When the sun came up this morning, we were all given another chance to shine, as well. Each day offers a fresh start to create, redirect and express ourselves in a new way. Yet, I think most of us get stuck in tightly defined roles that seem determined to trap us there forever. Yesterday was my birthday, and it dawned on me that one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given with age is the knowledge that this notion is an illusion. Life is absolutely what you make it – you just have to get out of your own way!
Ironically, I’m learning this lesson from my children. A few months ago, my son Max came home from school excited about the opportunity to audition for a high school play in which he would have to sing, act, tap dance and roller-skate across the stage blindfolded. While he’s a rather accomplished singer, he’s never done any of those other things – and my heart seized up with visions of him wildly skating off the edge of the stage into the horrified laps of the audience. My immediate response was less than encouraging – but he just calmly said “hey, it will be a great chance for me to learn something new!” Although this was my son, in that moment, it was like I was looking at an alien.
What? Who are you? And what has happened to all reason in the world?
My own fears and hang-ups with perfectionism were creating a huge, invisible wall between our realities. I could totally see it there, looming tall and impenetrable over me – and I had to admit that I felt a strange admiration for my son’s courage and free-spirit. Of course he was right. How can we ever accomplish anything if we don’t take chances and push the boundaries a bit? You have to play big to win big, right?
But I was still nervous for him. For weeks, he practiced – rollerskating around the neighborhood, mimicking tap moves in the kitchen, and hitting new notes he had never before reached. And the night of the performance, as I watched this accomplished man masterfully meeting each challenge, I could not have been more proud. But more than that, I was inspired. I was also painfully aware of all the moments when I myself had chosen safety over growth – and probably sacrificed many moments of joy because of it. It was a bittersweet A-Ha Moment.
This has been a big week for me. In addition to my birthday, I found out that my book Pain, Passion & Purpose is a Finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards. After four years of writing that book, it was pleasant surprise and a wonderful validation that the life-changing revelations revealed within are one step closer to helping more and more people. But while I devoted so much time and effort to that project, it doesn’t define me. The old me would have seized on that and held it up as proof that I must be on the right track with my life – and inadvertently created more invisible walls around me. Now I realize that the book is just one piece of the vivid and beautiful puzzle that will come together to create the picture of my life. I’m still painting my picture – and from here on out – I intend to do it with artistry. Who knows what will fill the rest of the canvas?
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