“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
– Oscar Wilde
You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.
– Alan Alda
It was early March, 2003. I was lying face down on the cool cement floor of the rebar-and-cinder-block room that was ours for the two-week Buddhist retreat. Observing my discomfort, despair and self-doubt, my dear friend Dave exclaimed, “Oh, Lauren, look what’s happening! You came all the way to India, and brought yourself!”
Good grief, he was right! And what had I expected? I’m sheepish to admit it, but here – in the safe, privacy of the worldwide web – I will confess that a part of me had journeyed to the sacred land of MotherIndia believing I would, through magical osmosis, become a Mother Theresa, a Dharma Teacher, an enlightened Buddha. And that if I didn’t, I. Had. Failed.
And what feels even MORE “wow” about that, is that I have done this repeatedly in my life. When I arrived at Carnegie Mellon’s drama department, I was an impressionable 18 year old who believed (because I auditioned and got in), that I knew something about theatre. My peers and that school worked me, and I misinterpreted most of it, convinced that I was supposed to become that…or them. And that if I didn’t, I. Had. Failed.
Last week, I was gifted with a very special opportunity. I received a scholarship, given to one woman cyclist each year, to attend a training camp designed for ultra-distance cyclists. I was excited, and a little nervous, but what the heck? I ride 200 miles in a day sometimes, I know something about cycling. Uh-huh…
Due to scheduling complications, I arrived late and tired, which made the first day of training ambitious. The second day was hard. The third day was harder still. Endurance cyclists, I noted, were ridiculously humble, and for good reason: no matter how far one rides, another can (and will) always ride farther. My fellow campers were insanely accomplished ultra-distance cyclists. The familiar, wobbly feelings were back; and they were preying upon my mind as steadily as the bumpy road and relentless headwind on my tired butt and wind-burnt face, If I don’t ride a trillion-gazillion miles on my bike and cross every continent in 6 hours by the time I’m fifty, will I. Have. Failed????
Once again, I had come ALLLL the way to brand new life experience, and I had brought myself.
“You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?”
― Dr. Seuss
Sometimes, I have to REMEMBER it’s pleasant. It’s preceded by the very UNpleasant part of forgetting. In such moments, I am extremely grateful to those of you who firmly remind me that:
- We already had a Buddha
- The necessity of artistic expression extends beyond receiving a Tony award
- It’s completely okay if I do not love the pain that is saddling a bike for 36+ hours
There is a sweet relief in failure. In the dissolution of Being and Not Being, we see once more that “being me,” is a moment-to-moment invention. We actually get to choose, over and over again, how we want to receive what’s being offered.
But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth…
Start walking toward (your Love). Your legs will get heavy and tired.
Then comes a moment of feeling the wings you’ve grown, lifting.