Finding Inspiration Every Day

I take a 2-mile walk around our neighborhood almost every day. In the winter I bundle myself up, and as I’m getting ready to leave the house I think about…a puddle. What will the puddle look like today?

There’s a dead-end road in our neighborhood that goes down a gentle incline, and at the bottom of that hill there’s a pothole in the road. Water from any recent rain and melting snow collects in this hole to make a puddle, and in the winter it freezes and thaws repeatedly in the alternating cold temperatures and warm sunshine.

I’ve noticed when I walk past this hole that each freeze and thaw cycle brings a completely new pattern to the ice that forms in it when there’s water there. Sometimes the ice is clear and smooth and shows the ground below. Other times there are interesting patterns and air bubbles frozen in time as the ice quickly formed when it’s been especially cold.

I walk by this spot every day and pause to see the ice if it’s there. It’s a simple moment of beauty that adds some inspiration to my day. If the ice holds a particularly interesting pattern, I stop to take pictures like the ones that I’ve included in this article, each one a different and complex creation. When the sun catches the surface of the ice, sometimes the brown color from the road below comes through in the picture to add some warmth to its tone.

I’m not a New Years resolution type of guy, but there’s one thing that I do remind myself of at the beginning of (and all throughout) each new year that I want to share with you: Try to find beauty or inspiration every day. Something, somewhere, to brighten your day.

It could be something that you see outside on a sunny day or something a person does or says that you find nice. It could be a scene that strikes you in a photo or while you’re driving in your car. It could be part of a conversation, something you read or learn, or even some music that you heard that made you perk up and listen more closely. The beauty and inspiration can also come from within yourself by your actions and words. Whatever it is, whatever form it takes (even an icy puddle!), watch for these inspiring moments every day and embrace them when they come along. Pause and think about them for a minute. Appreciate them and take them with you in your mind.

We’re in rough times right now, not just because of Covid but also because of many other complex things happening in the world at the same time. But the arc of history, people, and the world has always been that way, and it always will be. Like the consistency of the ocean tides coming in and going back out again, things are sometimes bad but they will eventually change and get better.

So instead of getting down about the frequently difficult state of things around you these days, find something inspiring each day, think about it, and smile. Don’t wait for things in your corner of the world to get better, make them better yourself by keeping your eyes and mind open to the moments that will make you happy. If you make a habit out of it each day, you’ll be smiling sometimes without even realizing why. Happy New Year!

Inspiring your “becoming”

I wake up before dawn every day, usually somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00. No alarms needed, it’s just the way my brain and body work.

I used to prefer sleeping a bit later, because waking up early can make me drowsy during the afternoon and requires a power nap to recharge myself. However, when early rising started happening consistently a few years ago, I learned to embrace it. I now fully enjoy waking up while it’s still dark, and it has become “my time”. The silence in the house is a nice way to quietly start the day as I read, write, drink coffee, and watch the sky start to lighten. Every sunrise is a unique gift, and I often photograph them. The photo above is the view from our front window a few mornings ago.

I often go for walks while it’s early; before the cars are on the road, the neighborhood dogs start to bark, or there are other distractions out and about. On a recent walk when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, I came across something great that I want to share here…

The process of becoming

This is a link to one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever heard. It’s an episode called “Over Time” of the podcast “A Beautiful Anarchy” by David duChemin, which I’ve previously written about here.

The episode is only 14:06 long, so I encourage you to listen to it in order to catch David’s expressiveness as he discusses the topic. If you want to read it instead then there’s a full transcript at the same link.

For any writer, photographer, artist, dancer, painter…or anyone who’s doing something that you enjoy and strive to get better at, David’s words are simply stated, yet full of inspiration and hope. The episode was so impactful to me that I stopped walking to play back this section several times:

David duChemin:

“We live in a culture focused on being great, not becoming great. On being talented, not becoming talented. And on being creative and prolific and successful, even lucky, but not on becoming those things.

Becoming takes time. And grit. Your grit might not be as, uh, gritty, as someone else’s grit, but it’s grit all the same.

Becoming is not easy.

Becoming depends more on mistakes than on getting things right straight out of the gate.

It takes focus.

And it’s messy, full of moments that invite us to either quit or keep going.

But what is deeply hopeful about the idea of becoming is that it is largely in our hands. It does not rely on a random gift of genetics. It does not demand that we be better than anyone else or even compare ourselves to anyone, including ourselves.

Becoming is hopeful because it means while the person I am today might not be able to pull it off (whatever it is), the person I will become tomorrow or next year, might be.

I’m not talented enough to do tomorrow’s big thing today. I never am. If I had the talent or ability right now to do the bigger things about which I dream, I’d have done them already. I might not be able to do it now, but I will be in a year. Maybe two or ten. Because while I’m not yet the guy who can write my next book, I am becoming that guy. And, though it feels like a paradox, writing my next book (and all the books that led me to it) makes me the person capable of writing exactly that book. The man I am when I start a book is not the man I am when I finish it. Yes, we make our art, but our art makes us.

But remember, too, that merely sticking it out, merely persevering, is of no particular value. Just being patient, and putting in the time, is not the same as over time becoming, learning, or growing.

Being is static. Being one thing or another is fine if you’re content with that, but it’s not really the stuff of possibilities, is it? Becoming is on-going. It’s cumulative. Evolutionary. Becoming is about transformation.

But we don’t talk like that. No one talks about who we are becoming. They talk about who we are, as if it’s been decided, nailed down, set in concrete. As if the person I was when I was born is the person I am now and will be in 20 years. But we are not. We become. Or we can, if we are willing to learn.”

As I continued walking and listening to the rest of the episode, I thought about all the things I’ve tried in my life that I enjoy doing, and what my arc has been with them as I’ve continually strived to do them better. Photography, music, writing, craft-related activities…it doesn’t matter…his words apply. They’re a potent reminder that it’s about the journey, not just the destination. And it’s also a reminder that the journey is our “becoming”. I think we forget that, or perhaps never even realize it in the first place.

Remember his words while you’re on your journeys and you occasionally reach points where you have to try over and over again, or put in much harder effort to reach your goals. Stay focused. Keep doing, learning, and growing. You’ll get there eventually, and you’ll be a “better you” for the effort. Enjoy the process…and become!