This has been an interesting week, mentally. A few days ago I was looking back in pictures I took a year ago, showing the effects of the drought on one of my childhood hangouts…
My friend and I had gone on a hike, and ended up staring at what at one time was a popular fishing place. What had been a lake completely dried up… the drought had taken everything that the lake was… water, fish, you name it – it was gone. Now I knew we were in a drought… I saw the media coverage, the lack of a snowpack and all, but it really didn’t hit home until I was standing in the middle of the lake bed, my shoes covered with dust.
We were really in a drought…
It’s been about 6 weeks since I transitioned out of my job. It is an interesting process going from being gainfully employed to seeking employment. By interesting, I definitely don’t mean enjoyable. It is interesting in how it affects a person. Initially, it is like hearing the news of the snowpack on TV. You acknowledge it, comment about how horrible it is, but then change the channel or wait for the next news story. It’s like “that’s ok, cuz at some point, the rain will come… we’ll bounce back… we always have”. Then you hit that emotional valley. The place where, over time, the rain has not touched for a long time. Companies don’t get back to you… recruiters are not calling as much, if at all… you find yourself 4th out of 3 candidates…
You are standing in an empty lake bed…
You are in your own drought…
Droughts do some weird things to us. When the drought was in full swing over the past year, you started seeing signs saying, “Brown is the new green”. Almost like people were proud that their lawn had died. There was also some jealousy or judgment of those whose lawn was still green… “how dare they? I’m doing my part… my lawn is dead”. When we realize we are in drought, we try to adjust to it. We cannot control it, so we might as well play along. As much as we play along though, inside we still feel it… we look at the deadness of the hills, and it hurts us. We long for days gone by when we weren’t suffering so.
I have done similar things as I prepare for the job that at some point will come. I have accepted my new current normal (kinda), been jealous of those who are still in “green pastures”, and as the days go by, have felt the sting of being in a place where the dust gathers around my feet.
Droughts do something else though… In recent days we have started to see rain. Rain is fun cuz it messes up our commutes, causes us to track water and mud into the house, and does a number on many a hairdo. Yet, because of the drought, rain caused something else: appreciation. It is awesome to see so many people happy to recognize the drops of life coming from the sky. People even forgive the commute conditions because they are just thankful that the rain has come.
While these little drops of goodness haven’t put a dent in the drought conditions, they offer promise – rain will still come. No matter how bad the drought gets, it doesn’t stop the rain, so there is reason to hope. Looking back on my day in the lake bed, there was one other thing that I didn’t focus on, but was actually there… trees. While the bed was dry, around the bed there were still trees growing. Their roots had gone deep enough to find water to sustain them. So the drought is in our face… at our level, but refreshing drops of water exist if we are willing and able to go deep enough for it. So, there is not only promise, but there is evidence… evidence of life that I can focus on, and if I am observant, I can see it all around me. I can choose to focus on the dust, or I can lift my eyes to see that there is beauty and encouragement surrounding me.
This morning my soul was in knots. The “Type A” in me was struggling with the struggle… trying to force the drought to end, realizing that I don’t have the strength in myself to make water fall from the sky. The quote that entered my mind was “these are the times that try men’s souls”. I wanted to use it to update my status, yet had no idea where it came from, so I figured I would look it up beforehand to ensure I was using it in the correct context. To confess, I thought it was from one of Shakespeare’s plays or something like that, just because it flows so poetically. Actually, it was from a very different source. It is from Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, describing the beginning of the American Revolution. I read more and understood the quote, and my drought, and my appreciation for the drops, a little more:
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.
The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
This winter, we are expecting El Nino to hit harder than ever before, and those of us in drought stricken areas are saying, “bring it on!” As much as we know it won’t be easy, we do know it will provide what we so desperately need. I have spoken to other friends who have moved into new roles and companies, who feel the relief that refreshing drops bring. They feel it because they have identified the “dearness” in their lives. Whether the dearness is work/life balance, or teamwork, or vision, the thing that they needed they were able to find, and indeed they fought hard to get that thing.
So, I fight on… while my soul may be tried, I will not be the summer soldier or the sunshine patriot of my own soul (or my career), but will work to, not just find a job to get a paycheck, but to identify what is really needed for my soul… and to appreciate those times when drops of life enter my dry lake bed, knowing that it won’t always be this way… soon enough it will be full of life again, and in a place to give life to others.
I love hearing about companies who exist for higher purposes. Tom’s Shoes was one of the first I recall that would give a pair of shoes away to someone in need for every pair that is purchased. While this messes with our mindset of profit at all cost, it is a much more noble way to live. Other companies have started to follow suit, and is a commendable way for businesses to be responsible. Kudos, Tom!