If Only I’d Known. Letters to Lost Years: 1988.4

When you suffer disappointment or embarrassment from failure, think about the lesson of the trees:

Biosphere 2 attempted to create a perfectly balanced environmental system.  But scientists were baffled by plants that toppled over when they grew past a certain height.  Eventually, they discovered the missing element necessary for plants to grow tall: wind.  When wind blows against plants, it stimulates the development of stress wood, which holds them in an optimal position.  Plants use the challenge of a storm to make themselves strong for survival.

What can we learn from nature about how to use the storms in our lives?

It’s strange how seemingly innocuous showers can have an inordinate impact on us –  in response we twist ever-so-slightly and wind up growing with a funny kink in our trunk.  One of my “knots” grew after an unsuccessful run for class office in junior high.  That loss became my secret injury.  It was the moment that instilled in me fear of exposing myself to the judgement of others and planted the seed in my psyche that said, “I can’t… I won’t succeed…. I’m not good enough.  It isn’t going to work.”

Every now and then, there is something I can envision perfectly – something I am so completely confident about that I know beyond doubt it will happen: college, jobs, meeting my husband, places I’ve been.  I have other goals and dreams about which I am passionate, but when it comes time to pursue them, I do so with a touch of timidity and a pinch of doubt.  I go after these dreams – no matter how much they mean to me – with an air of apology.  I am that little girl who put herself out there before her school and they said no.  Probably means everyone else will say no, too…

“I realize this probably isn’t the best book you’ve ever read,” the undertone of my query letter says, “but please publish it anyway.”  How can I expect anyone to get behind me, if I’m not entirely behind myself?  

Understanding this has made me aware of two things:  1) I have to convince my subconscious that the past isn’t prologue.  I can get a “yes” on the things that matter most to me; I just can’t be scared to go after them;  2) I have to keep working until I am entirely confident in what I’m doing.  

It’s time to reach into my past and tell that little girl not to take every “no” so personally.  Tell her that rejection doesn’t shine a light on her fundamental flaws.  Help her understand that sometimes it’s just pointing her in a better direction or forcing her to give that extra effort.

After all, a dream delayed is not a dream denied.

I have to let go of that little girl’s hurts and humiliations because they aren’t who I am any more. 

If I am willing to work hard and am genuinely proud of what I produce, there is no reason I won’t succeed.  

No one is entirely successful all the time.  And no one who achieves anything worthwhile does so without struggle and stumbling and disappointment.  When it happens, it’s time to take a deep breath and learn what we can.  But never, ever allow that moment to seep in and infect our understanding of who we are.  

We learn the most from the moments that challenge us the most.  We learn what doesn’t work and what we can do better; what we want and are willing to work for, and what actually isn’t all that important to us.  

We learn to use the wind to develop the traits we need to stand strong and attain the potential within us.


Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm  Comments (3)  
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