"And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way."
John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Last November I tweeted the following:
So far, I'd say 2012 has been the best year of my life. #justsayin— Myke Olsen (@threechordmyke) November 6, 2012
As the year came to a close on December 31, 2012, that statement had remained true. Because attitudes and values and perspectives can change, it’s difficult for me to say with absolute objectivity that it was the best year of my life (best is so subjective anyway). But it was without any doubt whatsoever, one of the best years of my thirty and one half years of living.
Interestingly, 2012 was also one of the most difficult years of my life. The biggest difficulty I had to face was myself. Through a series of events and circumstances—too lengthy, and some too personal, to chronicle at this moment—brought about through the unexpected and undeserved (so I thought at the time) grace of God and others, I was able to challenge myself and grow and learn more about myself than I have been able to do in years. It was really hard. So hard.
Last fall I heard this quote by Helen Keller: "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." I’ve thought quite a bit about that word, adventure. And when I think about that word, my mind tends to think of the personification of adventure. That’s right, Indiana Jones.
Take any Indiana Jones movie. Let’s go with Raiders of the Lost Ark because it’s the best one. I will assume you have seen Raiders. If you haven’t, stop reading this and go watch it because if you’ve managed to make it this far in life without seeing that movie I don’t know if we can continue our friendship.
OK, welcome back. What did you think?
Raiders is an extremely fun movie to watch. But I don’t think I’d want to experience it. I don’t know how I would fare in outrunning boulders in Peru, dodging bullets in a burning bar in Nepal, being trapped in a pit full of snakes in Egypt, all while being chased by Nazis (although all that travel sounds nothing short of awesome). As fun as it for us as an audience to watch, experiencing all that could be pretty miserable (for me at least).
But that’s what adventure is. It can be downright unpleasant, dangerous, and even life threatening. But it’s also exciting. And there is something so rewarding about adventure. The prize at the end—the girl, the Ark of the Covenant, fortune and glory—is part of what make the ups and downs so worth it. The greatest reward, though, comes when you recognize that you have the power and strength to survive and triumph over the obstacles of adventure.
The blessing (or problem, depending on how you look at it) of the adventure of life is that it does not end. It’s not a movie you turn off after two hours. Real-life adventure is more continuous than discrete.
At the beginning of 2013 I was on top of the world; my life had many uncertainties but I was on a very steady track to making them certain. Then, only weeks into the new year, anxiety set in and that led to depression. It was a pretty heavy crash.
When I try to describe what that anxiety and depression was like it’s hard for me to find concise English words with the right imagery. One French word comes to mind: épuisé. It means "exhausted" or "spent" and it comes the noun puits, which is a well where you draw water. The word épuisé evokes the imagery of a dry well. And this well isn’t just dry, it is completely sapped, wrung out, baked, and parched. Only a skeleton of the well exists, with none of the blue and green life that might normally surround it.
My well isn’t empty now but there are days where it feels far from full. When my well is full I am happy and more present to the joy and blessings that surround me. When my well is full it is self-replenishing, so others can come draw water from me as needed. I might even let some of them swim in my well (and that sounds pretty weird but I really wanted to keep with this well analogy).
Although I can't quite explain it yet, I think I know how to fill my well. So what do I fill it with? Boyan's ginger ale? Gasoline? No, I think filling it with anything but clean and pure water would be unhealthy and dangerous. (Plus, a well full of Boylan's ginger ale would go flat and it would a true shame to waste such a superlative beverage.) Now it is a question of where: where do I find that clean and pure water?
the dry years
I believe that the spring that fills my well with clean and pure water lies within myself. It can, but will not always, be replenished by those that I love and those that I will love.
I reject the idea that my years will either be wet or dry. My years are just that, years, and how I qualify them lies in my language and actions and heart.
I know that there will be moments where I don't enjoy the continuous adventure that is my life. In spite of this, I hope I will always choose adventure over nothing because life without adventure is nothing.