Today is election day and I’m thinking about promises, about how almost everything we do or say is a promise of something to come. On an election day eighteen years ago I learned I was going to have twins. Larry and I walked to the precinct to vote and on the way home on that dark and starry night we talked about how our lives would change. In one moment we learned that we would need a larger house, a larger car and (for me) larger clothes.
As we go through our days our decisions are promises we are keeping or breaking. People we know either trust or distrust us because of our past decisions and how well we our promises.
They say that every story is a promise and I think that’s true, but I also think that every story makes many promises and comes with a series of pay-off scenes—life is like that, too. The victory of the marathon wasn’t just crossing the finish line—it was the everyday victory of putting on my sneakers. (Actually, when I ran the marathon, I had only one goal—not to be picked up by the National Guard. In case you didn’t know, the National Guard comes after five hours and drives the route looking for exhausted bodies lying on the side of the road. I can proudly say I crossed the finish line on my own two feet.)
Novel writing is like that, too. The victory isn’t the finis on the last page, it’s the end of a great scene, the creation of a memorable line, it’s the moment when you capture what you meant but didn’t know how to say.
Here are some of the memorable I lines I recently read, seen and heard. Because some are from movies, there is paraphrasing.
“We don’t talk to each other like this. This is not how we talk to each other.” The Vow
“This was his moment, although he didn’t know it.” The Words
“It was never about fishing at all.” Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
“Serene I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more ‘gainst time or fate,
For lo! My own shall come to me.” John Burroughs, Waiting
“But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of days.”
Daniel 12:13—another translation is “rise unto your destiny”, but I like the “stand in thy lot at the end of days, because really—aren’t we all standing in whatever lot we created? And don’t we have the power to change our lot? Maybe we need to change our sentences. Maybe we need erasers to wipe out a scene—and that can be a victory, too.
Sometimes our lives can change in an instant, or in a very short time, like mine did when I learned my family of six would soon be a family of eight, but usually, marathons are run by one footstep at time, novels are a matter of stringing letters and words together, and a life is created minute by minute, and promise by promise.