I had one of those epiphanies last night that you look at the next day and wonder how you managed to survive this long without already understanding it.
Sometimes life is easy, and sometimes life is a bit of a struggle. Mine’s a little hairy right now, and I am inclined to be selfish.
A few days ago I contacted an old business acquaintance to see if he would help me promote a thing I hope will improve my lot. He got back to me yesterday, and it turned out that he was facing a small crisis of his own: the publication he runs was short on content and the publish date was today. He couldn’t use the piece I had sent him—too overtly promotional—but he found a different article on my site that he thought he could use. He asked permission to republish this other piece, and I gave it, and that was that.
But I knew he needed more content. And I knew he liked the first half of what I’d sent him… he just needed it not to end like a thinly-veiled advertisement, which of course is exactly what it was.
It was Saturday night. I had my own, rather more existential crisis to resolve, and any number of things to do toward that end, but frankly I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by it all and not really able to figure out what to do next. I was paralyzed. Stuck.
So I started writing.
In an hour I had polished off the new ending and sent my friend the piece. When I got up this morning I felt a renewed sense of clarity. I had accomplished something. Turns out: didn’t have to be for me. The simple sense of accomplishment was enough to break me out of my funk, regardless the source.
So the epiphany, in haiku form, because why the Frenchman not:
if you don’t know what
to do with yourself then do
something for a friend
I know, this is kindergarten stuff. But sometimes the simple rules of thumb are really the best ones, and in that light this one is kind of a doozy: what do you do when you have a mind and hands and skills but no direction? What is your default response?
You could flip on the TV. You could go to Facebook. There are a million ways you could burn your time. But if you must burn it—meaning, expend it in ways that do not serve you directly—why not arrange things so that people you care about can enjoy the warmth and the light?
If your mind went there first, imagine the different sorts of small choices you might begin to make, a hundred times a day.