(Full disclosure, been a busy week, so today’s is a re-post from Tuesday.)
Did you know that giant tarantulas will often keep frogs as pets? Apparently they’ll keep them safe from predators and in return the frogs eat insects that would threaten the spider’s eggs before they hatch.
I guess that means Aragog probably chose a toad for his Hogwarts pet, huh?
Happy Tuesday, everybody!
I don’t know where you live, but in the areas around my neighborhood, people put up these signs in their front lawns a lot. They’re black signs with white lettering and they all sport famous historical or motivational quotes. One of my favorites is by poet and activist Maya Angelou, which says:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I guess in that way, her quote has a lot in common with Papa Kratos (check out the last post for the reference). It’s terrific because it, like Kratos, doesn’t expect perfection, doesn’t even expect success. It just expects that you’ll apply yourself the best that you can – The. Best. You don’t need to apologize for failure or coming up short, you can keep your apologies and save yourself the time and words. Instead, observe what’s happened, the effects of your efforts, and fold that experience into your next try.
Because of a lot of life events recently (short version: helping my mother renovate her house, retire, and move), I’m still feeling pretty sensitive to motivational sentiments. So that’s what today’s post is. Like some others, this one came together a while ago in probably a single afternoon on the back of a napkin one day at work. We’ll get into more in The Take.
Without furter adieu, I present:
I was standing on a cliff by the ocean. There was a rocky precipice about twelve feet out and there was a small crowd of people standing on it. They all looked happy, fulfilled, and whole. I looked down at the space between our places and saw bodies. They were lifeless, broken, bobbing with the ebb and flow of the waves against the rocks. They were the people who had jumped and didn’t make it. I looked behind me and saw an ocean of people. They stood dressed in rags like me, cold, shaking with anxiety and fear. They were the people who never jumped because they had also seen the waves.
I wanted to jump because I wanted to be where the happy people were, but was afraid because I didn’t want to fall. I looked down at the waves again and, this time, saw something I hadn’t noticed before. It was a hand, then another, then another. They were people who had survived the fall and were climbing back up. So I stood and I watched. Not every climber finished, many fell, but one made it and stood next to me.
“What will you do now?” I asked him.
Breathless, he answered simply: “Rest and jump again.”
And he did. He was old and gaunt, he saw there was reason to be afraid, but he jumped. The man fell short, but he clung to the side of the rocky precipice. Eventually, he pulled himself onto it and was folded in among his new peers. I decided to name him ‘Murphy’.
That was when I jumped too. I had seen others jump with a timid step and that lack of conviction made them slip. I jumped with strong legs and a clear mind, but still I fell. The waves were hard, shocking with the cold, and threw me with overwhelming strength. I saw the lifeless forms around me and felt the seduction of giving into the waves. But I remembered the man’s conviction. It was that conviction that drove him to jump, fall, and yet never drown. I looked to the cliffs. The rock up to the precipice was impossible – sheer, flat, and held an imposing slant. The climb I witnessed the old man make was jagged and sharp, but doable. It started with grabbing the first hold.
So it was that I jumped, fell, climbed, and would jump again. Now those sad faces were watching me. Some were silent, others bid me cease my efforts and join them by their heatless fires. I shuffled off their hindering grasps and made another leap. I had learned. I knew how to run, where to step and where not, and which rocks to spring from. I reached my hand out as I had so many times before, but this time found purchase on the precipice. I allowed myself a smile at a few of the successful who took notice, but the rock I held broke and I fell.
This was the first time I’d felt so frozen by the waves in my many leaps from the bluff. I had done everything correctly. I had made my leaps, I had learned from my falls, I had persevered the pain, the cold, the rock. Yet this time it was the rock that had let me go. It was not my fault, but I still fell. So I began to sink, and as the deep blue grew darker the seduction of the bidding cold returned. I felt my feet touch the inviting, slick, uneven bottom and the light began to close in around my vision of the precipice I had been so near.
I would have let the water take me to join the other fallen if I hadn’t seen it. There, from the bottom of the waters at the base of the cliffs, I saw handholds hidden in the flat stone column of the precipice. They were folded, narrow slits in the stone like gills on a fish, only to be seen from an angle the bottom of the water provided. So, I pushed off the bottom, ascended toward the light, and took a filling breath after I broke the surface. The air tasted of old salt, but I had a love for it. I swam to the base of the column and placed my hands upon it. It was flawlessly smooth, like the surface of polished marble, and it was warm.
I soon found the small pockets hidden in the stone, scarcely wide enough for my fingers, and began to climb. It was terribly demanding, but not unlike what I’d endured in my efforts anyway. I climbed, with aching muscles, burning lungs, and quivering joints, but I climbed. I made it to the edge of the precipice I’d leapt for so many times and pulled myself onto it.
“I knew you would make it,” came a familiar voice. I turned and saw Murphy standing there. I smiled in return, looked about my new peers, and was confused. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“They’re the same,” I said.
I inspected the community atop the precipice. Everyone stood dressed in rags, and while there were those who wore a contented smile like Murphy did, many others frowned or shook with their own cold. I walked between them, wondering what could bring them displeasure when we had made it. I wondered this until I came to the other edge of the precipice and saw.
I looked around me and saw many with discontented faces. I looked down and saw still bodies, bobbing with the ebb and flow of the waves. I looked up and saw another precipice with a small crowd waiting on the other side, all with happy, wholesome faces.
“Will you stay?” Murphy asked, who had followed me.
I looked at him, then back to the precipice. I smiled at him, placed my steps carefully, and I jumped.
The Take: “Lindsey” is really kind of an arbitrary name for the perspective in this. Ultimately, what it comes down to is the picture of the various aspects of a leap of faith. I think it originates from an old military turn-o’-phrase, but: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Back in September of 2018, I left a comfortable manufacturing job to write full-time and put myself on a sabbatical. About two weeks after my last day, my mom got sick, and since then, it’s been a lot of hospital visits, phone calls with insurance, realtors, etc etc.
It was a leap of faith and that turned from coffee-house-bohemia right to dumptruck-of-life-events very quickly, but that’s what a leap of faith is. I think that’s what I’ve come away from this having absorbed, mostly because of this: I’m still here.
I’m still here, my mom has seen better circumstances but I think she’s happy, her house is coming along, I love my family and friends probably now more than ever, and writing has been a lot of wheel-spinning, but it’s gathered bits of traction here and there (check out Hidden Histories by ThirdFlatiron Publishing now and keep an eye out for my episode with the NIGHT LIGHT podcast coming soon! *plug plug nudge nudge*).
It began as a leap of faith, has NOT gone according to plan, but that’s alright. And I guess just try to bear that in mind the next time you’re faced with a choice that comes with a jump (or if you’re in one now). People treat it like a coin toss with Success/Failure being like Life/Death and I just don’t think that’s true. Especially because even though this jump’s come up Tails, a lot of good has come from it and I can always jump again.
Anyway, that’s enough lecturing. I’ll catch you guys Thursday!
Today’s Fable Fact source: https://roaring.earth/tarantulas-and-frogs-are-friends-with-benefits/