An adobe fireplace is warming me on this chilly morning as I sit in my room, smelling burning mesquite wood, hearing the crackling embers, and staring sleepy-eyed at the brown adobe walls, the dark, carved wooden doors, and photos of Native Americans in ceremonial clothing.
Quietly swinging open the doors to my balcony, I wrap a colorful Native American blanket over my cold shoulders as the brisk air slams my formerly cozy face.
As I sit with my hot, steaming coffee, distant purple mountains are barely visible through the clouds, yet a brilliant peek of reddish orange slips through a gap and suddenly splashes rays across the vast landscape. A chorus of “Hallelujah” would be appropriate to punctuate the moment.
Squinting from the bright sun that now warms my face, I’m treated to a light show of oranges, reds, greens, blues, and purples. It’s no wonder New Mexico is home to thousands of artists.
I’m in Buffalo Thunder, a massive adobe resort built on Pojoaque tribal land just outside Santa Fe for our annual convention of outdoor (plein air) painters.
Vast Desert Land
As I stare out over the vast desert before me, I’m picturing the sea that once covered this land. Perhaps those distant blue mountain peaks were small islands standing out in the sea.
I’m picturing a small green rowboat on the ocean, with one person sitting in it, drifting, no oars in the water. The waves rock the boat, and it could stay at sea for weeks, or capsize, or maybe it will be pushed to a beach at one of the islands or the mainland.
If that boat somehow managed to stay on the water for millions of years, today it would be sitting on the ocean floor, which is now a desert. The only movement would be the blowing tumbleweeds around it.
Stages of Life
I realized these images that came to mind represent momentary stages of our life, just as there have been stages for this land.
An ocean can be vast, yet we drift on top of it, wondering what direction to take, not understanding the opportunity surrounding us. Though the effort of rowing in a vast sea would seem endless and pointless, especially against the moving surf, it is motion and direction that matter.
Sun Beating Down on Us
There are also times we’re sitting in that same boat, but the ocean has become a desert. The sun is beating ruthlessly down on us, there is no shade, no water, yet we continue to sit in the boat out of fear of what might happen if we step out.
We know instinctively that if we sit there too long we will die of exposure, yet we sit, in hopes someone will come along and rescue us — when the mere act of stepping out of the boat could save us. Though we may not know the direction to go, our chances of survival may increase by our mere movement. There may be a river flowing just over the next hill.
Why Rowing Matters
A wise mentor once called me out for being a boat adrift on the ocean — no rudder, no movement, no direction, just hoping something would come along.
“A boat adrift may drift forever, or it may crash on the rocks. A boat in motion will at least take you to a different place with more momentum than a drift, and you may discover a new opportunity. You need to start rowing.”
Fear of Failure
I’ve found myself frozen with fear, like that person unwilling to step out of the boat. There were times so bad, so frightening, that it was easier to curl up into a fetal position and cry out in fear. In those times others would try to get me up, get me in motion, and try to make me face my fears. But I did not want to move.
What May Matter Most
Though it’s taken me decades of my life to discover, it is motion that matters most. Motion is the solution to the drift in a vast ocean, and it’s the way out of the desert.
The Power of Fear
I’ve also realized that fear is necessary to create motion. It’s a natural incentive, if you allow it to motivate you. The fear of dying adrift at sea or stuck in the sand has to be so great that movement happens.
When I’m talking to my kids about getting jobs so they can buy cars, I often hear, “But I don’t know what I want to do, Dad.” My reply: “You don’t have to decide the course of the rest of your life, you just need to do something, keep trying different things, and eventually you’ll discover something you’re passionate about.”
I remember the pressure of being 12 and thinking I needed to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I had no idea, and it was daunting to think about, yet movement in one area accidentally led me to discover my passion for radio, where I got my first job. That has been a 49-year love affair.
And it was getting in motion that accidentally led me to painting, which has been a 23-year love affair. I would never have predicted that either. Nor would I have guessed that my passions would lead me to create magazines, conferences, etc., in both of these areas.
What about you?
If you happen to be feeling a little adrift or stuck in a desert surrounded by concerns, or maybe purely afraid, just know that pain is part of the process — though it’s not comfortable or fun, and we sometimes wonder “Why did this happen to me?”
Sometimes we’re facing things no one should ever have to face, things that are beyond devastating. Keep in mind that this pain, this fear, this uncertainty, will lead you to what’s next, and chances are it will be better than anything you could dream up on your own. The answer to “Why?” is that there are lessons to be learned and opportunities ahead.
When I started my company, I didn’t make enough money to take a paycheck for seven years. My wife and I struggled to make our house payments, we did not have much to live on, and it was not fun saying no to our family needs. It seemed like it would never end. It was the desert. There were times when I was curled up in a ball, not wanting to face work. At one time I owed the IRS $250,000 because I had made a mistake and accumulated years of interest on a small debt. I did not see a way out; there was no money to pay it.
Escaping My Fear
I was devastated, depressed, frightened, and thought it would never end. I spent several days hiding in bed, until one day I awoke, dragged myself in, and started to take action. My fear turned into ideas, which turned to motivation, which turned to working harder than I ever knew I was capable of. I did not file for bankruptcy; I paid off every cent owed, even though it took me 10 years. And I learned important lessons to keep that from happening again. After I would rather have curled up and cried than face it.
Helping Others Through It
If someone you know is facing something right now, they cannot see beyond their current woes. Though you want to lessen their pain and help them, you also need to help them know that this will pass, and they will look back on it as a bump in the road, even if at the moment it feels like a massive, endless roadblock. They don’t need a lecture, they don’t need your pressure, they just need to know that with pain comes healing and resolution. There truly is light coming around the dark earth.
The Giant Weight
Though pain and fear are worse than almost anything, and trying to move may feel like you’re carrying a giant weight on your shoulders that is dragging you to the ground, it’s motion that will pull you through. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” — James 1:2
Motion always wins.
The Apple Falls
In 1692 Isaac Newton developed his Laws of Motion, and they not only apply to science, they apply to life.
“An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless a force acts upon it. An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it. An object continues to do whatever it happens to be doing unless a force is exerted upon it. If it is at rest, it continues in a state of rest. If an object is moving, it continues to move without turning or changing its speed. Changes in motion must be imposed against the tendency of an object to retain its state of motion.” — WIkipedia
One Small Step for Man
“To those who are struggling to discern their passion in life, my suggestion is to pick just one good that you’d like to bring into the world and take a step toward it — whether donating your time, your talents, or your financial resources. Choose one, any one, and get started in some small way … you’d never make that discovery without taking a first step. Any step. Because it’s easier to find a vision or identify a passion if you are actively engaged in searching for it.” — Joshua Becker
A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.
“In every regard, a body in motion stays in motion. For every change or discovery we desire to see in ourselves, it begins always with putting ourselves in motion toward it. And then building on the momentum we started.”
Motion will pull you out of a drifting sea or a burning desert.
Is there an area in which you feel stuck, discouraged, frightened? Are you facing something devastating, overwhelming, even life-threatening?
A Way Out of Darkness
Is there one tiny step you can take to create movement? That one step may be tremendously difficult, it may be the hardest thing you ever do, yet if you can take it, there will soon be a second, and a third, then a walk, then a run, and soon, you’ll be out of the darkness.
I certainly don’t ever want to make light of anything you or your family may be facing. I’ve not walked in your shoes. It’s my wish today that perhaps those reading this who are feeling overwhelmed and stuck will consider movement. And I hope you’ll share your story privately with me, and I’ll get in motion by keeping you in my prayers.