The following is a wisdom reflection that I wrote for a kind man named Tim Moss, who last year (2019) gave me a "Next Challenge" grant to accomplish a kind of pilgrimage in Orkney.
This short essay is a reflection on life wisdom that I've been reminded of during this difficult year. I hope it brings comfort and hope to anyone who reads it.
I doubt that any of us could have dreamed what a challenge simply navigating everyday life would become in 2020.
Along with the many changes and fears faced by all, I personally found my “Next Challenge” plan to walk all 300 miles of Orkney’s Core Paths impossible to accomplish for various reasons.
These I learned long ago during a very dark time, but it’s surprising how quickly we can forget wisdom and slide into spiritual laziness.
So I remind myself here of these life-giving virtues, and I hope that they encourage you, too.
Having plans dashed to pieces again and again does tend to make us realize how little control we have in the end, even over daily minutiae.
The skill to bend when we need to, to adjust as best we can without wasting energy fighting against the inevitable is one that will serve for a lifetime.
This is not the same thing as lying down and giving up when we should be fighting, working or carrying out some good in the world.
True acceptance is liberating. It propels healthy action where it is possible.
Sometimes there is literally nothing we can do to change our circumstances, but almost always there is something we can do to make it better.
Learning how to better calm myself this year has been a big deal for me.
I hadn’t realized until fairly recently that I’ve always had an underlying current of anxiety. Recognizing this, giving it a name, does help. When you have a name for a thing, you understand something of its essence and can find the magic for it.
I have found this year many magics for conjuring a spirit of quietness. Supreme among these is spending time in nature.
Being forced to take the time to consider rather than plowing blindly along, sucked unthinkingly into the unnatural cadence of modern rhythms has led me to valuable insights and new habits.
I hope these will lead to greater wisdom and joy as I continue to practice what I know.
Encouraged by long experience, I trust in God and I believe that I am loved and accepted.
Sometimes I forget. Times like these remind me.
Remembering to appreciate what we do have and refusing to focus on what cannot be at this moment leads to this gentle form of happiness.
Contentment can be especially sweet when other kinds of happiness aren’t available.
Everyone is suffering in some way, now and also in more normal times.
We can’t heal everyone, but we can be kind, speak to them, listen for awhile. We can take time to be neighborly rather than rushing on to the next thing.
We can remember that we are all the same, really ... just trying to find our way.
Ironically, the calming skill that I want the very most is the one I’m having to work the hardest to find: learning to let myself flow in a slower and more natural rhythm.
I call it Island Time.
This slower, more meaningful way of being in the world is surprisingly elusive for those of us who have grown accustomed to rushing through life caught in the rip-tide of a low-grade panic.
For some, this habit was developed by choice, for others by necessity. Either way, it keeps us captive until we fight our way out of that strong current and into a better one.
I had hoped when many of us were forced to slow down early in 2020 that this new rhythm I’ve long craved would magically fall upon me. It didn’t. I’m having to learn it the hard way.
Oh well … acceptance.
I almost forgot to mention one of the most important virtues. It’s to be paired with acceptance. This is persistence.
Because there are things that are worth digging in for, using all your strength, cunning, patience and skill to obtain. The wise thing is to discover which things these are and go after them.
Good fortune to you, my friends, and God bless.
Although I wasn't able to complete my challenge in 2020, you can see the beginning of it. I've made some Ramblr photo-maps of my early walks in the Stromness area.
You can enjoy them and some gorgeous Orkney scenery here: https://www.ramblr.com/web/mymap/trip/627052
Mermaid image (Rhonda's pages) and storyteller image (Tom's pages), and all other illustrations except where noted are here by the courtesy of our dear friend - Stromness author, artist and historian, Bryce Wilson MBE, who owns all copyrights. Thanks, Bryce!