Outside, the air is frigid, but sunshine streams in at the window, spurring thoughts of the new year ahead. This is the traditional time to make resolutions, set a course for the coming days. I like to do that, but I’m looking at mine differently this year.
When I first sat down to think about Emilie Loring’s life, I drew a “timeline” that went up in good times, down in troubled times, and straight across in stable stretches. Then I noticed that the downward stretches all resulted from events and choices beyond her control: illness and death of family members and friends, threats to financial security during economic downturns, dangers of war. The upward stretches began with choices: the choice to build a home in Wellesley Hills, to make the trip to Alaska, to purchase Stone House in Blue Hill, to write, to join the Boston Authors Club, and to move back to Boston.
That’s the nice thing about New Year’s thinking. Nothing really changes from December thirty-first to January first, but tradition sets us to thinking about transitions we might want to initiate, choices we might want to make for ourselves. We can’t often determine the outcomes–which is why so many New Years’ resolutions “fail”– but we can certainly make choices and put our optimistic engines behind them.
Stone House in Blue Hill was a wreck of a place when Emilie bought it, but a year later, it was lovely, and the decades that followed turned it into a beloved home. Emilie’s first, professional writing was a book review column that didn’t even bear her name, but that led to articles, stories, serials, and eventually, the thirty novels that made us love her. Could she have foretold these outcomes? Did she have control over all of the steps that kept those trajectories moving upward on her timeline? No, she had the same chance that we all do:
If you have an idea, a flash of intuition about something which you might accomplish, don’t let it vanish into the limbo of I-might-have-done — try it out. No matter whether you are slim and seventeen; fat, fair, and forty; serene and seventy — if you feel an idea for accomplishment pricking at your consciousness don’t be afraid of it. Let it out into the sunlight. Tend it. Coax it. At first it may only creep; if it gets that far it is rather sure to walk alone; and if it walks why not encourage it to fly?
But if in your eager enthusiasm over the child of your imagination you confide your vision, your rosy hopes of achievement to a friend or member of the family, refuse to be wet-blanketed. Pay no attention to such dampening remarks as “How foolish!” “That’s a wild scheme!” “Why, Mother! At your age!”
Suppose your gem of an idea does turn out to be paste instead of a diamond of the first water? It isn’t a tragedy. Clear for action and try out the next one. If you acquire the habit of developing them, inspirational ideas will be more difficult to ignore than an alarm-clock rampant at your bedside…
Someday when you are decidedly out of love with yourself and what you are accomplishing, devote a quiet hour to contemplating the achievements of your acquaintances who are tingling with the zest of life, who are vivid and merry and eager over the worthwhile things they are getting across. Trace these results back to their beginnings. They came from mere seeds of ideas; you’ll acknowledge that… The trouble with most of us could-have-dones is that because of lethargy or lack of faith in ourselves and our idea we let that precious spark flicker and die out…
The next time you have an idea for achievement put your whole personality behind it, audaciously snap your fingers at failure, count the chances of success and try it out.