I may never have had a summer where I learned so much. Maybe realized is a better word than learned. For most of us, I assume this summer has been an experience we have not experienced before. All the fear, uncertainty, sickness, and loss are incredibly traumatic. We also have experienced social unrest and recognition of racial inequality, fear of the virus and its societal impact, the masks (and reactions to the masks), the quarantining, the social distancing, the impacts to sports and activities, and the canceled events, etc. We are truly living in unprecedented times. With all the changes to my life, I have been able to more clearly connect to how my intention impacts my life. My life has not followed a predictable pattern since March.
Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, the end of “carefree” summer days, the recommitment to learning, and the appreciation of what our efforts have completed. In 1894, Labor Day became an official federal holiday dedicated to the achievements of American laborers. My kids are all beginning school on Tuesday. I generally connect Labor Day to the restart of schools and the beginning of fall. With all the uncertainty of a global pandemic and a pending US presidential election, this summer feels different. Maybe it’s wishful thinking for hoping for a different world in 2021. I would love for 2021 to start with some effective ways to combat COVID. I’m in a mood of looking back at the summer of 2020 as a very unique experience that is coming to an end.
That perspective brings me to a contemplative space. In that space, there are some things I want to share. Our labors and efforts this year, in this time, are different from previous years. I am experiencing more uncertainty than I have experienced before. I have more fear that I want to beat back by finding ways to be more helpful and useful than ever before. That has created a lens that has sharpened my gaze on myself. I have realized through things I have experienced and things I have missed that there are some lasting impressions from the summer:
- I have loved the time with my wife and kids. I see how we understand each other and how we have room to grow and see each other more deeply. I have learned about asking and not assuming, to understand where each person is coming from. Sometimes we just want others to understand us without having to talk about an issue. It’s hard to have patience but it’s worth it. We have needs and wants and we are committed to finding the truth and connection.
- I have loved being able to go on hikes and fish with my family.
- I worry about the health of my family, and I don’t always know how to connect to people I care about. I want all my family and loved ones to know I am thinking of them.
- I miss my friends. I miss talking smack with Byron (although he was super excited to make fun of me driving off with the gas nozzle attached!). I miss talking about life, football, and barbeque with Kevin. I missed my birthday drink and catching up with Alton. I miss Mick’s energy and O’Neil’s quiet wit.
- Fly fishing is incredibly embedded in my life. I love the places I have gone and the people I have met.
- I have seen beautiful bald eagles, rapid winged wild turkeys, singing king fishers, silently swift herons, slippery minks, and tail slapping beavers.
- I love Mark’s fishing stories. He gets so excited and so descriptive. He slides in the appropriate amount of curse words and talks clearly through his thought process. He describes each fight and each moment so I can imagine myself in his shoes. He is so fun and helps me learn and gain confidence.
- I appreciate how Brian cares so much about our natural resources and has helped connect me to Trout Unlimited. He is a great friend.
- I love writing my blog. The routine, the creative process, thinking through what I will write about, and thinking how I can take my writing and the blog to the next level. I appreciate every email, every comment, and every text that provides feedback on the blog.
- I appreciate being intentional, realizing that I can control my actions and be more conscious of what I want. My decisions are more impactful than I know.
- I enjoy happy hours with my in-laws. I learn new perspectives. I learn about different books and stories. I learn about things they struggle with and things that they are taking on in their lives. I feel awkward and out of place sometimes, but I greatly appreciate them. Ryan always cracks me up!
- I have seen things I like and things I avoid at work. I am learning to face everything that is part of my job with the same intent and trying to bring enthusiasm to things I think are a drag.
- I love the relationships I’ve built around fly fishing. I have reached out to people I admire, and they have given me advice and kindness. People who are strangers become fishing buddies. People share their stories.
- I love the artistry of tying flies. I love seeing what I can make and create. I like giving my flies to friends and hearing (or seeing) them catch fish using them.
All these things I have mentioned have helped me to see that having fly fishing in my life helps me to find the places where I can connect to others in a more impactful way. The work I do on myself and my relationships allows me to contribute to the world. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” So, our efforts and labor inside and outside of fishing can help uplift others, through service, encouragement, and support.
This weekend, my wife and I went to visit my in-laws. I wanted to try to get in some fishing time and looked to go to a stream around Harrisburg, PA. My mother-in-law has a friend whose husband is an avid fly fisherman. His name is Joe. She put me in touch with Joe, and I talked to him in preparation to fish on Friday night and after I had fished on Saturday morning. I felt like I’d known Joe for years, he shared his knowledge and stories with me like we were good friends. He offered me flies, advice on techniques, and locations to explore. I would’ve never talked to Joe without fly fishing. I appreciate all his help and advice and the help and support from my mother-in-law.
My efforts to share and communicate have been consistently repaid with connection and kindness. It takes work for me to overcome my fears and insecurities around how I communicate and connect with people. I am recognizing that labor doesn’t always involve building something physical or creating a report or a spreadsheet. Sometimes our labor is in seeing ourselves and others and being willing to take a risk to share. Sharing can uplift us all. Fly fishing has made my life better and helped me to find the space to share.