Your inner explorer…

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Exploration is exhausting, and discovery is demanding. Sure, serendipity happens — but more often than not, unearthing self-shaping insights requires dogged determination.

My previous post consists of the following quote by French author Andre Gide:  “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” I’ve seen it translated from the French with two different wordings. The other version uses “courage” rather than “consent,” an intriguing difference.

I’ve often pondered the courage of the famous world explorers who placed themselves at the mercy of the seas without certainty of what they would find or of how long it would take to find it — unable to imagine myself capable of or interested in such risks. After all, one person’s courage is another’s utter lunacy.

Their eager consent to the perils of the unknown must have been driven by a conviction that the prize they sought would prove the undertaking worthwhile. That principle presents an obvious analogy to the creative process, or to any process of self-discovery.

We write to discover. A writer’s blank page is her wide open ocean.

A writer or other artist explores some inner experience in order to interpret it and then convey it openly. We hope not only to gain our own insights but also to open up trade routes with our readers and fellow writers, exchanging further treasures of realization.

The artistic endeavor is contemplation twice rewarded.

When i write, i find i often arrive (a la Columbus) somewhere other than where i’d thought i was aiming. How often has it happened to you that you set fingers to keyboard with one idea only to uncover a different and unexpected one? There’s your serendipity, by the way, your accidental bounty — but it doesn’t come without resolve and perseverance.

At times, our expeditions away from the the firmness of the shore are thrust upon us unsought, imposed on us outside of our choosing. A job loss, a dire diagnosis, a personal tragedy confronts us with a maelstrom of confusion and uncertainty. The disrupting circumstance happens outside of our control, but how we navigate through it is up to us.

When the waves are crashing over the bow, we can strive to keep our hands on the ship’s wheel or give in to the winds and be blown overboard. What keeps us holding on is the dual hope that there is land out there somewhere and that the winds will eventually die down.

Any survivor will tell you that such storms teach you more about who you are than times of tranquility do. Indeed, torrent-taught people seem to find a deeper tranquility than is otherwise accessible to the untossed.

In calmer times, when all you want is to fill that blank page with something artistic that your reader will relate to, it still takes persistence to sort the cross-currents of your mind and to resist that sinking feeling that maybe the voyage wasn’t worth it after all.

It’s all part of the swirl. Your inner Magellan — your hopeful human heart — knows better.

Half a cup…

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If there is a recipe for contentment, it calls for four ounces…

In this recipe, though, the unspecified ingredient is less important than how the cook views that half a cup. Four ounces in an eight-ounce glass: half full or half empty?

I think most of us see ourselves as leaning naturally toward either optimism or pessimism. Those who tend to be more hopeful know how to look for the good in difficult circumstances. Those who brace themselves for the negative don’t want to be caught off-guard when trouble comes.

It seems very few are exclusively one or the other. The popular idea of new year’s resolutions requires some optimism – though the pessimist might simply anticipate failing sooner.

A well-known quote resolves the opposing tendencies with a third option:  “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts the sails.” I love this quote — and i didn’t notice until a good friend observed it that one can do all three.

As for my own perspective, if i had to pick a label, it would be realist. (I touched on this in an earlier post about positivity and negativity.) I also like the old phrase cautiously optimistic.

Aside from the question of whether (and to what degree) one’s inclination is innate or conditioned, it does seem to be somewhat adjustable. This is a crucial premise of my friend Danny’s motivational blog, well worth checking out: Dream Big Dream Often.

He encourages readers to take steps toward adding an ounce or two to the cup ourselves. Good friends and others can help us with this, just as negative folks in our lives can seem as though they’re depleting us ounce by ounce.

Every ounce (or ‘oz’ as they’re abbreviated in recipes) can make a difference. Rather than being limited by the starting half cup measurement, we have considerable influence over our own attitude, over adding to or subtracting from it. You could say we are our own wizards of oz.

How would you describe your outlook?

Holiday feelings…

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I was talking with a friend today about our feelings toward Christmas.

She observed that most people she knows claim either to love it or to hate it. Some take special joy and comfort in the trappings of the season. Others carry them as a weight, fraught with negative associations, something more to be endured than enjoyed. (A few try to ignore the holiday altogether.)

My friend found it refreshing that i don’t have strong feelings about the season in either of those two common directions. What i do take from it, i take quietly.

When my children were little i delighted in making the season delightful for them – more because of people than things, though. There was no worry about them discovering the ‘truth’ about Santa, because in our family he was always a winked-at fiction — like being ‘in’ on an inside joke.

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