If You Find Yourself at the End of Your Rope…It Might Be a Good Thing
The word I hear bandied about is “surrender.” Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of surrendering. I’m not really sure what that word means in relation to the path of awakening. I’ll have to fumble forward to find my own way of “letting go.”
Once every seven years or so, I get to the point where I just want to scream obscene epithets from my terrace railing. Since I’m not a big fan of being arrested, I’m able to contain myself. Unfortunately, this doesn’t keep the dam of frustrated emotions from spilling into the lap of some innocent bystander. I feel like I’ve done everything that can be done to accomplish my goals and my efforts are bogged down like German Panzer tanks in the snow on the Russian front.
The funny thing is,unlike the German Army in 1942, I find it possible to actually get somewhere when I reach this point. In one sense, it’s a scary place, a place of desperation, a feeling of being at the end of my rope. But I’ve found it can also be the beginning of something better than the orbit I was in. You might call it a breakthrough to a higher altitude, if you don’t mind pedestrian metaphors.
When I have looked in every crevice and corner and turned over every stone in search of the faintest glimmer of light—the light is usually not very far away.
There comes a time when human effort is met by something that looks like chance, but it is not chance. Some people call it Grace. Some people call it luck. I call it proof positive that persistent effort, and faith in myself and the universe, will unlock the door to whatever my heart truly desires.
Sometimes I think I want something that turns out to be only a construct of my mind. I’m chasing a phantom with no real substance. Sometimes I overestimate my abilities, and I set unrealistic goals. However, if what I want comes from deep within my heart, I believe nothing can stop me from attaining my heart’s desire.
One of the good things about advancing age is that it makes it easier to focus on priorities. I mean real priorities—the meaningful stuff, because the clock is ticking, louder and louder. There simply isn’t time to screw around with trivialities and dead ends. I’ve been everywhere, done everything, made a fool of myself, and accomplished a few goals. You might say I’ve grown weary of missing the point. I want the real thing—the beauty within my heart—and I know it can’t be far away.
To illustrate my point, I’m reminded of a crossroads I reached earlier in life.
The Easiest and the Hardest Step in Breaking Out of Old Patterns
It’s one of the most frightening passages life confronts us with. What we’ve been doing doesn’t work anymore. We’ve come to a fork in the road. One fork leads to the known. The other one leads to the unknown.
I had spent my entire career working in a family business. My father and my uncle built the business. They passed away, leaving the next generation in charge. My father and uncle expected me and my two cousins to continue where they left off. In theory, my cousins and I had the education and the experience to handle the transition seamlessly. Except we didn’t share a vision for the future, and I frankly couldn’t stand one of my cousins.
After several futile attempts to carry on as expected, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I did not foresee the business flourishing with the three of us at the helm. I decided to sell my share of the business to my cousins. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.
Up until this fork in the road, my life had been structured from the outside in. I had done what was expected of me. Now, it was up to me to structure my life from the inside out.
I have found this wise old saying to be very true. “When one door closes, another opens.” To express it another way, letting go of one thing leaves room for another. The scary part of navigating this passage is enduring the empty space left behind in the wake of releasing the known. We are normally left with only a tiny kernel of an idea; a faint voice whispering beneath the clatter of every day life.
I had always dreamed of writing fiction. From a solid background in marketing communications, I began writing short stories in my forties. While still employed in the family business, I took online courses in screenwriting at UCLA. I learned the basics of character development, drama, conflict, and plotting. I used screenwriting as a bridge to my main goal: Writing novels. After selling my share of the business, I now had the time and the freedom to pursue the dream.
Part of me thought I had gone mad. That part turned out to be dead right. Logically, what were the odds of finding an agent and a publisher? It’s not something to think about when writing a first novel. Trust me.
I discovered that writing a novel is a very lonely process. I was accustomed to interfacing with all kinds of people in business. Now, except for a few friends, wife, daughter, and mother-in-law, I was completely alone. Doubts and fears assaulted me. I figured real novelists enjoyed their solitude. I kept thinking, real novelists are self- sufficient artists. They can take or leave people. All they need is their cats or dogs. Maybe this is true. All I know is I’ve managed to write three good screenplays and three good novels since taking the fork in the road that leads to the unknown.
There are certainly ups and downs mucking about in the unknown. I have to say, though, that it’s more interesting and rewarding than steady doses of the known. It’s actually fun to travel back and forth between the worlds of the unknown and the known.
Let’s take writing this article to illustrate my point. When I began, I only had a vague idea of what it would be about. I did, however, have the definite intention of writing something that would be of interest and benefit to you and me. So, what is my point? Here it is: Nothing happens if you don’t take the first step. You’ll stay stuck in the same rut, and that’s no fun. Have the courage to adventure into the unknown. Trust yourself and the talents you’ve been given. Nobody gets rich, creates anything meaningful, or finds a deeper source of happiness following the crowd.