Friday, July 30, 2010

Shadows of Monsters

This morning, Seth Godin posted a short blog post entitled "Every monster has a big shadow."

That has actually been resonating a bit with me today and has brought to mind a lot of experiences in my past that taught me that lesson quite clearly.  I was always more frightened of an encounter or an experience before I was actually in the middle of dealing with it.  I built the shadow of fear in my mind long before I faced the monster.

I remember one of those piano solo contests I put myself through in high school.  Mom and I had driven to whatever high school in Iowa was hosting and I was completely terrorized.  I knew I had the music memorized, I played it well, I just worried myself sick because failure wasn't an option for me. 

The year before I had played my solo and before I got to the end, all of my extremities had begun to shake.  I made it through the piece and did well.  No one else knew what kind of shape I had been in.  I'd long since learned to hide my terror from an audience.  This year, though, the piece was much more difficult and if my arms and hands were going to shake, I was going to mess up.

I was a mess. Mom and I went into the bathroom before I had to go on stage and she prayed for me.  I asked her to specifically pray that my arms, hands AND my legs wouldn't shake.  She did.  I went in, played my piece, walked off stage and directly into the bathroom.  I thought I had done a terrible job.  She followed me in, held on to me as I sobbed and sobbed and told me that she was really confused because it was one of the best performances of the song she had heard me give.  I managed to get out a little laugh as I told her that while my hands, arms and legs didn't shake, my stomach shook plenty! 

The specter of a low score hovered over me for quite some time.  I didn't know how I was going to explain that to Dad, to my piano teacher, to my friends.  I built up an immense shadow for the monster of failure in my mind.

My score that day was great.  I was a crazy girl.  There was nothing to worry about, but my fear of the shadow of the monster nearly undid me!

We probably all remember the night monsters in our bedrooms.  Shadows from the trees outside would play over our walls and become bigger in our imaginations because we didn't understand what we were seeing.

And even as an adult, the shadows grow in our minds throughout the night.  My absolutely worst times of fear and worry occur in the middle of the night when there is nothing I can do.  My mind isn't working at its best and I allow fears and worry to overwhelm me.  In the light of day, the shadows are shoved aside and I can see the monster for what it is

Seth Godin's closing line is "When in doubt, ignore the shadow."

It's a great attitude to take, but I'm not sure that it is always possible to do.  I'd love to be able to take that advice and live a life without fear of the monsters that haunt me, but that just isn't going to be real.  They're there, right in front of me. 

The shadow of the monster IS always bigger than the monster itself, and our imaginations and fears and worries make the shadow grow.  I don't know how to ignore the shadow.  I have learned, though, that facing the monster as quickly as possible not only proves to me how small that monster really is and gives me enough ammunition to recognize the next monster as a small being.

It isn't easy to ignore the shadow, it isn't easy to face the monster with a great shadow looming over it, but to move on and grow, both need to happen!

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