It never ceases to amaze me, how when I look out over the panorama of my life, the biggest obstacles around are those that I’ve put there myself. It’s almost as if I’ve driven a 4×4 jeep through my muddy pot-holed-filled journey, erecting ‘do-not-enter‘ signs every few yards. I’m not alone in this unwitting-self-sabbotage, hundreds of very impressive participants have shared that they too shepherd themselves from perceived dangers lurking about. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? What we perceive and what is real are two very different things.
This being human stuff is hard.
I’m reminded of those old cartoons where the main character would have an angel perched on one shoulder and the devil on the other. “Come on, go for it. What? Are you CHICKEN??!!”, the devil would whisper. “Don’t listen to him,” the angel would reply, wanting to keep us safe, “make the right choice.”
But it seems to me that neither the angel nor the devil knew what they were talking about. As the right choice isn’t as simple as “do-this-don’t-do-that”, for the truth is, there’s possible peril in either direction.
One of the things we live and die by in the theatre is that “playing it safe is the most dangerous thing you can do”. When you’re standing on stage with an audience filled with people expecting something magical, you feel pretty darn vulnerable and the stakes feel pretty darn high. The natural tendency is to hide, to mask the vulnerable part of ourselves off from the world so that we can’t be hurt. But the problem is, a safe performance is usually a boring performance, or a bad performance, and a safe performer an unemployed performer. For you see, hide the vulnerability and you lose truth. It’s in the vulnerability that lies the magic.
And I think this is true in life as well. To simply “go for it” feels terrifying, but the alternative – whether we see it or not – is just as perilous. For playing it safe in life puts us in danger of losing ourselves. Of losing our truth. And that’s wherein lies the magic.
So if neither the angel or the devil have the answers, if all directions point to peril, what is one to do?
I know. This is where a quick-fix would be great (and chocolate is but a momentary distraction – I’ve tried). If I could just be like so many out there and give you the 7-steps to the solution of life, I’d probably be rich and famous. But I wouldn’t feel very honest. For as much as we hate to hear it, there is no quick-fix. There is no painless or easy solution. There’s just moving forward.
Every time I find myself stuck, knowing I need to propel myself in a certain direction but feeling like I want to vomit because the unknows feel so huge and scary, I channel Bob.
One of my favorite movies of all time is “What About Bob?“. Bob (Bill Murray) is a troubled man filled with crippling phobias and fears who seeks the help of psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (played by Richard Dreyfuss) who professes that the path to power is found in baby steps.
“Baby steps to the elevator…” I hear Bob say in my head, adding just the right amount of levity to my stressful situation.
For I’m lucky. Getting to the elevator for me is a piece of cake (it’s all relative, isn’t it?). The reminder is just what I need to get me moving through what scares me.
Baby steps. Baby steps in the direction of our own truth.
For therein lies the magic.