Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
We ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources because I am heavy bored…
–“Dream Song 14”, John Berryman
Life, friends, used to feel a lot like this poem. In fact, that was one of the reasons the poem resonated with me – I knew, in my heart even if I refused to admit it aloud, that my boredom and inactivity resulted from my own lack of inner resources. There wasn’t a lot of “flashing and yearning” going on in my life. There WAS a lot of ho-humming and “Victory Garden” watching. Yawn.
And then, slowly, things began to change. We’re talking slow as in “at a glacial pace” (thanks, Meryl Streep). One significant part of that change has been the discovery that I operate best, achieve more, when I set goals. Now, to those of you who have been devotees of Stephen Covey or who knew your life’s ambitions at age 10, this is a no brainer. For me, it was a revelation. (Remember what I’ve said in the past about being a late bloomer? Turns out, I am not that quick on the up-take, either!)
My college English Department faculty lampooned the seniors each year, and in performing her version of me, Sr. Pat Nolan slouched into the skit, hands in pockets, and said, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be a writer…Maybe I’ll become an editor…whatever….something’s bound to turn up.” Not a flattering portrait, albeit accurate. For much of my life, I just seemed constitutionally incapable of committing to a course of action and then taking the steps necessary to see it through.
Now, I know I have accomplished a number of things over the years: graduate school while working full-time; a demanding and time-consuming job; making a difference in the lives of students. I am proud of these achievements. But many of my proudest accomplishments, while the result of hard work, began as things I just sort of fell into (grad school is a perfect example, and I’ll tell that story another time if you want to know!) The discovery that goals help me to focus my time and see things through has been a key factor in my current state of happiness. A second eye-opener: goals can be small! Yes, its true — audacious goals are great, but so are the smaller lets-finally-clean-the-craft-room-type goals. I no longer underestimate the satisfaction of meeting a goal within the time-frame allotted for it.
On Sunday morning, I was up bright and early and on my way to Palo, Iowa for the annual Pigman Triathlon. Competing in a triathlon has never been a goal of mine, however, it was for three important people in my life and all three were competing on Sunday. The day dawned bright, beautiful, and without the normal summer humidity. And while cheering on my friends, I also had the opportunity to see 800 others fulfilling their triathlon goals — 800 people of every age, shape, size, and fitness level. It was inspiring and motivational. I did not leave with the goal to compete in a triathlon. But I did leave with the sense that it is time to set a goal to stretch myself. So this week, I’m enjoying my newly clean craft room, gathering my inner resources for an exciting life ahead: its definitely time for a little flash and yearn!