By Maryanne Pope
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Have you ever actually heard yourself complaining about how you can’t do something?
I have… and it wasn’t pretty. But it certainly made for a funny story!
In fact, I created a presentation based on said funny story and delivered it recently at a women’s networking event. The talk was well-received (and everybody laughed at the funny part) but I rather surprised myself in the question and answer period afterwards.
My presentation was called: “The Electric Jello Story – Turning I Can’t Into I Can… and I Will.”
The first part of my talk was a rather sordid tale from my party days about a bachelorette gone awry. I had overindulged in some electric jello shooters and had been sent home from the bar early. But when the girls tried to awaken me from my drunken slumber in the wee hours of the morning (so that I could buzz them up to the apartment) I wanted no part of being woken up, thank you very much.
Nor could I seem to figure out which button to push on the silly intercom to let them in the foyer.
Unfortunately, my repeated wails of “I can’t” (in the most whining and pathetic tone imaginable) was recorded on the answering machine. Much to my chagrin, the girls played the tape back to me the next morning.
It was awful. But to this day, I can still hear how dreadful I sounded!
Anyway, in the second part of my presentation, I told the story of the conversation I’d had with my husband the day before he died. I’d said to him: “I am so scared I am going to wake up 20 years from now and still not have finished writing a book.”
To which he’d responded: “You’re probably right about that… just as long as you know that will have been your choice.”
Tough words, yes. But in all fairness, after 12 years of being together, I think the poor guy had run out of patience listening to me whine and complain about not having the time or money to write. For more than a decade, I’d used every excuse in the book as to why I couldn’t make my writing a priority.
“I’ll show him!” I’d said to myself, after dropping him off at work that night. I promised myself I would wake up early the next morning and do an hour of writing before going into work at my clerical job.
But when the alarm clock went off the next morning, what did I do? I pushed snooze. “I can’t get up,” I told myself (in a whiny, pathetic voice). “I’m too tired to write.”
When I finally hauled my behind out of bed, after pushing the snooze button multiple times, there wasn’t any time to write. In fact, there was barely time for me to get to work.
Tomorrow is not promised
And when I did arrive at work, my whole life changed in an instant. John died that day. And I got the wake-up call of all wake-up calls about the danger of waiting for a tragedy to awaken us to the importance of achieving our dreams.
Two weeks after his death, I started writing what would become my book, A Widow’s Awakening. It took me 8 years to get it – and me – where it needed to be. But I did it.
After I finished my presentation at the women’s networking event, we had an impromptu Q&A, and the host asked me this question:
“If there was just one word to describe what you think is THE most important thing in terms of transforming “I can’t” into “I can,” what would it be?”
I thought about this for a moment and then a single word popped into my mind.
Faith in yourself goes a long way
“Faith,” I heard myself say to the group. “But not faith in the traditional way we often think of faith, as in having faith in some sort of divine guidance or a religious belief.”
“I’m talking about faith in one’s self.” I continued. “I think it is absolutely imperative that we have faith in ourselves and our ability to achieve what it is we really want to achieve. Because if we don’t have that, then all the divine help and spiritual guidance in the world can’t help us.”
Likewise with our mortal supporters.
John believed in my potential as a writer and did everything he could to encourage me to take concrete action towards meeting my goals i.e. get my butt in the chair and WRITE.
But at the end of the day, taking action was my responsibility. That was a very difficult life lesson to learn in the wake of such an immense loss.
If we don’t have faith in ourselves that we can – and will – step up to the plate, each and every day, and do the work that needs to be done, then the support and encouragement of our loved ones, as well as any sort of divine guidance we may believe is available to us, won’t be of much use.
And for the record, I DO believe there is a tremendous amount of spiritual assistance just waiting in the wings to help guide us… sending us all sorts of signs and signals. We just need to a) pay attention and b) take action. I suspect, however, that those other forces don’t require our faith.