There is a Tide in the Affairs of Men
When I was in college, I found a journal in my dad's office. It was empty except for the first page where he had written in his distinct angular handwriting:
"There is a tide in the affairs of man, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serve or loose our ventures."
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 3
Naturally, not thinking about whether my father would want to keep this page as the first page in his new journal, I ripped it out and put it in my own journal. I remember thinking 'this would make a cool tattoo some day...' (a thought which would kill my father in retrospect). I've lost this small piece of paper many times over the years, but somehow it has resurfaced again, and again, and again.
Recently, as I was getting our Christmas presents out of the attic, it showed up amongst the boxes. I haven't seen it in probably 3 years, but here it was looking up at me. How it made it into my attic after all the moves and shifts, I don't know, but in the moment I recognized it for what it was - a message from the universe... an affirmation even. I was full-on in the flood: Christmas was coming, the studio was mid-chaotic-build-out and we weren't sure we were going to get it done in time, family was arriving, the house wasn't tidy, working and teaching, and trying to be a parent all collided at once. Actually, I think I even wrote the last blog post about this sense of overwhelm. Ultimately, I felt like I was being drowned in this flood of activity, and all of it was driven by my own expectations. I could make life way easier for myself if I wanted to by just saying no, by just simplifying, by not piling on more, and more, and more.
And yes... that is a lesson I and many of us need to learn. "No" is an incredibly powerful word and can and should be used in life. But "yes" is a word that opens the possibilities... "yes" is expansive, productive and progressive. "Yes" creates a richness to this life that may at times feel overwhelming, but ultimately mellows out and finds its everyday rhythm.
I suppose at the end of the day, it's about knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no" and finding the balance of the two. Some of us are inherently Yes-men (or Yes-women) and we could probably take a lesson from learning to say No... and limiting the craziness of life. But on the other side of that, those of us who tend to default to saying No, may also realize a greater potential in their own lives than they ever thought they were capable of.
It starts with the self awareness of knowing what your own tendencies are: yes or no. Chaotic piler-onner or insulated protector.... both have the pros and cons. We all have seasons of flood and opportunity and seasons of seemingly barren wasteland in our lives. There is always the risk of drowning when you say yes, open your heart, and hop in the boat to ride the flood of opportunity, especially if you don't know how to limit and manage. It is our practice to learn the balance between the two so that we can live the most fulfilled lives possible.