Tuesday, 20 April 2010

When Labels are a Good Thing

I’m a dabbler, a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.  It keeps life interesting, having no fixed vocation, but sometimes I envy people with specific expertise.  Am I avoiding depth by not cultivating one interest?  Or am I just mercurial by nature?  There’s always that moment of anxiety when someone asks, “what do you do?”  For while I can do many things, some of them quite well, (and yes, I know that we are human beings, not human doings) there is a part of me that desperately wants a label.

“Nice to meet you.  My name is Tricia and I’m a _____!”

I trained as a counsellor but I only work as a volunteer, so can I say it's my profession?  I have played  bass guitar in rock bands, but I can’t read music and have never earned a cent doing it, so can I call myself a musician?  And I write this blog, but does that make me a writer?  Or am I just a housewife with a few hobbies?  How does one cross the bridge from doing something to being something?  And is it even necessary?

To adopt a label could be both scary and liberating.  If I dare to plant my flag in the fertile soil of “writer” (the leader of the pack at the moment) then what expectations will be heaped upon me?  If I never publish one word other than what I write here can I still call myself a writer?  Or must I justify my claim by cultivating some kind of success? That’s the scary part.  The liberating part might be that by declaring myself a writer I ‘own my power’ and commit fully my talent and intention.  (Oh God, that’s scary too!)

In 'A Return To Love' (1992) Marianne Williamson wrote,  “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 am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It seems that in our culture if we get paid to do something, we are that something.  Without the money we are simply enthusiasts and dare not “claim our brilliance” as Marianne puts it.  It may feel incredibly risky to declare a title for ourselves, but I sense that the loss of not doing so is far greater.  I don’t want to play small anymore.  Self-deprecation is over-rated!

Some people might think I’m a second-rate regurgitater of other people’s ideas - and they might be right.  But then again, like a fingerprint, there is no one else on the whole planet who can do anything exactly like me – not write a sentence, play a bass line, talk to a client or load the dishwasher just so. 

What do you do that you have not had the courage to claim as your own?  Whatever it is, it's nice to meet you.  My name is Tricia and I’m a writer.  

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

You Are What You Speak

Have you heard the proverb about the two frogs that fell into a deep pit?  Several other frogs saw them fall, and while observing the poor fellows trying to escape they began to shout at them saying, "You're wasting your time trying to get out - the pit is too deep - you're going to die in there!"  One of the frogs took the words to heart and died after several failed attempts at jumping out of the pit.  But the other frog kept trying to escape until finally he launched himself free.  The frogs who had been watching and shouting gathered around the survivor and ask him, "why did you keep jumping when we told you that you'd never get out?"  The exhausted frog looked confused.  "I'm deaf," he explained, "and I thought you were encouraging me to keep trying!"

Ah, the power of words.  I've been pondering this lately, for, as the book of Proverbs says, "There is death and life in the power of the tongue."  But our words don't only affect others, they affect us.  Simply put, words define who we are while subtly and surely shaping our lives.  You may never have entertained the thought that you are what you speak, so let me give you an example.

Many years ago when I was trying to get pregnant I made sure that I always said "when I have a baby..." instead of "if I have a baby..." because I figured that by saying "when" I was giving a clear message to the powers that be (God, the universe...whatever) that I fully intended to have a child (I just wasn't in control of the time frame).  Of course that wasn't the only thing I did to reach my goal, but in a powerful way I believe it shaped my future by constantly reinforcing my intention as, indeed, several years later and against all odds, I did manage to conceive naturally.

Once we understand that what we say has power, we can begin to play with it.  Here's another little story to illustrate the point... 
One day a woman found a dime on the ground and said to herself, "How can it get better than this?"  A block or two later she found a dollar and asked herself again, "How can it get better than this?"  She walked further still and found twenty dollars and again asked, "How can it get better than this?"  She arrived home and found a diamond bracelet in the gutter and said, "It can't get better than this!"  And, indeed, it didn't.
I don't know if it's a true story or not, but I love the concept - it ties in nicely to my own habit of saying not "if" but "when."   Can you see how an open-ended question throws the door open for anything to happen while a statement slams it shut? What if we live our lives and choose our words in such a way that invites miracles rather than putting limits on what life serves up? 

I am excited by the possibilities and will be choosing my words carefully.  How can it get better than this?  I can't wait to find out.