Inspiration #2

            Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the US Military Academy at West Point. Pretty impressive – the architecture, the history, the setting, and most of all, the stories of the cadets and the life they lead there. Talk about spit and polish, rules and regulations, to the nth degree. One of the buildings we toured was the mess hall, where cadets are subjected to extremely precise rituals, from how far from the back of the chair that they’re required to sit (3”), the exact wording they have to use to announce the cold beverage of the meal, the order of serving, even the precise chewing and swallowing intervals. An infraction of any of these regulations can be awarded demerits, which they must work off by marching ‘tours’, one hour for each demerit. To say that being a cadet at West Point requires a great deal of self-discipline is an understatement on par with “Houston, we have a problem.”

One very small section of the West Point mess hall.

            Would I want to go to West Point? No. Do I admire that level of commitment (upon graduation, the cadets face a mandatory five years in the military)? Yes. We met some of the cadets, and they were an impressive group. I’m in awe of anyone who has that sense of devotion and drive, especially considering that in my own life, I tend to lurch from indecision to indecision.

            While we were at West Point, we stayed at the Thayer Hotel, which offers idyllic views of the Hudson River, a completely different type of inspiration. Looking out over the water, you can’t help but admire the beauty and ponder on the timelessness of the scenery. The hotel has been around since 1926, the Hudson River, oh, about fifteen thousand years, according to geologists. It’s seen a lot of history, and just keeps flowing, and tends to make you realize your puny problems are fleeting in the larger sense of time.

View of the Hudson River from the Thayer Hotel grounds.

            Yet, they can seem big enough in the sense of your time, your time on earth and how much you have left, how much time you have in which to achieve your dreams. In the past year, I’ve seen too many friends and family members deal with problems, particularly health problems, that threaten their ability to do what they want in the time they have. Often these problems have come out of the blue, and control over their own lives was whisked away. I guess I’ve reached the point of realizing I’d better seize the day and not waste time while I’ve got it. I’ve achieved some mighty goals this year, in seeing my two novels published, but there’s so much more I want to do. I’m just beginning to promote the books, after having been laid up myself this winter, and I want time to write the next book that’s already living in my head. Time gets harder and harder to find. So the inspiration I’m leaning on this week is the sense of passion and drive and single-mindedness that is demonstrated by those West Point cadets, set against the beauty and timelessness and natural flow of the Hudson River. Somewhere there’s a lesson for me about following my passion while still recognizing the inevitability of life’s tricks and turns.

            Is this all getting a little deep? Maybe. It’s 1:46 am, I can’t sleep, and life does seem to loom large at this hour. I wonder, how does one achieve the balance between responsibilities and passions? What inspires YOU, and how do you bring commitment to those things that matter most? (Is that question too deep for a blog response?) Or at least, how do you feel about the way you use your time?

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2 Responses to Inspiration #2

  1. joelle says:

    Great post, perfectly said, and no, not to deep for a blog. People will respond to themselves, even if they don’t share here. You can’t help react to your question. Being one of those who had their life somewhat turned upside down, I’ve had my “seize the day” moment and a shift in priorities, forcing me to finally take a few of those “some day” goals off the shelf and make them “today” goals. Even if they don’t get done (which they all don’t) I can say I tried them. That is enough for now. One day at a time. I could however use a little dose of that West Point discipline… ;)

    • joelle says:

      I guess I didn’t really answer your questions. I feel inspired by others who manage to follow their passions and create while still living a normal life, and looking at art and reading great writing and even better, BAD writing.
      I stink at commitment – I start everything with raging passion and finish little.
      This is something I need to work on. As is the balance. I am completely immersed in a project and their is no dinner or laundry done, or I put my creative self aside and focus on whatever domestic and life need attention. I struggle very much to balance both.
      How do I FEEL about how I use my time? When I finally use my time to create, whether it is art or writing, I feel fulfilled and happy and resentful of intrusions of mundane responsibilities, even though this is silly and selfish and unrealistic. And when I use it to be creative for too long, then I feel guilty and selfish for taking so much time away from other things. Crazy, right??
      There, I hope that answered your questions. I am as much a mess as you thought I was ;)

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