Ropes of sand

I recently read the autobiography of a man who became instantly wealthy at age 21 in 1864. “Coal Oil Johnny” inherited the oil royalties of his adoptive parents’ farm during Pennsylvania’s oil boom following the historic discovery by Col. Edwin Drake’s innovative well.

Leaving his young bride and infant son in the oil patch, Johnny spent several years and all his money in Philadelphia and New York on his ample follies and frivolities before developing mature sensibilities.

“The regrets that came to me at certain times I can never express,“ he wrote in 1902. “I realized that the life I had been living was but a rope of sand…”

Such a descriptive phrase! Could anything be more purposefully meaningless than a rope of sand?

Self-doubt and self-criticism, worry, unfounded fears, uncontrolled anger, lying, envy, unforgiveness—why do we insist on pulling on such things? Like a strand of sand, they can neither carry the load we set upon them nor bring us solutions.

Overindulgences, substance abuse, addictions and destructive habits—such become strongholds when we yank on them enough, yet they remain powerless for healthy living.

Saying yes when you mean no, avoiding the present by focusing on the past, assuming guilt when none exists, engaging in passive-aggressive and other manipulative behaviors—despite all appearances are ineffective mechanisms for coping with stress and achieving success.

What are the “ropes” you use to scale your obstacles? To what do you cling in precarious moments? With what do you tie up the loose ends of your life? What tools have you to haul heavy loads, secure a lifeline, and anchor your soul? Are they constructed of stout and worthy substance? Do they meet the demand for tensile strength? Are they capable of carrying your burdens and delivering productive results? Or are they merely ropes of sand?