“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
30 April 2014
One of the most challenging tasks is letting go and pressing forward. In sports, we can watch any play countless times, seeing it from a variety of angles (unless, of course, it is a Major League Baseball Game and the umpires are trying to correct a call, but that is a diatribe for another day) and evaluating it ad nauseum. How many times have we watched Phelan catch a Hail Mary pass from Flutie, or Clark outleap Walls and haul in Montana’s pass, or Bobby Orr seemingly fly through the air after scoring the winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup finals? Those are the joyous moments for many, but for us, the once tortured New England fans, how many times have we Red Sox fans been bludgeoned with the image of the ball trickling through Bill Buckner’s legs on that fateful October evening 28 years ago, or the miserum est dicere David Tyree catch in Super Bowl XLII? These iconic images are seared in our minds, because we (can) watch and re-watch them. They become a part of our personal narrative, and more important (or more insidious) they occupy our thoughts. We analyze and dissect them, wondering, particularly for the moments that conjure misery, how it could have been different. It is healthier, I posit, to finish with each action, let go, move on.
Moving on takes energy, takes courage, take fortitude. Mr. Emerson urges us with excellent advice, but even as I read it, I am reminded of Portia’s words from the Merchant of Venice: “If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.” We all know the right path; the hard, good work is following it. Or, as Portia continues, “It is a good divine that follows his own instructions: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.” We must be that good divine and follow not only our own instruction, but also the good instruction of Emerson. Be done with the day. You have done what you could. Yes, mistakes, blunders, and even absurdities occurred today, but it will best serve us to persevere and to press on.
Two of my favorite stories of letting go remind us how important it is to keep on pushing, keep finding new roses to nourish us:
“A rose withered. A bee however was still sucking on it because she had sucked honey from it before. Now, on the same rose, all she could suck out was bitter, poisonous juice. The bee felt the difference as it was so sweet before. She became miserable and complained and complained, why did the taste change? Why couldn’t it be just like before? Finally, one day, the bee gathered her strength and flew a bit higher. Then and there, she saw that, nearby the withered rose, there were blossoming flowers all over the place.” —–translated from Chinese by walkingbetween.com
I found that one on another WordPress blog site. This one, one I have used often in speeches, discovered me one morning, as I was preparing a speech:
Two monks were traveling together, an older monk and a younger monk. They noticed a young woman at the edge of a stream, afraid to cross. The older monk picked her up, carried her across the stream and put her down safely on the other side. The younger monk was astonished, but he didn’t say anything until their journey was over. “Why did you carry that woman across the stream? Monks aren’t supposed to touch any member of the opposite sex.” said the younger monk. The older monk replied “I left her at the edge of the river, are you still carrying her?”
We cannot seek to hold on to things past; we cannot carry extra weight on our journeys to new, exciting places. Travel light, face forward, and trust that the path ahead will reward you.
Winston Churchill, while leading England during one of its bleakest periods, opined, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Keep on pushing, and we must, unlike Orpheus, steady our gaze forward, refusing to look back. Finish every day, finish today, be done with it. Tomorrow is a new day; recognize how dear it is and seek not to waste a single moment of it replaying some peccadillo from today, yesterday, or any previous day. Memories are sweet and wonderful, but if remembering them causes you doubt, let them go and focus on all the good, all the opportunities, before you now. Gather your strength, fly a bit higher, see the blossoming flowers flourishing all around you.