One day when I was bushwalking I sat on a log for half an hour with a map and compass. I was looking for ‘Gale’s turnoff’. Another two hours were wasted walking up and down a rocky creek looking for that turnoff. I returned to the log and sat, perplexed. I happened to look behind me and there in the bushes was the track. I looked above me to see painted on a tree’s branch a white arrow pointing to the track. I had been at that turning point all along, yet had not seen it.
I mention this because when I was a little boy in primary school I fell in love with a little girl. I thought about her night and day, yet rarely spoke to her. For years I went to school an hour early in the hope of seeing her and of somehow finding a reason to talk with her. Occasionally I got lucky, and said ‘hello’. If I were really lucky I might get to add a few extra words before walking away. (I didn’t want to overstay my welcome.) Sometimes I would load my pockets with unusual items in the hope she would see me pluck from my pocket some novelty and ask me about it, and think I must be terribly interesting.
It didn’t happen.
One year, while I was experiencing the exquisite pleasure of being near her, a gust of wind lifted her dress. Gallantly I looked away. When I looked back she said to me: ‘I love you.’
The idea that my love might be reciprocated had not occurred to me. None of my countless daydreams had entertained the possibility. The idea was alien; I could not register the concept. Her comment made no sense to me, so I did not reply.
Slowly, over the weeks to come, I came to understand what she had said. Yet I lacked the courage to ask, to see if it were real.
My adoration continued unabated and unexpressed into high school, and in tenth year she left. I met her briefly again at a train station a year later. I said hello, and then she was gone.
I was shy for years afterwards, but thankfully time, hormones, and a growing awareness introduced me to love. But it was a rocky road to get there, and I sometimes wonder how easier life would have been had I seen that turning point when it was presented to me, and had possessed the courage to follow it up.
There will be turning points in our life and we need see them.
Sure, sometimes we need courage to stay on the path we are on, but I’m talking about the turning points that promise to move us forward, the ones that get us off the drab, comfortable path that will only take us to Drabber.
When we are presented with a turning point often we are tempted to ignore it, because the old path feels safe. That old path allows us to feel that we can handle life. Yet, it only lets us feel that we can handle our particular life.
When we create for ourselves a life that is safe – a safe home, safe job, safe routine – we need to remember our pygmy twins: happiness doesn’t come from making ourselves safe, it comes from engaging in life and feeling we can handle it. That’s when we are rewarded with core happiness.
‘A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.’
How many of us living in a safe, comfortable Western society have lost the balance? How many of us have become too afraid to take risks, too afraid to venture into the world?
When I say ‘venture into the world’ I mean: asking for promotions, asking for dates, sticking up for someone, engaging in interests that might be mocked, voluntarily enduring hardship, telling someone you like them, sacrificing comfort for change . . .
Choosing to remain in our comfort zone means we forgo the opportunity to gain confidence in ourselves; we lose the opportunity to discover we can handle life.
This section is about dealing with fear. Every time we move through fear we become a little stronger, a little more confident in our ability to handle the world. A little more resilient.
‘Each risk you take, each time you move out of what feels comfortable, you become more powerful. As your power builds, so does your confidence, so that stretching your comfort zone becomes easier and easier, despite any fear you may be experiencing.’
Susan Jeffers, from ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’.
‘The important thing is: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.’