Heading Home

Zooming past me and other curious railroad enthusiasts, the Union Pacific’s “Big Boy” steam locomotive (and accompanying support cars) raced westward on it’s way back to Cheyenne, Wyoming. This image was taken on September 2nd at approx. 0948 hour between Kansas City and Lawrence, Kansas.

After photographing the restored beauty at Union Station, I wanted to witness this behemoth on the open road which is where he was intended to function…and for pulling freight across America’s mountains. It may be years, if ever again, he runs our way. I would call this steel wonder a ‘she’ if it were named Big Girl, but gender selection must have been by a man !

Hearing his steam whistle miles distant, seeing the approaching steam skirt and smoke rising from his boiler, the anticipation of Big Boy was over in seconds…kind of like a lot of things we experience in life. Was it worth researching a decent spot to shoot him as he approached? Was it worth hurrying to the predetermined location and hoping I didn’t miss his arrival? Was it worth feeling the rush of air hit me as he passed, similar to what I used to experience once-upon-a-time as a locomotive engineer for Santa Fe? Yes, it was worth it.

Life is made up of moments-some last only seconds while others several minutes. When we add them all together we realize that our lives comprise myriad moments. Some good, some bad and many neutral, but they all count. A worthwhile goal, at least in my opinion, is to make as many moments as pleasant as possible. These are the ones that put a smile on our faces and bring about happy thoughts. Life is tough, and seems to be getting tougher, so occasional moments such as watching an old steam locomotive zoom by at highway speeds is a nice distraction. This pleasing moment will not soon be forgotten.

Whether coming or going, we have many opportunities to make a positive impact upon others. When we meet with family, friends, acquaintances or strangers, we have the privilege of creating a meaningful and positive moment. My success rate at accomplishing this lofty goal falls short of what I feel should be my personal Gold Standard, but I achieve far less if I fail to try.

Success: One Definition

 

I recently read a profound quotation by Whit Hobbs, which goes like this: “Success is waking up in the morning, whoever you are, wherever you are, however young or old, and bounding out of bed because there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you’re good at-something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it today.” That is one long  sentence, but it comes alive-as if the author were running out of breath and didn’t want any periods…especially since this is a combination of thoughts expressed in a condensed format. I consider Whit’s statement to be an achievement in and of itself.

Recently, I watched Carson lounge in the early spring sunlight. After his breakfast, he bounded off the deck, did his business, walked around the yard (sometimes chasing a squirrel or bird), and then came inside to play a bit of ball. He gets ‘success’ without evening thinking about it! Next, he is content to simply rest where he decides to flop his white, furry body down…his reward for being joyful. Just watching him go through his morning routine makes me smile. Often, personal reflection occurs at these moments.

2-24-13d

I recall relating to Whit’s statement many years ago when life was full of dreams and reality didn’t derail any of them. Those were the ‘Good Old Days’ as Carly Simon would sing about back in 1971. However, the truth is the good old days can also be here and now so we better find and embrace them. Living in the past provides a reference point, and good memories if one were so lucky to experience them. I am fortunate to reflect on my past with a high degree of fondness, as well as with a dose of sadness and a pinch of regret thrown in. I’m an optimist at heart, but also a realist. Life has taught me much. So, despite any negative experiences from the past and present, I choose to view the present and future with a positive attitude. Although not always easy to do, the opposite is quite unappealing in every way.

There are many definitions about success that one could argue for a lot of them, and dismiss most. So, what about success as Hobb’s describes it? Can it be defined by a simple paragraph, or does the term need an entire book describing this elusive noun of which most gauge their lives against? In my humble opinion there are too many books…too many articles…too many lectures about what success really means, and how much it matters in our lives. For one individual success may be related to financial and professional achievements and to another it may be defined by how one contributes to the greater good of others. Of course there are so many other ways to view success.

I have lived much of my adult life wondering about such things to the point where I was often troubled. Was I doing enough? Was I engaging enough? Did I risk enough? Did I achieve enough? Was I enough? How could I become successful if I didn’t understand what that really meant? So many questions, and seldom any satisfying answers. Such was my conundrum. Perhaps this is why Whit’s definition impacted me so much. It is filled with the essence of joy permeating one’s life, and I like that. Plus, it is simple to grasp his intent without having to read a term paper to understand it.

I think what this quote does for me is to reveal a great word picture which causes me to desire the result. I want to wake up tomorrow morning, bound out of bed, and seize the day with gusto. I believe that is possible. I also know myself, and that I can be my own worst enemy. In addition, current trials hamper my ability to be as positive about each day as I would like. This reality is frustrating. Nevertheless, I will try, and continue to try until this joy becomes a daily reality. To do otherwise is like surrendering when there is no clear adversary confronting me. I do admit that this type of optimism requires daily (sometimes hourly) effort and prayer-at least for me. One day it shall be much easier to bound out of bed and attack with a fervor that which I love to do most-and do it well.

I sincerely hope you can relate to Whit’s statement and are experiencing the fruit of joyful living. If not, then please join me in relearning how to awaken with gusto.