I picked up The Alchemist this evening, looking for an “easy” read in the tub. Did I mention that Paulo Coelho is my idol?! In the preface, he tries to explain the secret behind the success of this book, having sold over 20 million copies and having been translated into 56 languages! Interestingly enough, his honest response is, “I don’t know. All I know is that like Santiago, the shepherd boy, we all need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.”
Coelho goes on to say that there are four obstacles to living our personal calling: 1) we are told from childhood that our dream is impossible, 2) we are afraid to hurt the people around us by abandoning everything to pursue our dream, 3) fear of the defeats we will encounter along the way and finally… 4) the fear of realizing the dream itself for which we fought all our lives! Wow! Essentially, what keeps us from our dreams… our calling… our bliss? FEAR.
I recently separated from my husband of eleven years. I can’t think of an experience that has been more difficult and wrought with complex emotions as this. There have been days of such profound sadness and grieving and certainly fear. I never realized that emotions could be felt in such a physical way. I have faced an ongoing internal battle, with competing personas within me asking, will I be okay on my own? Can I support myself financially? Am I making the right choices for myself and my kids? Am I a good mom? Am I even a good person? All of this uncertainty is born of fear.
I got this great Native American fable from a friend recently:
An old Cherokee walks his grandson into the woods to talk to his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Now isn’t that just the most apt representation of the human condition?!
How do you go about quelling fears, big and small? First I will say that I am not a trained professional on this subject, I can only speak from my own experience. You might think that this is completely ridiculous and saccharine and trite but the most effective weapon in my arsenal against fear is… love! Hahahahaha! No, really. Neale Donald Walsch fans will recall that these are the only two sponsoring thoughts that exist: fear and love. Becky Bailey says the same thing about parenting, either you are doing something out of fear or you are doing it out of love… you are scolding your kid for running across the street because of fear or, you are holding his hand across the street out of love.
So how does this apply to pursuing your dreams? Well, to circle back to Coelho’s quote, do something you love and that will defeat your fear. Do something you love today and every day and that will keep you on your path to your dream. For example, I publish this website. As part of my job, I do a lot of different things… sales, bookkeeping, technical stuff, marketing, etc. but one of the things I LOVE is writing. So I make it a point to write a bit every day. I focus on something I love and that helps to keep the anxiety about other aspects of my job or my life at bay. Just think, if you wake up in the morning and go through your mental to-do list and can’t think of one thing that excites you… does that motivate you to get out of bed? Not really. But if you can think of ONE activity that you love, that will inspire you to be productive. That’s one more day that you are following your calling.
The most insidious and dangerous of all the fears (Coelho says) is the last. It causes a man to “kill the thing he loves” right when it is within their grasp because the possibility of actually realizing a dream fills the soul of an ordinary person with guilt, he doesn’t believe he is worthy of it.
I have experienced that too. That is when I feel like I am staring into the eyes of the evil wolf, who comes some days, without explanation. For me… yesterday was one of those days! But then I read this passage from my dear Paulo, “Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.”
Yes! Thank you for the reminder… that is powerful enough to propel me through a day of gut-wrenching despair! So today, although it wasn’t in the original plan, I am writing again and guess what? Today, I fed the good wolf!
Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommy’s recommendations for travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.