While browsing my digital photo albums, I came across these pictures and others like it within my annual folders. These images, showing off the skill and patience of my eldest son Ken, speak to me about life and how we might choose to approach it.
Several years ago, a member of the writers’ group I belong to suggested we each come up with a single word that would sum up our personal writing goals for the year ahead of us. I was well-aware that my worthy intentions in relation to completing specific New Year’s Resolutions had fallen short time and time again. I truly wanted to be disciplined in my approach to physical exercise, to the completion of creative writing projects, to reading as many books as possible on my “want to read” list, to maintaining and nurturing friendships, and–as Julia Cameron advised in her book The Artist’s Way–to keeping “artistic dates” with myself. Yet I don’t remember sustaining any more than one of those activities for an entire year–reading, perhaps, being the only exception. So in answer to my writer friend’s challenge, I finally latched on to the word focus as a way of summing up what I was seriously lacking in my life; or to put it another way, what I needed more than anything else to accomplish my goals.
Focus. Everything I begin would have to be done with a sense of purpose and a determination to see things through to the end. For example, instead of writing a story, novel or poem and filing it away after completion, as I’d done in the past, I would have to research the markets and submit my work to an agent or publisher. Instead of exercising three or four days a week for a few months, then suddenly stopping the practice because I’ve missed a session or two, I would have to repeat –and believe–a mantra declaring that “some exercise is better than no exercise”, or admonish myself to”just do it!” Instead of saying I would like to invite some friends over whom my husband and I may not have seen in a while, I should simply set a date, pick up the phone, and invite them to dinner. Instead of telling myself I would like to immerse myself in books that I’ve wanted to read for years, I should immediately take those titles from my bookshelves (if I already own them), borrow them from friends, check them out of a library, or search my favourite used book stores.
Did my choosing the word “focus” lead to improved motivation and subsequent completion of my goals that year? Regretfully, I would have to say “not entirely”, although I did read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in the months that followed–books that had been on my want to read list for years. But something else was missing from the equation, and I didn’t realize what that was until I came upon these photographs. The word that I now consider equally important is balance.
In the past, as I observed Ken practicing his skills with patience and intent, I noticed how he seemed to be totally “in the moment”, concentrating on the exact placement of one rock upon another, his fingers sensitive to every little crevice or hollow into which it might fit, every little shift in weight that might possibly alter its ability to stand unsupported. I don’t remember him ever failing at this; his successes always amazed those of us who watched him from the sidelines. Perhaps if we focus on the goals we’ve set for ourselves in ways that are both balanced and healthful, we, too, will achieve “the impossible”.