“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” Carl Gustav Jung
Exploring new things later in life is not unheard of or even exceptional, but I will say that it is exhilarating, and I encourage anyone teetering on the edge between dreaming and doing to step into the doing.
As a young girl growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s I had no aspirations for a career, nor was I encouraged to develop any. This was a disadvantage in some ways and a gift in others. It wasn’t until I was in my forties, damning myself for not having prepared better for life, that I noticed my self-limitations were more restrictive than my lack of a formal career. Accepting responsibility may be a crucial step in initiating change, but out-maneuvering fear is one hell of a challenge. I’m not writing this as someone who has mastered the art of dispelling fear, but as someone who recognizes that I continue to be a work in progress with plenty of room for expansion.
My mother used to tell me that opportunity knocks at every man’s door but it never kicks the panels in. It was an expression her own mother had shared with her; the message being to open the door when opportunity knocks. I feel that opportunity’s first knocks are heard in the quiet murmurings of imagination. It might be nebulous, like a vague sense of longing, or it might be something with a stronger voice that’s been vying for your attention for many years. It’s how we answer that murmuring, longing, or persistent voice that will either give it life, or condemn it again and again to wither in that inner place where disappointments and unanswered dreams are stored.
When opportunity presents itself we recognize it by its tones that resonate like harmony to the melody of a dream’s earlier murmurings. And if we’ve habitually surrendered to self-doubt, fear, or an ever-present critic, opportunities will either pass by unnoticed or we might just refuse to open the door. In my experience, the feeling that comes from casting dreams into inner exile is grief.
Fear is a powerful force that serves a useful purpose. It cautions us to be vigilant and to check for danger. If there’s really a monster under the bed we better run like hell, but chances are, if we check under the bed, we’ll recognize the monster as our own creation. There is no danger in the checking of a dream’s inner-workings. We may rock our inner world a little here and there, but in my opinion that’s a good thing. Challenge the reasons you rigidly defend to be the why-nots in your life and you’ll begin to weaken their structure. Question the ego’s pride and realize that it too is a construct of your imagination.
When I was fourteen years old my mother divorced my father, a devastating turning point in my life. It was then that I began writing. The paper became my good and wise friend who would receive all the sadness I poured from my heart. This friendship took me through my adolescence, young adulthood, marriage, my own divorce and other challenges along the way. With the roots of writing in my inner world, it revealed its echoes in my outer world, teaching me that neither is independent of the other.
Years later, in an effort to promote a business I was launching, I began writing newsletters and my mother helped me with editing. This was before dementia eclipsed so many of her talents and gifts. She passed away just a few weeks ago and although she had no recollection of the guidance and instruction she offered, I consider my mother to have been the primary person who taught me how to write. And just as she encouraged me to open the door when opportunity knocked, she encouraged me to challenge my fears, and reasons for why-not when a publisher asked me if I would like to try my hand at fiction.
This isn’t about meeting a publisher or achieving any kind of recognition; it’s about answering the yearning or calling by stepping into doing. The doing begins in our inner-world. It’s the adventure of exploration in imagination and bringing the abstract into something we can shape and color with a palette we don’t know exists until we begin. So, check under the bed. Answer the door. Let the adventures roll!
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