Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is in Your Top Left-Hand Coat Pocket?

In “The Language of Life,” poet, Coleman Barks tell the following story to Bill Moyers:
Nasruddin is on a train and the conductor comes to pick up the tickets, but Nasruddin can’t find his ticket. He looks in his pants pocket, he looks in his briefcase, he looks in his suitcase, he starts looking in other peoples’ suitcases, but he can’t find his ticket. Finally the conductor says, “Nasruddin, I know you’ve got your ticket. Most people keep theirs in their top left-hand coat pocket. Why don’t you look there?” And Nasruddin says, “Don’t even mention that. If it’s not there I have no hope. 
There have been times in my life, more than I care to mention, when the fear of not being able to succeed kept me from even trying. (i.e. I’ve spent too much time avoiding a blank newly stretched canvas, terrified that I couldn’t bring to that canvas the image that was in my head.)  Better to think, “I could have been,” than to know I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to reach my goal.  
A lot of us feel this way. It’s the paralyzing fear that we will discover we are not who we hope we are. And if we aren’t who we hope we are, who are we? Do we really want to know the answer to that question? Is that why we look for our train ticket in other people’s suitcases, even though we know full well it’s not there?
On the other hand, If we do reach our goal, what will we do next? Is our career over? Will everyone expect more from us than we can provide?  (Figure skaters are already doing quadruples. Will they be doing pentaruples, next? Or octoruples?) Success can hurdle us upward until we eventually reach the top of our ability. Then what?
By fumbling around and making excuses while we search for our ticket, we don’t have to face what may happen. We can hold onto hope. Had I clung to hope and not acted on my desire to write, But He’ll Change would never have been published. I would not be talking on Facebook and through emails with the most extraordinary and courageous women I’ve ever met. Women who experienced what it means to do the thing you fear most and succeed.
If you have a deep and persistent passion, one that fills your heart with ecstasy just thinking about it, there’s a good chance that passion is what you are meant to be doing with your life. And if that is so, all your life experiences have prepared you for this very moment, this decision point. You have to do the work (I’m not promising you that it’ll be easy,) but first, you have to reach in your pocket and pull out that ticket, taking a chance that the positive outcome you hope for will become your reality. 
And, hey, even if you don’t end up where you thought you would, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you are one step closer to where you should be. Thomas Edison said, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

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