Alone by the Fire

Posted by & filed under Beating the Beast.

Many of us don’t like being alone with our thoughts. We surround ourselves with people and if none are available we can fill our senses with the radio, TV or the fire hose of sensory stimulation known as the internet. But if we’re not willing to listen to ourselves, who are we afraid of? Do we not like who we’ve become? Do we feel incapable of changing what needs to change?

My family recently went on vacation to Lake Placid in Hayward, Wisconsin, which is in the northwest part of the state about 50 miles south of Lake Superior. We spent the week with a small piece of my wife’s extended family (she’s the youngest of seven siblings) boating, swimming, fishing (I caught a northern pike and a bass) eating and drinking (not necessarily in that order).

Alone by the Fire

One afternoon everyone else was away while I was alone by the ever burning campfire by my sister-in-law’s cabin, reading an excellent Johnny Cash biography. Cash had more than his fair share of ups and downs in his personal and professional lives. It made me reflect on my own life which is not anywhere nearly as colorful as his was (which is a good thing). Also being surrounded by people from four years old to their sixties (I think) made me think about where I’ve been and where I’m headed.

None of us are perfect or perfectly bad. If we just dwell on our mistakes, we’ll just be depressed. If we just focus on the positives in our lives, we won’t learn from our mistakes. We’re a work in progress and how much work, and in what area, is needed and the efforts each one of us is willing to put in varies with each person.

For many years Cash abused drugs and alcohol because of the pressures he felt due to an unhappy marriage and the need to make more money and more musical hits. Each day I’m sure he just saw pills and booze as ways to get through the day, not considering the long term impact on his health and relationships.

Since dealing with cancer, I’ve also had a “get through the day” approach to life. While being treated for cancer, since my future was so iffy, I just took one day at a time. But that approach and lack of long term planning can have negative impacts professionally, financially and with your health. Without some kind of plan, and sticking to it, you can’t really progress with your career or finances.

Like Cash, I can be very good at saying one thing and doing something else. He often swore off cheating on his wife, drugs and smoking (he reportedly had a cigarette a half hour before life saving emergency heart surgery) but didn’t always live up to his word. Cash abused amphetamines for many years, nearly overdosing at times but cleaned himself up after his son was born, only to relapse later when his career stalled. I’ve dealt with weight issues all my life (I’m really going to lose weight this time, trust me) and I’m on career number six (depending on how you count them).

It’s not always easy to be alone by the fire, but if we don’t disconnect from our everyday world once in a while and assess where we are and where we’re going (and whether we want to head in that direction), before we know it we can be in a bad way, wondering how we got there. We can all change, but some of us need more help than others.

Don’t be afraid of who you are and don’t be ashamed if you’re not where you want to be in life. As tennis great Arthur Ashe is quoted as saying, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Maybe with some help, you can do all that’s needed to put your life where you want it to be.