Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
I think that’s the takeaway here. I’m not sure, though. You decide.
So, when I was a kid, maybe seven, I was supposed to be learning how to dive into the deep end of the pool. You know, the dive you learn when you’re a kid, kneeling by the side of the pool, hands pointed down toward the water.
The thing was, I could already dive in the shallow end and was never remotely fearful; but suddenly, faced with diving into the Deep End (Yes, I know, Life – quite the metaphor, thank you) I was frozen solid. Kneeling by the side of that community center pool, aiming my hands into that threatening dark green Deep End, it looked to me like the ocean at its most treacherous.
So, I can’t move, I’m paralyzed, I just can’t do it. When the swim teacher became concerned enough, somebody called my mother — my mother who, by the way, can’t swim. And I can’t remember if I somehow spoke to her on the phone or if they did and relayed the message, but my mother said something on the order of, “If you don’t want to dive in the deep end, you don’t have to. It’s just not that important.”
And somehow this pronouncement magically broke the spell and into the water I slipped without hesitation, like a happy fishie. And suddenly, I absolutely can’t get enough of diving into the Deep End and I do it over and over again until I’m punch drunk with the fun of it!
The odd thing about it was, not only did the fear vanish, but I completely, truly forgot that I’d ever had it!
Cut to: A solo trip to Ireland in my 30’s. I couldn’t wait to go. But the one thing I dreaded, and with perfectly sound reason, was the Driving On The Other Side Of the Road. Matthew Broderick had recently been involved in a terrible car accident there, in which somebody had died, because of that very reason.
So, I was haunted by this Other Side of the Road thing day and night for months. I desperately tried to visualize, over and over again, being on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road, certain it wouldn’t work and I would be too apoplectic to even think of driving anywhere myself.
Well, I land at the airport, get my bag, get into the rental car, and take off, heading to the town of Arden, I believe. And about hour in as I’m motoring along, admiring the indescribable gorgeousness in every direction, it suddenly occurs to me that all this while I’ve been driving on the Other Side of the Road! From the second I got into the car, I not only forgot to be afraid, I forgot that I ever WAS afraid!
And thereafter, I had an effortlessly marvelous time following any old country road that took my fancy with nary a fear anywhere. (I probably should have visualized coming back home, though. Re-entry to Los Angeles and switching sides again was, well, shall we say… interesting.)
These are just two examples of this type of experience, but it’s a pattern, for sure…
So, what’s the Dragon of the tale? Well, Fear of course. And to what extent is that Fear just illusion? You know “False Evidence Appearing Real” — that old saw. And what’s the Treasure? Some sort of giddy freedom, I think. And maybe the bigger the fear faced, the bigger the payoff in feeling free?
No answers here — just questions, folks. Just questions.