Gratitude Friday 6/18/21 – Dragons Fought and Grails Sought
“The quest is the grail you seek.” ― Joseph Campbell
In recent months, I have been thinking more about my journey through life. As I am in my mid 50’s, my thoughts often wander to how I have spent my time so far, and what to do with the finite time left. As I have mentioned before, some of the things I spend time on seem Sisyphean, perhaps even Quixotic. In those 3 AM moments, the darkness creeps in and I wonder if the expenditures of my energy has been worthwhile. The Eeyore brain reigns.
I know I am not alone in such thoughts. I also have been had the opportunity in life to see role models on the trail ahead of me who have undergone similar tribulations and stay on the path anyway. They do so because the things they do matter. They are saving lives. I watch with a pride of mentorship some younger people behind me on this path of life begin similar quests. Helping others regain their lives and spend their time in meaningful ways.
I have been blessed in life to be able to watch many people on their own Heroes Journey. Recovery is like dragon slaying. I have born witness to so many people who have risen from the muck and made amazing lives for themselves, support their families and enrich their communities. Many take up the service of helping others to slay their own dragons. Our society has not made such journeys easy, there remain huge systemic challenges that result in senseless costs in lives lost. Removing those barriers can at times seem insurmountable. Yet some among us devote their lives to getting rid of those dragons and saving lives.
A big goal or the removal of a large barrier to help can seem like a thing that when achieved, will be final. Of course, like a mirage or a rainbow they move away when you get closer. I reflect on the inspiring people who walked those rough trails ahead of me, those by my side and those who I helped clear a way for as they got on their pathways. Surprisingly, I recall the outcome less than the process, who was there with me and what we did together. Those on the journey with me are the things I hold in my heart closest, much more so than the fleeting moment when a challenge is overcome. Those rough days have aged well, the patina of time makes them shine like gold.
This week, a good friend a fellow traveler on the recovery path helped me with a house project. I have known him since he was 20, and I was 35. Seeing his life accomplishments and what he has done on his quest got me thinking about all the influences people have had on me over the years. Also, the opportunities I have had to share knowledge and encouragement with those a generation behind. My own path as a Sisyphean boulder bearer was influenced by giants who moved mountains. The clearing of those paths saved my life. I got what I needed when I needed it. Over the years these giants were generous with their time and wisdom. They asked only one thing, even though I am not even sure it was ever a spoken request. That I nurture others I find along the way on my own journey. The truth of the matter is that seeing other grow in such ways has been sustaining in those dark hours. Another gift given to me. The quest is indeed the grail, the journey is transformative perhaps more so than the victory, and largely because of those who walk with us.
I see other such brave journeys through the dark night beyond the recovery pathways. I think of my father-in-law, who we lost a few years back. He loved his family and was always there to help people around him. He loved learning and embraced life, even as he experienced decades of profound medical challenges. Every doctor who looked at his medical chart would be in awe he lived through the myriad of challenges he faced. He used his talents as an engineer to sustain his own being. He had a quiet bravery and dignity as he fought to remain here and squeeze every moment out life. I think of my wife, Julie who fought with him to face some of the medical challenges with her knowledge and eventually her own kidney, which bought him 11 more years with us. If she could give another kidney to have a single month with him, I know what she would do. These are heroes’ journeys too, and I celebrate them.
On clear eyed days, I see that one of the most rewarding things in life are watching what people do with their time here and what they do to slay their own dragons and improve the world around them. There have been times I have had the good fortune and deep honor of walking with a person on their own quests. I am in awe of what so many around me have done with their lives. Families raised, communities improved, jobs done well. Hopes and dreams turned into reality. Dragons fought and grails sought.
I am grateful for the journey and to walk along with so many brave giants. What are you grateful for today?