So said the fisherman to me one early fall morning. We were at the lake for different reasons—me to clear my head of a long “to do” list (one I had mercilessly created for myself) and him for more noble pursuits.
I watched the silver-haired gentleman back his truck up to the dock, gliding his fishing boat a third into the shallow water. The angle of the 8-foot motorboat tipped the craft awkwardly into the lake, as if it would take on water. “Feels like me,” I thought.
Soon the man’s solid, experienced hands released the boat from its trailer and the little craft righted itself to float. Dressed in hip waders, the captain led his fishing boat to the peer, moored it front and back, and set off to park his truck.
“I’ll be back,” he said and smiled.
I envied his purposeful yet calm demeanor; inside me was a tumult. I had just retired from teaching little children to pursue creativity from the Creator. Goodbye salary, goodbye identity, goodbye lovely little school community…hello confusion, self-doubt, and overwhelm. I had big dreams, lots of time, and no idea where to start.
Resting and rejuvenating was what God had in mind, but I had other plans—too many plans. I filled my days with busyness (even the good kind) but didn’t feel fulfilled. It left me emotionally and physically drained.
I knew that in order create, I needed to rest. I wanted to be like that fishing boat, floating effortlessly on the silvery surface. I couldn’t seem to do it. My nervous system hadn’t gotten the message that it’s okay to do nothing for a while—to take deep breath amidst the gasping pace of life.
Unrefreshed after four months of retirement, I now felt the pull to start something—to put my own boat into the water. My dreams were awakening, and they wanted to set sail. Was it safe for me to leave the dock?
The fisherman continued his preparations, eyeing up the provisions in his boat: a life jacket and floating seat cushion, some sturdy rope, two fishing poles, a tackle box, and extra gasoline. He had everything he needed for the journey.
“I hope this engine gets running,” the man muttered. “I haven’t used it for a while.”
He lowered the engine into the lake, primed it, and turned the key. After a few stutters, the outboard motor came to life. Its gentle, vibrating hum created soft ripples in the water. The glinting sunshine accented their beauty.
The captain choked the engine, testing its power, and pushed off from the dock. I envied his freedom, out there on the water for a few hours of bliss.
“Does your wife know where you are?” I had teased him when he arrived earlier that morning.
“She’s away with friends on a trip,” he replied and smiled again. Setting out alone didn’t bother him one bit.
I recalled the sign posted at the entrance to the dock’s parking lot. It read, “Right Lane Only For Launching Preparation.” This man was clearly prepared to launch. He had a purpose, a vehicle, provisions, and the right frame of mind for the trip.
Was I prepared to launch? I had been told that I have everything I need for the next phase of my life’s journey. I just need to push off. A Chinese proverb comes to mind: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
And then it hits me: It does me no good to create endless lists; to run at breakneck pace; nor to sit on the shore forlornly observing others sail toward their dreams. I can loosen the rope of control and fear. I can take one step.
That will be good enough.