A Psalm of Life

I’ve long felt a love for the Romantic writers. Probably instilled by my mother, I loved Wordsworth years before any still-living boys would catch my eye. There was something about the way they wrote so beautifully about things I didn’t fully understand. I’ve always loved the mysterious. That’s perhaps why I watch so much science fiction. There’s an allure to the unknown. And the romantics were just as fascinated with it.


Facebook’s “On This Day” feature lets you look back on posts you wrote on this day in the past. It’s kind of a terrible feature, because I rarely want to be reminded of the kind of things I was posting ten years ago, when social media was new and exciting and I thought everyone was interested in how much homework I’d completed that day.

But every now and then it brings up something interesting. On this particular day, five years ago, while I was living in a state park in Middle-of-Nowhere, Arkansas, I posted this:

Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.
It’s the final stanza of “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of those ever-alluring Romantics. I had to look up the rest of the poem to remind myself what it was, and what a treat it was to read it again. I’ve highlighted the bits I like the best here.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.

I feared the backlash of my last post a little bit after I hit “publish.” I knew there was some danger in admitting my occasional tendency toward suicidal thoughts in such an open forum. I could imagine my mom crying, perhaps thinking she’d failed as a mother; my sister calling to see if I’m OK; strangers on the internet reading no further because I’m clearly not the type of sane blogger they want to follow.
But here’s the thing (and the thing I tried to stress in my last post): I AM FINE. I’m maddeningly human, with aggressively human struggles, but I’m fine. And I will continue to be so through the ups and downs, the blissful highs, and the bleakest lows. Because I’m a relentless fighter. And what’s a little depression when met with willpower that could move mountains?
And, as it turned out, the backlash really wasn’t that bad. People actually have a lot of grace when you’re brave enough to give them truth. These things that haunt us have a lot less power when we’re able to speak them. So make your demons known. Bring them into the light. Maybe you’ll discover they’re really not so terrifying after all. And maybe someone else will feel a little less alone in knowing their struggles are actually universally shared.
     What I love so much about Longfellow’s poem (apart from all of it) is that it is a song of inspiration. A psalm of life that urges us how to best live. Not to worry about the future, or lament about the past, but to live passionately and brutally in the here and now. No matter how difficult. And to live it well.
I think this is why I choose to be so aggressively honest in my writing. Not to worry my family or push away followers (though I’m aware both may happen). But to show my true self. Not some polished, public version of myself, but the whole, beautiful mess.
Life is not easy. Not for me, and I imagine not for anyone reading this. It’s not really meant to be. Success is not measured by how simple or struggle-free your life is. That’s not important at all. In the words of Charles Bukowski, “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” 

I don’t know what this blog is exactly. Not a travel blog, not a lifestyle blog…it doesn’t really fall under any particular category umbrella. But what it is, is this:

My story. My soul. My shameless attempt to act in such a way that, as Longfellow so beautifully put it, each tomorrow finds me farther than today.


One thought on “A Psalm of Life

  1. I love the thoughts you share, Caitlyn. And you’ve learned at a young age that if you put your authentic self out there, you will find people who want to be friends with that self. When you reveal yourself as you are, then you don’t have to backtrack at some point and explain that you were hiding behind a facade that you felt would make you more acceptable. That’s being brave and courageous. Life can be hard, but you’re making something beautiful of yours. Hugs.


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