Would you like to swing on a star
carry moonbeams home in a jar
and be better off than you are
or would you rather be a mule?
(Jimmy Van Heusen – sung by Bing Crosby)
This morning I am not sure that I want to do much of anything. No swinging on stars, no carrying moonbeams, no being better than I am. I really don’t even want to be a mule … or a pig … or a fish.
However, this single morning doesn’t define my life and so it doesn’t count.
When we were growing up, Dad was a pretty tough taskmaster. He didn’t let us get away with being mediocre. I should probably qualify that and say that he wouldn’t let me get away with half-baked behavior. I couldn’t get run-of-the-mill grades, I had to excel. When I came home with straight A’s on my report card, he asked if I could have achieved an A+. It never occurred to me that I should sit anywhere other than first chair in band or not be the best possible pianist or anything else. Dad wouldn’t hear of it and I couldn’t go home and risk disappointing him.
Don’t think for a minute that this was all I heard. He often told us (me) how proud he was when I accomplished good things. My efforts were never wasted on him. But, he insisted that I excel. If he wasn’t around to listen to me practice the piano, he would ask me to record myself when I was able to play a piece five times in a row without a mistake.
Dad’s biggest hope for us was that we would swing on stars and carry moonbeams in jars, that we would find our passion and be better than we were. Every day was an opportunity to be better than we were the day before. But it was more than just hope with Dad, he not only encouraged that opportunity but pushed for me to grab it..
I might have seriously rebelled against his pushing a few times. There were a few years in my late high school and early college years that I barely spoke to him. I didn’t have the killer instinct that he tried to ingrain in me. There were times at that age that it made absolutely no sense to me. I wanted to be with my friends more than I wanted to sit at the piano and I simply walked out of the house and shut him down, but it wasn’t long before I discovered that what I learned was going to take me through a lifetime.
I don’t give up. Things might take a long time to settle in to my head so that I can make them happen, but I won’t quit learning. It took me thirty years to begin my Master’s Degree, but I did it and I did it well. I began fighting with my website last spring and I had to set it aside because it was taking more brain power than I had, what with writing a novel and finishing my degree. But, you’re here on my website, reading this post … so I did it.
Every time I start writing a novel, I get to Chapter Five or so and stop. I am frustrated because there is so much to say and I don’t know how to write the next important words. Sometimes it takes a few weeks of insanity and other times a day or so. I don’t panic, though, because I know that I won’t let this beat me any more than any other thing in my life. I will get through it, I will find a way to get things written and I will finish the task. I have learned that while things may slow me down, they never stop me. My drive to push forward is too deeply ingrained in me.
To be better than you are. It’s too easy to be a mule or a pig or a fish, only living the little life that is simple because it’s so familiar. It’s more difficult to break out of the familiar and look for a star to swing on, to push past the easy and into the frightening and challenging. But, oh, when you do that, the thrills and excitement that come with it change everything for you.
Tell me when you do those things and let me be proud of you, because I am.