Do you find yourself frustrated with the current state of your life? Or maybe a specific part of your life? At the end of the day, maybe you don’t know whether what you’re doing now is what you want to do with your life.
This is the title of chapter 8 in my book, Being Single, with Cancer: A Solo Survivor’s Guide to Life, Love, Health & Happiness, and also the topic of one of the sessions in a 5-week tele-course I teach. The thing is, for a long time, I didn’t feel that way myself. It wasn’t until cancer knocked me flat on my back that I truly understood my own power. The power to heal, the power to make a difference, the power to connect others in meaningful ways, the power to change my perspective. We are all powerful, but many of us are going through life like I was – not recognizing our own unique superpowers, or even actively denying them.
I'm lost. For four years, I have been blogging and speaking about the Heroic Arts and the Hero's Journey. I absolutely believe that there is a hero inside each and every one of us, and I believe in the power of the message.
One of the pieces of advice I have held close to my heart is to find what you enjoy, and to find ways to do that as often as possible.
The question is: How?
In 1942, four unsteady piano players responded to an ad placed by Bernard Gabriel, a concert pianist, publicizing a series of meetings to be held at his Manhattan apartment. Fear-racked musicians were invited "to play, to criticize, and be criticized, all to conquer the old bogey of stage fright." Gabriel had no formal qualifications other than a confidence beyond his 30 years. Gabriel was, it was said, "non-timid" and he deployed rudimentary exposure therapy—insulting musicians and distracting them with loud noises—to inoculate them against performance anxiety. Soon Gabriels "Society of Timid Souls" numbered more than 20, and copycat societies followed.
The world is not populated only by square-jawed heroes and sniveling cowards, as the Society of Timid Souls well understood. The vast majority of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle, wishing to be brave and yet easily frightened by what is frightening. Either that or we are capable of facing real danger one day, and the next being scared out of our wits by something comparatively trivial.
For stage performers and those with chronic illnesses, testing points may come virtually every day. For those who confront violence or natural disaster, the test may come once in a lifetime. Whatever the circumstance, when someone who appears small and ordinary is brave, it gives us all hope. Its this transformation, however momentary, from timid to brave soul that sits at the heart of how we measure ourselves as humans.
As adults, the monsters in our closets may be the deep, dark secrets we're afraid of, such as personal failings or continuing weaknesses we may be hiding from our family or friends. They may be uncomfortable truths we don't want to acknowledge about our group, such as the spreading of a distrustful, negative culture or even that the organization is faltering at the precipice of failure. It can be scary to even think about those monsters that are lurking in the darkness, and even more terrifying to think about dragging them into the light.