There are days when I feel like throwing in the towel. They don't happen often, but they happen. Frustration, exhaustion, elusive dreams. The march of commitments, obligations and appointments don't let up. Time grows thin. And there's so much noise. Cable news programs filled with jousting voices. Competing to win the argument. Depressing news stories. Tired, partisan positioning. All of it interspersed with loud commercials and relentless marketing.
Escape to social media and you confront a subtle contest. Everyone documenting their lives, projecting the veneer of perfection. Images of altruism. Amazing vacations. Flattering angles and superficial commentary. And those infernal stock photos superimposed with self help slogans. Not to mention all the blogs dispensing advice and tutorials on how to live your life. I have been guilty of this myself, but try now to inspire and not preach.
I sometimes feel like throwing in the towel because I get worn out. I start feeling less hopeful. An insidious inner voice whispers defeated thoughts. "Why are you killing yourself with all this blogging and writing? Why do you toil at the easel? There are too many writers and artists. You'll get nowhere. Hang it up. Get some rest. Give up." It's a negative little voice.
We turn to our heroes and idols for guidance and inspiration. Movie stars, musicians, artists. The ones who seem to have it all. But they're human too. Beyond the fame and money many are unhappy. Consider all the divorces, drug problems and suicides that pervade the entertainment industry.
Everyone is trying to find that something. That feeling or place where life just works. Where everything aligns and fits. The problem is that we're all different. What works for one doesn't for another. The religious find solace in faith. The agnostic gain reassurance from science.
The great philosophers, existentialists, stoics and more have explored the questions of life. Minds like Marcus Aurelius, C.S. Lewis and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Helpful companions. But sometimes life is just maddening. What are we to do?
Seek stillness. I know, it sounds like shallow self help. But there's something bordering on divinity in stillness. It's the antidote. The antithesis to the noise, voices, competition, hopelessness, pettiness and defeat.
I have to work at it. But there are moments. Like the day I sat in my backyard garden and was visited by a small wren. She alighted on the fence line and inspected a bird house my wife installed below the roof. It was relatively quiet in the yard. There was a small breeze and the sun's warmth. I closed my eyes. Listened to the wren chatter. And there it was. Stillness. Peace. A perfect moment.
The answer to the madness is stillness. Nature seems to have this all figured out. It's why we stop and stare at the waterfall. Or gaze, speechless, at the immensity of a redwood tree. There is stillness on a Saturday morning, sipping coffee with a cat on your lap. Or in front of your easel, immersed in the blessed flow of creativity.
Stillness restores me. It rescues me from less hopeful days. It allows me to pick up the towel, straighten my tie and soldier on. If you have struggled with the madness, find a little stillness. I'll wager you'll find solace there. I know I have.