CHAPTER 6: If at first you don’t succeed … destroy all the evidence and pretend you never tried.
I laughed when I first read this quote. It’s so opposite from what we’re taught we ought to feel about the ritual of trying and failing, and yet so wonderfully human. It can be embarrassing to think you tried and did not succeed. Sometimes it feels safer not to try at all!
Thing is though, we don’t always have a choice.
In this chapter, Meylyne gets caught by ferocious Hyldas who demand she turn a bird back into a boy. This requires a spell at which she is convinced she will fail miserably. The Hyldas give her no choice, however. If she doesn’t do as they say, the consequences will be dire for her and her friend.
Now, in some instances, this sort of pressure works in our favor. When others believe we are capable of this or that, we push ourselves and rise to the challenge. We end up doing better than we ever thought we could.
In other instances, we fall flat on our faces.
In this case, Meylyne ends up about half-way in between. She almost transforms the bird back to what it was … just not quite. As a boy, he only comes up to her knee.
How about you? Have you ever been pushed to perform a task that you felt was beyond you? I know I have—like the time my piano teacher wanted me to perform in a recital and my fingers knotted up and refused to behave. After massacring Bach, I slunk back to my seat, red-faced and mortified. Or the time I tripped over the first hurdle in a track meet and came in last.
Of course there are other situations in which I did just fine, or better than fine. You can never be sure how a new venture will turn out. Some prefer not to find out. They’ll say, “I know my limitations thank you very much!” Others believe they have no limitations—they’re confident they will achieve whatever they set out to do.
Where in the spectrum do you fall?
I’m all over the place. In some instances I am positively delusional. My inner world is a wondrous place in which I am so much more than the outside world sees. For example, when I saw Riverdance, I fell in love with Irish step-dancing. All I wanted was to dance like Michael Flatley. I immediately took lessons. Some thought that was a doomed dream—I was too old and my feet were knobby and gnarled from years of running. I didn’t care. Nothing would stop me from becoming the next Michael Flatley. Well, ten years later I decided to quit. I was never anywhere near as good as he was.
But honestly—I didn’t care! I had SO much fun along the way. I got to perform in Ireland and I made wonderful friends. One of which is one of my best friends today. I did not end up a world-class dancer, but with that friendship and those memories I ended up with something way more important.
In other instances, I have a very, very small tolerance for failure. I think, “who am I to believe I can pull that off?” I worry that others think this of me. Sometimes, though, our fears are more complicated. Sometimes our fear is not of failure—it’s of success! I’m sure that sounds weird but with success can come a lot of responsibility. It’s like Marianne Williamson says in her book RETURN TO LOVE,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” (click here for the entire quote).
What does this quote mean to you? To me it’s about the fear we encounter when we realize just how much power we have. Meylyne is convinced that she is nothing more than her mother’s shadow, and through this journey she is forced to confront all of which she is capable, and her responsibility to use her gifts. This is scary at any age—especially when you’re twelve years old!
These growing pains are all part of the hero’s journey.
How about you? Do you have any responsibilities that you’d love to pass on to someone else? Or is there a responsibility you’d like to take on but no one thinks you’re up for it? Tell me about it—I’d love to hear from you!