Sometimes we hear things like proverbs or other quotes and think, “yeah, that is totally true,” without fully understanding the impact of its true meaning. Then sometimes, you hear something that you’ve heard a million times but this time you get it; like you really get it and your life is changed forever. I’ve had this happen a couple times in the past few years (I guess with age comes understanding). This week it happened and that’s what I’m stealing for this post.
When you are working on a play, tech week is always long and hard (even when everything is going great!). It is just really long hours with a lot to do, so it is often difficult to find time to pee, let alone take 15 minutes to eat. This past week, we went into tech for La Ronde at Soulpepper which means everything else in life is on hold until we open. Due to my lack of foresight (or my belief that I am a robot that doesn’t need sleep), this was also the same week that Empty Boxes started rehearsals. My rationale was that Empty Boxes wouldn’t affect me because I don’t need to be at rehearsals; little did I know the emotional strain you suffer as a writer knowing that somewhere people are analyzing your words, saying them repeatedly and trying to figure out why you ever put them on the page. As well, having actors and a director actually rehearsing your work means that your work will be in front of an audience shortly, then those people will pass judgment on whether this work of art that you’ve so painstakingly created is of any value. Standby freak-out! Freak-out GO! (As you can see, I’ve got tech brain.)
It was while stressing that I came across the proverb: This too shall pass. A lightbulb went on. I got it. I mean I really got it. I finally understood the essential beauty and power of the phrase and it quickly entered my phone as a daily reminder.
(Side Note: Years ago, I started putting quotes and inspirational reminders into my phone as recurring events that pop up daily at times that I think I might need that particular type of encouragement. Example: 8am – Welcome to the best day of your life! It really is a nice reminder each day when you wake up and it starts the day off on the right foot. 9pm – Procrastination is the thief of time. Having grown up very poor, I knew that my time was the one thing that I could offer that could be of value to people and I have worked hard to make my time a valuable commodity. The idea that procrastination was stealing it shook me to the core. How could I let that happen?! I figured that around 9pm each day is when I need that reminder the most. This too shall pass got the 12pm time slot. A good way to keep balanced halfway through the day.)
The history of this proverb is widely debated, but most research shows it appearing first in ancient Persian texts though it is often attributed to King Solomon as well. Edward Fiztgerald wrote a version called Solomon’s Seal where an eastern monarch asks King Solomon to come up with a phrase that is true in good times and bad, Solomon says: This too shall pass away.
The Persian Sufi poet, Attar of Nishapur, tells of a sultan that asks his viziers to make him a ring that will make him happy in sad times and sad in happy times. They come back with a ring that has This too shall pass imprinted on it and were successful.
My revelations about the proverb are this: in hard times, it reminds us that the rough waters are only temporary and will pass away with time; in good times, it reminds us that this time is limited and we must cherish those moments because they too are transitory.
I don’t see the sadness in the proverb. There is something existential about it, I will admit. The idea that moments only hold the significance that we impose on them and there is no true meaning to be found in them because they pass on, as do we all. I see a constant reminder that things are ever in flow so we need to enjoy the calm waters while we have them and appreciate the reprieve from our toil.
Riding the wave of two long weeks and looking forward to the third and fourth that will follow, keeping This too shall pass on the edge of my thoughts helps each passing minute. It may be crazy busy right now, but in a period much shorter than I think, it too will slow and things will return to a manageable pace. I reflect back on when I was on involuntary vacation (aka between contracts, aka unemployed) back in December and January; how wonderful it was to have time to develop and lay groundwork for the projects I wanted to carry me through the year. It was amazing, but with all things, those plans needed to come to fruition and so the work started. All things in ebbs and flows.
This too shall pass can also be applied to things on a variety of scale. Even though I leave my house at the crack of dawn and come home slightly before then (mildly exaggerating but not by much) and I can feel the tired in my bones at the end of each day, the things that are causing this exhaustion are some of the most amazing experiences I have had thus far, and things keep getting better. It does take this reminder each day to make you stop and take a moment to actually reflect on the things that are occurring in your life. This proverb has been an essential part of my past week.
It has also kept me focused and motivated. It’s easy to get down on yourself (at least it is for me) and when you take a step back and realize we are just in a moment in time and the next one holds new blessings and new challenges, it makes it easier to let go of the trials of the past and keep your sight set forward.
When you embrace all the perspective and insight this little phrase has to offer, it can be truly life changing.
Thanks for reading! Until next week...