One of the most often-repeated lessons I have with students learning how to build fire is: It takes patience.

Too many times, we just want to pile up fuel and strike a match, and it never works that way. Fire is often compared to a living thing, and like so many things in life, it needs care and nurturing to grow and become anything worthwhile. Done right, your fire will grow and thrive, fill you with warmth and nourishment, and tap into deep primal needs within your soul. But it takes effort, planning, patience and time to establish something that can fill you with warmth.

As hard as it is to get a fire growing, some of us also struggle with keeping things under control. If we don’t actively monitor and manage it, a fire built to nourish becomes one that consumes and destroys.

Every time I strike a match to a pile of tinder, I can’t help but think of the many metaphorical fires we must all build and nourish throughout our lives. Most of us have to keep several blazing away simultaneously – work, family, community, self, religion. 

With luck, many of us can find that some fires merge – A satisfying work life that also nurtures self and sense of community, for example. Many of us are forced to balance our attention, and find challenges in our lives that force us to upset the delicate balance, putting some fires in danger of going out, while others get perilously close to raging out of control.

With the restrictions and closures we’ve endured this year, many of the things that nurtured me ran out of fuel.  I simply couldn’t feed them. Other things required so much attention that the resulting fire is too close to approach – those became dangerous and consuming, as opposed to providing warmth and comfort.

I’ve been out of balance for so long. On one hand, it’s given me the opportunity to focus, and to consider what I need to relight, and what can be left to smoulder. On the other, things are sputtering. I’ve got all the time in the world, and no flexibility, no fuel. It’s hard to find the motivation to get things going again – even though I crave it.

I’ve always lived – or tried to live – a life where I seize opportunity and give life to every new spark. Yes, that has spread me thin from time to time, but I’ve learned that you don’t always get a second chance, and letting things pass by creates regrets. In the past months, I’ve been forced to make a deliberate choice to let things go… things that in another time, I would have jumped on. Strike that match, get another flame going, and see whether or not it grows.

Now, it’s either too dangerous, or my involvement adds an unnecessary risk to those who are important to me. Every day requires a new sacrifice, even as it feels that we’re finally getting this global pandemic under control. I hate to let things go by… but the risk is too great, either to me, or to others I’m trying to protect. I’m already fighting an inferno.

So to stretch the metaphor a little bit more, I’m in a place where I’m forced to follow my own lesson – I need to remember that creating a nurturing flame takes patience. As frustrated as I am, as out of balance as I am, I know how to do this. I know how to rebuild the things I’ve been forced to extinguish. I just hope that enough embers remain.

Here’s hoping all your fires stay lit.

Get Out There


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