Saints and Poets

EMILY:  Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?

STAGE MANAGER:  No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.

–Thornton Wilder (Our Town)

I sat on the patio overlooking Lake Austin, remembering this line, and I thought, “I want to be like that.”

I want to realize life—to appreciate it, to make the absolute most of it, to be thankful for every moment—as I live it. 

But of course, that’s asking too much.  And it’s so easy to think that when you’re in your pajamas, drinking sweet coffee, looking out at a gorgeous sunrise on the water and your dog is napping contentedly at your feet.  It’s a simple thing to be grateful for those moments.  You’d be crazy not to sit back and appreciate them.  The trick is catching your breath during the difficult times.  Sinking into them and being thankful—yes, thankful—for the lessons that you can learn from the pain.

I’ve talked with writer friends and written before about how the challenging times can make the best fodder for our art.  Sure, I write when I’m happy and at peace, too.  But what about those times of struggle?  Of conflict and discomfort?  Of heartbreak and fear?  I’ve often thought, that’s where the good stuff is.  It’s buried deep down inside those dark experiences.  Mining the gritty stuff, the ugly bits, the angry and the sad stuff.  That’s where it’s at.

So maybe that’s what Wilder meant when he wrote that saints (who inevitably sacrifice) and poets (who invariably struggle) realize life every minute.  Because they actually know that life isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t always beautiful.  And since being a saint just really isn’t my bag, I’ll be a poet.

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