felt incompetent as both a writer and a student.  Had I made a mistake entering the program?  Am I a bad writer?  Do I have any skills at all?  Am I a failure?  Have I done anything meaningful with my life?  The questions got scarier and darker, but through further conversation with and more feedback from my professor I was able to make course (no pun intended) corrections.  Will they be enough?  I won’t know until next week’s grades come out, but if not, I’ll Keep Going.

Again, sometimes there are no alternatives but to Keep Going.  But we have to know what it is we are going towards.  For me it’s a Master’s degree in history and life with my Muse.  Very little else matters.  Working towards those goals is the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time and I feel privileged to be able to do it.