A beautiful girl, about 8 or 9 years old, showed up in my dreams a few months ago. She walked right up to me and tugged on my arm excitedly. There were no words, but her expressive eyes looked into mine with yearning, wanting us to share the excitement of whatever we’d just experienced. Her eyes seemed to ask, “Do you feel it? Do you get how it works? Do you see?” It wasn’t clear what big adventure we’d been on in the dream, but as I looked into her eyes I felt the joy and freedom she offered…and then the dream meandered on to other strange events.
Fast forward a month or two…Hidden away on a dusty shelf in my mom’s house, I recently discovered a story I had written when I was in third grade. Looking at the cardboard book, covered with my favorite old flannel nightgown fabric, I felt like I was meeting an old friend. I remembered how it felt to write that story. The Mystery of the Lamp. What a wonderful assignment: to not only write a story but to create an actual book! My third grade self had known it would turn out great! I had gotten busy crafting a tale complete with dance and gymnastics, intrigue and suspense. My adult self, reading it again after all these years, laughed out loud at the meandering adventure that took me cross country and back again in just a few pages. At the time I’d written it, however, the idea that people might not love my creation never crossed my mind.
Third grade Karol knew what the adult has had to relearn: life is an adventure, and the adventure is ours to create! Where my third grade self knew that my offering was just right, my adult self has created layers of hesitancy and self-doubt. The wise child in my dream was begging me to remember what freedom feels like. She was reminding me of the energy and sense of purpose available to me when I follow the joys of my heart. This is the message I take from her: Live your damn life. Shine a light on the stuff that makes you afraid. Dare to have fun and enjoy the journey!
I love this from Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert:
Long ago, when I was in my insecure twenties, I met a clever, independent, creative, and powerful woman in her mid-seventies, who offered me a superb piece of life wisdom. She said: “We all spend our twenties and thirties trying so hard to be perfect, because we’re so worried about what people will think of us. Then we get into our forties and fifties, and we finally start to be free, because we decide that we don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of us. But you won’t be completely free until you reach your sixties and seventies, when you finally realize this liberating truth – nobody was ever thinking about you, anyhow.”
Such freedom lies in that sentiment. Can you remember the last time you dared to act or be seen in a way that made you feel exposed? That threshold is different for everyone, and using loads of self-compassion, it’s up to each of us to find our own personal edge.
So go ahead. Create what you want to create. Say what you want to say. Do what you want to do. We all have a choice, many times everyday, of which voice to follow. The one that tells us to hide, or the one that tells us to take a chance and do the thing that makes us feel expansive and alive. What’s the next small step you can take toward that kind of freedom?
If you’d like some help reflecting and taking action on this, reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you.