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Observations: Not past the point of rescue

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IMG_8044observationswebBy Mitch Traphagen mitch@observernews.net

I turned around and caught a glimpse of myself standing on the little strip of island beach at low tide.  I was six years younger than I am now.  Although it was just a glimpse, I saw in the tightness of my jaw, the stress and confusion I was feeling at that time.  I saw myself staring out into the Gulf of Mexico looking for answers to questions that had no answers.  I was wondering if I was past the point of rescue.

Some of the peace and solitude on that little island somehow seeped into my soul.  It quieted me and the jackhammers of doubt and sadness running in my brain.  In the silence that only peace can bring, my faith was resurrected. I believe God’s hand picked me up then.  I believe His hand carries me now.  Thus fortified, I was able to carry on like everyone else.

“The days like a slow train, trickle by.  Even the words that I write, refuse to fly…”
— Past the Point of Rescue by Hal Ketchum

Staring out into the Gulf, my thoughts ran the spectrum: I should be doing this but I want to be doing that.  Why didn’t that work?  How could I have failed when I thought I was trying so hard?  Why is this so hard?

And then I realize that there are still people starving in this world.  That realization doesn’t solve my problems, but it does put them in perspective.  It also heaps on a healthy dose of guilt for believing I had any real problems to begin with.

It would seem the life of a journalist is a lifetime vacation.  I write words, I take pictures, I get paid.  What’s not to love about that?  I love everything about it.  But sometimes writing the words — even the most generic and bland — is like opening up a vein and bleeding out the ink.  Writing hard words, like those of a 23-year-old woman who lost her husband in Iraq shortly before their first anniversary, those are hard words.  Writing about really good people who have passed away, those are hard words.  Even writing about the good things can be hard because so much care needs to be put into the words to properly and respectfully explain that good thing to a huge audience of very disparate people.  I don’t want to just fill space on newsprint, I always want to give the reader some value — to inform, preferably.  To entertain, at a minimum.

And all of that is the same for almost everyone.  Doing a job, wanting to do a good job and sometimes battling through life along the way.

Despite how it sounds, I’m not complaining.  I love what I do.  I love that this newspaper gives me the chance to do it.  I love that you have given me the chance to do it.  But sometimes everyone needs to step back and look around.

“Fools like me never win, came to my knees again.  Can’t close the door on likely hood.”
— Past the Point of Rescue by Hal Ketchum

There is a giant oil spill in the Gulf.  The county administrator was just fired.  Where is the county spending our tax dollars?  Are they wasting it?  Are our elected officials doing everything they can or something they shouldn’t?  There is unemployment and foreclosure and a financial crisis that seemingly no one really understands.  Will there be a Pet Warehouse in Sun City Center?

I know (some of) that is really important.  These days it seems we are drowning in crises.

Around the world, people really are starving and millions are suffering in ways that almost everyone in America can’t begin to imagine.  Viewed from that perspective, we have no problems — or at least what problems we have are pretty good problems in comparison.  But that doesn’t change the fact that to us as individuals, we are alone with our problems.  We are alone in wondering about the things we should or should not have done in our lives.

We have all seen celebrities, people we think have everything in life, kill themselves either abruptly or through gradual self-destructive means.  How could that be?  They have everything WE could ever want. They aren’t starving in Darfur or being shot at in Afghanistan.  What is wrong with them?

The same thing that is wrong with all of us.  

“I wonder if I’m past the point of rescue.  Is no word from you at all the best that you can do?”
— Past the Point of Rescue by Hal Ketchum

I have a great job (two, actually), a beautiful home in a beautiful part of the world and a wonderful wife with whom to spend my time on earth.  But I also have plenty of personal failures that I have stuffed into a rucksack and carry around with me.  I can tell myself to just let them go but saying that is easier than doing it.  I think almost everyone carries around the same rucksack but we don’t talk about it.  We don’t wear our failures on our sleeves.  Sometimes we don’t even talk about them with ourselves, thus letting those failures eat away at our souls.

Now, six years later, I am again standing on a little strip of beach on a little island in the Gulf of Mexico.  This time I know that I’m not past the point of rescue.  None of us are.  My problems may be unique to me, but I know that I’m not alone.  Neither are you.  We are all together on this orb floating through space, doing the best that we can and making mistakes along the way.  On the journey we search for distractions in the latest cool stuff to avoid noticing or allowing anyone to see our rucksacks.  But it’s OK — we all have them.

Peace and tranquility are food and water for our souls.  Finding peace helps to balance the weight of our unspoken rucksacks.  That peace can be found in whatever place you can call your own, be it your own backyard or a little island in the Gulf of Mexico.  Go there alone, let it seep into your soul and know that you are not really alone.  I’m standing there with you.


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