As I read an inspirational article on the Internet the other day, I noticed tension building in my chest. I felt slightly inadequate. I watched a cloud of self-doubt form over my perspective. I became curious—why was this inspiration bringing me down? In the coming days, a pattern emerged. I noticed more articles on the Internet. More news headlines and connotations. More advertising and social media event invitations. It seemed wherever I turned, there was a common message: ‘Do more, achieve, strive, compete, stand out, be everything, have it all!’ I was un-inspired. Instead of motivating me to greatness, the undercurrent seemed to shout “You’re not enough!!”
Leonardo da Vinci spent sixteen years delaying his work on the Mona Lisa. For several years, the painting just sat there unfinished. He was criticized for dabbling in distractions that spanned painting and sculpture, music, the sciences, architecture, and other pursuits that kept him from progressing in the eyes of many as an artist. What his critical contemporaries didn’t recognize was that da Vinci’s rambling genius and creative process simply didn’t work along a timeline. He needed time, distraction, procrastination, unstructured puttering. It wasn’t about achievement or greatness but the process of exploring his unique interests and gifts, giving his piece into the flow of things.
After I caught myself being sideswiped by dark feelings from the “inspiration” with which I was being bombarded, I was reminded of the recent passing of my dad’s wife. Gail enjoyed many things but one thing she loved was quilting. A talented craftswoman, she always had a few quilt projects underway. Her creations were expressions of joy and of love. They were often gifts to those for whom she cared. They were artwork and simple, functional beauty – the product of her creative soul expressed in fabric. They were a gathering of friends. They were an investment of her heart. At times, she was intensely-focused at work on her quilts. Other times, projects would sit there in a corner while she read a book, gardened, or went on long bike rides with Dad. Taking time, setting aside, relaxing into life was an essential part of the process.
Gail was taken by disease. Cancer was the culprit. In life, though, she didn’t live in dis-ease. She didn’t strive or compete or seek to stand out or have it all. What she did have was joy in simple things, dedication to creativity, quiet consistency in her passion and love. She shared it freely. She took her time. Not long after she passed, Dad and I stood on a beach at sunset. As I felt his grief, I also felt gratitude for the quiet moment. The beauty of the sky. The lesson in Gail’s life.
There is a disease of dis-ease sweeping our world. Lest we lose our lives to it, let us remember it’s okay to take our time, to dabble, to be distracted, to simply be. In this fast-and-furious ‘modern world,’ let’s remember to express our love, take walks, enjoy one another’s company, create, garden, ‘waste’ time together. Let’s remember it’s okay to be at ease.
Keith Glendon is a grateful husband, father of four, writer, poet, global technology something-or-other, and generally life-loving seeker, learner, and gratitude-spreader. Having grown up in Marquette, traveled the world, and returned to settle in his hometown, he now focuses on being Daddy and offering what he can to the flow.
Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.