Have you ever stared closely at a lit candle for an extended period of time?
I put myself through a brief experiment today where I did just that. I wondered how long could I sit still and watch the candle burn while giving that simple act my full and complete attention.
Trial 1 – 60 seconds
I caught myself getting fidgety about 30 seconds in. Broke direct eye contact to check the timer I was using. It felt like time moved slower during the final 30 seconds.
Trial 2 – 2 minutes
My focus and concentration seemed to improve as I observed the movements of the flame. I noticed the different colors that glowed in the light’s halo. Blue, White, Orange dancing around the Blackened wick. My eye contact remained consistent and focused for the full allotted time.
Trial 3 – 5 minutes
This time I noticed reds in addition to the previous colors noted. I also observed what I would describe as a grey void that clung to the area immediately surrounding the burning wick. The burnt orangish color seemed to glow like a slightly dulled metal in the copper family and as I turned the candle in a counter-clockwise motion, the intensity of the glowing wick seemed to shift glowing brightest on the side that faced me. I smelled the mixture of warmed wax and noted the way the residue seemed to be climbing up one side of the glass wall as though it sought to climb from the chamber to a lesser known fate. I was genuinely startled when the five-minute buzzer went off. It seemed like closer to one minute than five from when I started the third and final trial.
So, why did I surrender eight minutes of my day to stare at a candle? I was hoping you’d ask me that very question.
During the past six months of my life, I have done a lot of personal work to reframe how I engage the world.
I stayed my battle axe in the face of vile acts because they were not MY battles to fight.
I gave comfort and aid to people who returned my kind acts with indifference.
I bore witness to the death of beautiful dreams cut from the vine of everlasting life.
And then I slowly opened my eyes to my new reality. Without the dingy filters of past hurts and others’ expectations, without the distractions of a thousand potentialities, without the handicap of my righteous indignation…I could see MYSELF clearly for the first time in a long time. I am a doer by nature and I had to have my busy work burned away from around me to make room for the color to come back into my life.
I was a lot like that candle. I burned brightly for a number of useful purposes. I helped people to see their way out of the dark, to highlight things they needed to do in their lives to move beyond roadblocks. I filled rooms with the sweet fragrance of new ideas to advance every kind of cause you can imagine. When my light would blow out from time to time I might go dark briefly, but with just a little rest spell I would spark right back up.
And every time, there was a little bit less of me to burn.
Think about it. What do we do with candles once they have burned down to the end of their wick?
We all have beautiful lights that glow inside of us. Each light is unique and adds value to the world and the people in it.
How many of us have people to keep watch over our flames to make sure we don’t burn out before our time?
Are you surrounded by the 60-second friends who pop in on you briefly from time to time before they are off to the next tasks?
Do you have the two-minute friends who check-in a little more regularly but might not notice when you’re going through tough trials where you need their help?
Or do you have the five-minute friends who keep watch with you enough to notice when you need them to help hold the mirror up so that you know it’s time for you to pull back and recharge?
I am thankful that as I progress in this life God has granted me wisdom to recognize each of these types of people in my life. My friends who have stood by me throughout this process have more than proved their mettle and blessed me beyond measure.
Now, I enter this next phase of my life with a peace that seems both foreign and familiar at the same time. And you know what, I’m ready.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.