Emily Brontë Died at Thirty

How Old Are You?

Charlotte Bronte coloured drawing
My wife and I recently watched the movie To Walk Invisible about the Brontë sisters. These amazing sisters created some of the most enduring works of English literature.

The eldest sister Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics). The youngest sister Anne wrote Agnes Grey (Penguin Classics). The middle sister Emily wrote Wuthering Heights (Penguin Classics).

Their decision to write and publish under male pseudonyms is an amazing story of strategy and perseverance. Charlotte was “Currer Bell,” Anne was “Acton Bell,” and Emily was “Ellis Bell.”

As with all writers in their day, their work was conducted often by candlelight and always by hand with ink and quill on paper. I am writing this post in an online editor with cut and paste, auto-spell check, and the ability to publish to the world with one click of the “publish” button. It is hard to even envision the painstaking effort they expended to bring these works to readers.

There are many aspects to their story that I find amazing, but perhaps the thing that strikes me most is the fact that Emily Bronte lived only 30 years. In fact, her youngest sister Anne lived only 29 years. Charlotte lived only to the age of 38.

I do not measure myself against women who were among the most gifted writers in the English language, but I do draw two lessons from their lives:

  1. Youth should be no barrier. If anyone told them they were too young, the Brontës did not listen. Some of us seem to be waiting until some magic future date when we are of sufficient age to do something important. Go ahead and do it now. Will you get better at it as you get older? Probably. Maybe. Maybe not. In the case of the Brontës, there was no getting older. Life is uncertain and short. That leads to the second lesson…
  2. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and get started doing something you really want to do and need to do. Don’t wait for later and older. Do it now. Get it started. Do not let resistance paralyze you. If you plan to do creative work (writing, music, art, entrepreneurship), get a copy of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and let it motivate you. The main thing is to act. Now.

I have to confess that while we have had copies of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in our library for years, I have read neither. I am going to correct that soon. I think that as I read them knowing just how young these authors were when they wrote them, it will really reinforce the two lessons above.

Hopefully it will motivate me to act.

How old are you at present? If older than 30, take encouragement from what these young women did at a younger age than you. If you are younger than 30, follow the Bronte’s lead. Make it happen.

Are You Stuck in the Doldrums?

4 Steps to Get Unstuck

The word “doldrums” is an interesting one. I have heard the expression “stuck in the doldrums” from the time I was a child, but until now I never bothered to look up what it means.

What are doldrums?

It turns out that this is a nautical term. The doldrums is a region of ocean near the equator that receives very little wind, and thus is difficult to navigate. Both north and south of the doldrums the trade winds blow. These winds allow skilled sailors to coordinate sail and rudder to travel where they wish.

Put yourself back a few hundred years on a wooden sailing ship with no engine. All you have are sails. You are stuck in the doldrums. There is not enough wind to work with, and your ship is too large to row. All you can do is sit and wait.

Sit and wait.

Sit and wait.

You make no progress. You have no trajectory.

It is not hard to see why we have turned the name for this region of the ocean into a metaphor. Our modern usage of the term means that if you are stuck in the doldrums you are making no progress. For this reason you are sad or depressed.

How do you get out of the doldrums?

  1. Recognize where you are. Step back from the details of your life at the moment and acknowledge: “I am stuck in the doldrums! This environment is not conducive to my going anywhere positive. I am getting nowhere fast.”
  2. Get clear about where you want to go. You are going to get unstuck, so you ought to know where you want to go when the winds blow and you can set your jib. Prepare for what happens when you start moving. Create a vision. Write a Forward Story.
  3. Change your environment. Remember, the trade winds are just above and just below where you are stuck. The fact that you are not moving anywhere does not mean that there are not places you can be where the wind does blow. You likely need to change your current environment to get to those trade winds. Then you can travel toward your desired destination. Unlike the physical doldrums, most of us can greatly control the environment in which we live, learn, and work.
  4. Apply energy (or generate some wind). Once engines were invented and built into ships, the doldrums could be navigated. You may need the equivalent of an engine in your life to get unstuck. What could the engine be? It could be education, meeting people, becoming an apprentice, taking a second job, or any number of other practices that may help you move in a positive direction.

How do you get out of the doldrums when you are stuck there?

A Tribute to Our Girl Fiona

Fiona-Small

Today (8/26/15) was a hard day in our household. We had to say goodbye to a furry friend who graced our home for over ten years. Her name was Fiona. We often called her FiFi. She was a tri-colored Pembroke Welsh Corgi, an enchanted little breed of herding dogs that think they are much larger than they actually are. She was our “alpha male” who presided over a pack that included two male corgis – Toby and Rhett.

Like all dogs, she had some very special qualities and a unique personality that made a difference in our family. Her unique trick was sitting on her butt like a chipmunk. She could balance like that for a long time. She was also the most gentle dog we have met. She loved children and loved us to be in the floor with her so she could snuggle up tight.

I am sure it is a testament to the blessed and easy nature of our lives so far that the decision to let her go was one of the hardest we have ever made. Were we sure there were no other alternatives? We stretched this agonizing decision over multiple days until we were certain it was time.

As Margot and I drove home and amid our tears we agreed that even though the pain of separation is sharp, we would not have traded those ten years of love to avoid this moment. It was not our decision that brought Fiona into this world — that happened without our knowledge or involvement. It was our decision to allow her to become part of our lives, and we will never regret that no matter how much this hurts. The love was worth it all. We gave her a great home, great kids, great canine brothers, and a lot of love. She gave us joy, happiness, and her own love in return. What more can you ask?

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

In the end we made a decision motivated by that same real love we bathed her in all her life. Our lives and those of Kellen and Matt are richer because she shared hers with us. Dr. Todd Rabon and the staff at Premier Animal Hospital are compassionate caregivers. We thank you all for your tender care.

Note: See the follow-up post here.