What’s better, a sunset or a sunrise? One thing I love about both sunrise and sunset – they have their own beauty and are often difficult to distinguish from one another. Is the picture above a sunrise or a sunset? Does it matter? For as one sun sets, another prepares to rise. Each with her own grandeur.
In the last week of this year for me, I am reflecting on the setting of 2016 and anticipating the rising of 2017.
2016 has been a beautiful and complicated year. As I watch it’s “sunset,” I am in awe of everything that has happened to me and my family this year. We went through a family medical trauma, didn’t get what I thought was my “dream job,” sold a house, bought some land, learned the value of quitting, bought what we think of as our “dream home,” endured some stressful interpersonal relationships with family members, moved our kids to a new school, quit a job I loved to start one I never imagined would be possible, renovated a kitchen, lost our family dog, got a puppy for the first time in 15 years, and had a very full year of fun and frolic with our friends far and wide. We hiked, camped, fished, kayaked, laughed, cried, danced, and generally lived a full life.
What a beautiful sunset I’m watching on this year!
And the sunrise of 2017 is about to start peeking over the horizon. In a few short days, she’ll pop up her first few rays of light. Who knows what the day will hold once that sun is up in the air of 2017. The sunrise of each new year is like the sunrise of each new day – beautiful and filled with unlimited potential. It is likely that the year will have mountaintop moments and emotional valleys. I’m sure we’ll have some adventures that we’ll never forget and make some decisions we wish we could go back and change. It could be the best year of my life or the worst 12 months ever. Today, it is just starting to become a reality; the sunset of 2016 is much more real and relevant right now.
There’s one big difference, though…sunsets are for reflection, sunrises are for anticipation. And while I enjoy reflecting on 2016, I am energized with the potential of the coming sunrise. It looks like it could be beautiful.
Since November 17, 2009 I have been keeping a journal – very much off and on – that I have titled “Things Dad Learned” for Jack Searby. Today, I was writing in one of the last pages of the journal so I decided to flip back through it and read a few entries from the past 6 years. What ensued was a lesson on the power of reflection.
Looking back across these entries that are intended to be shared with my son when he heads off to college, I came to realize something in a very powerful way: it is very difficult for us, in the moment, to realize the insignificance or gravity of a situation.
Two examples drove this home for me. I came across an entry where I put on paper a very emotional passage about how trying my son, who was 4 at the time, was being to his mother and I. It was laden with a ‘woe is me’ tone about how hard he was making life by being overly emotional and getting in trouble at pre-school and on and on. As I look back on this, I almost have to laugh at how trite I was being. Jack, at age 4, was a new brother, in a full day pre-school because both of us were working full time, dealing with me being on the road a lot for work, and he was 4! I know that I thought it was a big deal at the time because this journal isn’t a “recap of my day” type of ledger. But with the passage of time and maturing of both Jack and I, it is obvious that the moment was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It made me wonder what things in my life today I’m making more out of than I should. What “stresses” in my life today should I just let go of because they will seem so silly 5 years from now?
The second example was a series of entries that focused on a fear that I was moving too fast with a small business that I had started and self caution to not overextend myself financially with the venture. They were almost footnotes to their posts, but showed up 6 or 7 times over a 6 month period, as if I wrote them as reminders. Reflecting back, I now realize the gravity of those self-reminders and wish that I had recognized their wisdom. Instead, I plowed ahead on emotion pursuing the dream of owning a successful small business with little regard for the larger financial picture. Because of my blind faith, it all came crashing down – the business failed, we closed up shop, and I left a trail of financial wreckage that had to be dealt with (and is still being dealt with). THIS caused me to pause as well and consider what seemingly ‘little things’ in my life seem to be continually itching me that I need to pay closer attention to? I have been feeling my age lately and telling myself I’ve got to be more moderate in my diet and portions. I keep telling myself that I need to be more gentle and caring in my conversations with my kids. I regularly come back to the idea of dwelling on the joy in my life more and sharing these joys with my wife. These nagging thoughts may carry more gravity than I realize…and I probably won’t know for sure for years.
The reflection on my journal was healthy. It made me realize that I still have a long way to go to being the man I want to be and that I keep repeating some of the same mistakes. But it also made me realize that I have grown a lot in the past 6 years. The key will be what I do with these realizations over the next 6 years. Today I will take a step towards joy and gentleness in hopes that those small things carry great weight.
There is a quote that is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads:
“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.”
Reading or hearing this quote always makes me stop and pause to think about the balance in my own life. While I think it is important, and I strive for, moderation in my life, I also find value in moments of excess. I suppose it all depends on where you expend your excess that determines the value of it to your life. Balance is most important when you overextend yourself in one way or another and need to physically or emotionally ‘land on your feet.’
I am fortunate that some days my work schedule allows me to go for a morning run, sit down with a cup of coffee, read or reflect, maybe write a little and start my ‘work day’ pretty much whenever I’d like to start it. Other times I’m racing from the bed to the shower to the airport to a meeting and the day seems to start and end at breakneck pace. The thing that always allows me to land on my feet when I’ve overextended myself with a series of those breakneck days is balance. Balance emotionally, physically, relationally, and spiritually.
On a normal day, home or on the road, I don’t have time for both a morning workout and morning reflection and solitude. What I have chosen to do is balance those things. Yesterday after I walked the kids to the bus stop I went for a 3 mile run and then came home, ate breakfast, showered and started my day. I was at the computer working at 8:30a. This morning after the bus stop I came back home, ate breakfast, read, prayed, and journaled for 40 minutes and started my day. I was at the computer working at 8:30a. I didn’t feel guilty yesterday for not having time for reflection. I didn’t feel guilty this morning for not having time for a run. I am trying to create a balance in my life so that next week when I’m flying from coast to coast with presentations, client meetings and spending days full of work and craziness that I land on my feet and don’t fall over (emotionally or physically).
Don’t get me wrong…if someone was going to pay me to structure my day exactly as I’d like it, I’d have time for a run and reflection every single day. But that isn’t in the cards in this stage of life for me so rather than throw my hands up in frustration that I can’t be more diligent to run 5 days a week or getting down on myself because I only make time to pray and journal 2-3 times a week, I just try for balance. When I have that balance, I truly can achieve moderation in all things, including moderation.