Here is a little secret of mine: Sir Ernest Shackleton makes me write. I hate to write. I also love to write. It is most always an endeavor of inner conflict. For me, writing is like running a marathon: uncomfortable and demanding in the process, but oh so rapturous when it has been accomplished. Yet, I still try to find every manner of excuse to walk away from it. Then I think of Shackleton. I think of his impossibly steadfast fortitude in the face of everything that should have told him to give up. I have it so dang easy. Food, drink, plenty of sleep, and a toasty warm cabin.
I surely can’t let myself be thwarted by something as pansy-assed as “not being quite inspired.”
The unforgettable story of Shackleton’s most famous journey with The Endurance and her crew is nothing short of miraculous. If there was ever a tale to whip us out of our whiny, me-me-me, self-entitled softness, this is the one. Shackleton, of course, holds rightful claim to his iconic example of unwavering perseverance, but the rest of the crew was equally stalwart. Most namely, Frank Worsley, who has to go down as the ballsiest navigator of all time. I love an unsung hero but that’s for another day.
It’s wondrous how our life stories can affect one another, most often when we aren’t even looking. Only rarely will we ever get a glimpse. Yet, in most every choice we make, there is a chance to uplift the world… or at least elevate a life other than our own.
For years, I used to run down the same road every single day, past the same houses, past the same people. I never stopped. I just ran because I love to run. One day, I noticed a moving van in a driveway along my route. As I was almost past, a young woman charged out of the front door and beckoned me, rather frantically, to tell me that I had changed her life. Me? I was dumbfounded. She was only faintly familiar from having seen her unload groceries or weed her garden from time to time. She was moving away, she told me, and before she left, she needed to let me know that watching me run by everyday had prompted her to start running herself. After several months at it, she had found renewal. “You always looked so happy,” she said, “and I needed to figure out how to be happy too.” Running had opened doors that needed a good shove. It had bolstered her courage. She was leaving a bad relationship and committing herself to positive choices.
Of course, it was she who changed her life, not I. I was merely the unknowing messenger to my fellow man, the way we are all fellow messengers to one another.
Each of us living to our highest capacity is all we need to do. No discourse is necessary. No preachy windbaggery or claims of enlightenment. We need only to press forward in the best ways we can.
So, when writing — or anything, for that matter — becomes a strain under my meager efforts, I summon my inner Shackleton. His story grabs me by the collar with one glaring truth: that every day is a good day when I don’t have to eat my own dog. With perspective like that, nothing is too difficult.
I am eternally grateful to Sir Ernest Shackleton and to all of the other messengers in my life. Whether you know it or not, you inspire me to a higher place.
Editor’s Note: Laurie Lambert fell in love with Red River in 1965. Throughout the year she can be found trail running, snowshoeing and devising all sorts of reasons to never leave the mountains.