Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day. ~ E.B. White
I recently met a friend over drinks who is about a month away from closing his business. During our conversation he described an absolutely gut wrenching journey that started about a year ago when he realized the very conditions which allowed his business to flourish had changed so dramatically as to render his business model obsolete.
Winding things down is a suffocating experience, regardless of the industry served or the size of the business. I myself have owned a business that had to be closed down, and have met others who have had to do the same. One day you’re a part of a living, breathing, creation buzzing with purpose and intention, and the next it’s just you, alone, trying to figure out how to live and breath while sweeping up an ever spreading mess of your own making.
In retrospect of course, those failures usually have a way of becoming blessings in disguise. Indeed, as noted by Portland, Oregon singer/songwriter M. Ward in his song “Lullaby + Exile:”
and then the sound of a bell
could sound like angels crying
or sunlight multiplying
through Virgin Mary in stained glass
When you’re in the middle of it though, regardless of what the positivity police may tell you, trust me when I say, it can be awfully hard to see the sunlight when you’re distracted by all the crying.
To help manage the shutdown of a business about ten years ago, a detailed task list was created to document the litany of things to be done. One hundred seventy five lines long, the list was organized into headings such as: work closeout, facility dismantlement, legal matters, environmental matters, accounting matters, etc. Looking over the list today brings back painful memories of 175 unnecessary lashes I gave myself. As I tried to come to terms with my failure, I’m reminded of the wisdom in a letter E.B. White wrote to a man who had lost faith in humanity (h/t Maria Popova):
Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
(can be found in this compilation by Shaun Usher)
And with that, it’s time for me to wind the clock and check out for the day. Before I leave….here is M. Ward singing his beautiful song “Lullaby +Exile” with Norah Jones (promise to add to our Spotify playlist when I have a chance).
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