This year I’ll focus on clarity over certainty

Growing up, 20/20 meant perfect vision. Later, it was the title of a television news show. Now it’s the year 2020.

At the start of a new year, it’s only natural to wonder what will happen. Will this year be better than last, however “better” is defined? Given that 2020 is a presidential election year, I’m not optimistic.

Recently a quote by Allen Lokos caught my attention: “We have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but today is filled with potential.” I like that practical advice.

This year, I intend to apply it more personally. I better get busy helping today anyway I can. There may not be a tomorrow.

I don’t mean that to sound morbid. Instead, I take it as a personal challenge, a positive reminder that the present moment is the only one that matters. Regardless of our position, power, or influence in life, try as we might, we can’t control life’s events. For good or ill, things just happen.

Humans crave certainty, the idea of knowing exactly what will happen. That is not the way life works. Sureness is better viewed in the rearview mirror. We know what did happen. Even then, people can’t agree on the truth. Some persons still don’t believe we landed on the moon.

Another problem is that we too often apply certainty to the future. Life interjects options we just don’t expect, some positive, others not so much.

We want to control with certitude our lives and the lives of those for whom we care. In reality, that is impossible. We can plan our lives all we want, and still, things go askew.

When I was a building principal, I used three by five note cards to plan my day. I usually had a handful of items that I wanted to accomplish. By day’s end, my list had often grown into double figures, and the few things that had initially been listed never got checked off. With that personal history, I struggled with the conundrum of certainty and clarity.

Enter the three wise men. They saw a star with clarity and sought its origin. They left their kingdoms, uncertain as to what the celestial sign meant. Nevertheless, they followed the star’s clarion call, sensing its significance without knowing exactly where it would lead.

The three wise men wanted to be there, wherever there was. And when they finally arrived gift-laden for a new kind of king, they saw their Epiphany. January 6 annually marks that event.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to focus more on clarity than certainty. Clarity is the vision of where you want to go. Certainty is the route you took.

The bible puts it this way: “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Clarity is tantamount to faith, while sight equates with certainty.

I’ve never been a New Year’s resolution kind of guy. I do set expectations for myself, however. This year I’m going to focus all my being on the clarity of living. Much too often in our busy, technologically driven lives, we clamor for certainty.

We live in an uncertain world. We try to direct what we can to make it more precise. Sometimes, though, the more effort we put into controlling actions, the more they unravel.

If we are clear about what is essential in our lives, the little everyday details that we too often worry so much about will simply take care of themselves. In 2020, I’ll strive to depend on clarity to live my life.

Does anyone care to join me?

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Making meaningful memories

Amish farm
Tourists flock to Holmes Co., Ohio simply to rekindle memories of the way things used to be.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Whether we realize it or not, we make memories every day.

Memories don’t have to be from times long past. Often they are the moments at hand that we cherish the most. The older I get, the more emotive I am about the everyday happenings in my life.

Some memories come from yesterday. Others bubble up from the yesterdays of long, long ago. Some are innocent, innocuous ditties while others are serious, life-awakening treasures.

The odd thing about memories is how they so often just pop up at the strangest times and places. It’s why we need to be mindful of our constant memory making.

flexible flyer sled
The Flexible Flyer now serves a different snowy purpose.
A spark down deep spontaneously ignites and I’m hiking a switchback alpine trail inhaling thin, clear mountain air. Another moment I’m in the delivery room of the local hospital watching my lovely wife deliver our second child. Soon our family doctor holds our newborn in front of us, exclaiming, “She’s a boy!”

In another flash, I’m a child myself, belly flopping on my Flexible Flyer through heavy, wet snow, shouts of glee echoing off the blanketed hillsides. I still have that magic sled.

I remember our daughter, only two at the time, ordering a male guest who tried to leave to sit back down. Her little tea party wasn’t ready to end. The man laughed and complied.

I remember racing to beat the rapidly rising tide to the beach in a shallow bay on Cape Cod. I’ve checked the tidal charts ever since. Then there was the warm summer’s evening I climbed the 897 steps in the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital. The walk back down wasn’t nearly as exciting for this 16-year-old.

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Other less joyful memories we wish we could erase of course. But they, too, are indelibly etched in our minds, resurrected at the strangest, most inappropriate times. We cope with thoughts and prayers and tears, always moving forward in our too short lives.

Many of the memories my wife and I have mutually maintained involve travel with family and friends. I hadn’t been to Hocking Hills State Park since I was a teenager. I enjoyed a recent trip with friends as much as I did the one 50 years ago with family.

We strolled trails, discovered waterfalls, explored caves, and enjoyed every color of green imaginable. We wandered forests of towering trees with unfolding canopies and floors of thousands of feathery ferns.

wedding cake
The wedding cake.
The best memories don’t have to come from exotic, far away places either. They can be pretty close to home. And, too, some settings are made to be memorable.

Ideally, wedding ceremonies and the ensuing reception are memory machines. This celebration was especially so. We witnessed the wedding of our Amish neighbor’s daughter. It’s always an honor to be guests at such occasions.

We loved the focus on family and personal commitment. It was a happy yet solemn occasion. The combination of the simplicity and the significance of the marriage sealed the moment into my mind. There was no flowing wedding gown, no tuxedos, no flowery bouquets, only serious contemplation.

At the reception in the barn, the buzz of the lively conversations further seasoned the already scrumptious food passed up and down long, pleasantly decorated tables. It truly was a life celebration worth remembering.

Memories are potent reminders of life’s sweeping landscapes. What endearing memories will we make today that will be worthy of future recollecting?

Ash Cave, Logan OH
Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016