I just finished reading Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. I loved this bittersweet story. It was told from a fresh and different perspective (through the experiences of a dog who thinks like and longs to be a human), and it offered words of wisdom that were in the context of Formula One racing, yet applicable to all of our lives.
The story itself was heartbreaking and motivating at the same time. It showed both sides of the human spirit, weak and strong, and how this could and did affect a person’s life. An ongoing theme that carried through much of this book was about self manifestation. How events manifest in my life is in proportion to how I see things and what direction or outcome my thoughts, intentions and vision hone in on.
The quote to the right was one of several from the book that had an impact on me.
Mainly, because it addressed a current and ongoing paradigm in my life. Facing the unknown head on. Looking fear in the face and not averting my gaze. This juncture in living, this fork in the road where I have to choose to either face and delve into the unknown or settle for and stay complacently within the known has been one that has blessed or plagued me, depending on the day, my entire life.
It started, literally at birth. I was born premature and severely underweight. So much so, that I left the safety and comfort of my mother’s womb and began fighting for my life in an incubator. My lungs weren’t ready to breathe air and the doctors really weren’t sure if I was going to make it. My grandmother often told me that I was so small at birth that my head would have fit in a tea cup. My mom would also add that I looked like an underfed baby chicken with its feathers plucked out; a plucked baby chicken she loved with all her heart and prayed through her tears that I would make it through.
And I did make it through.
Something in me was and is a survivor. Something in me didn’t care that my lungs weren’t ready. Something in me wanted to live and face the big, bright, loud world around me instead of going back to the peaceful comfort of oblivion.
These situations continued in grade school, when my mother married a man who was an alcoholic and drug user who liked to touch me in ways he shouldn’t, and then again at the age of sixteen, when my mother was wrongly accused, arrested and tried for murder. Three trials later she was finally found innocent and set free. These life altering events resulted in my stepfather leaving town and forced me to make choices no sixteen year old girl should have had to make. From that point forward, decisions to face my fears or succumb and settle kept cropping up and took me first across the West coast of the US to the East, to live with a father who I barely knew, then to the continent of Africa to stay with an uncle who was more of a stranger than relative. While there, I attended school that was heavily entrenched in the peak of the Apartheid struggles that consumed and divided South Africa and its people at that time.
And so this pattern continued, in small ways and big.
All of these events were manifestations affecting me based on how I perceived what was in front of me and how I chose to proceed based on that perception. And these events, these crossroads proceeded with enough frequency that I now have to consider in all seriousness that this process is a lesson I’m being taught. And it’s one that someone apparently feels that I really, really need to understand and learn—over and over and over again.
Well, like they say, practice makes perfect. So, here I am again trying to understand my lesson and make the right decisions. That in itself can be debilitating. Making the right decisions. What are the right decisions, anyway? Sometimes it’s hard to say. Sometimes it just seems easier not to make any decisions. But then, with indecision comes, inevitably a decision. The decision not to participate. And of course, that has consequences of its own.
In Stein’s book, he writes something unforgettable about this in a dialogue between one of his main characters, Denny and another character named Don.
“There is no dishonor in losing the race,” Don said. “There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”
This quote is an absolute truth. At least in the reality that’s my life.
Along with this, come my own thoughts about living. For me, it’s better to live in hope, possibility and daring, despite the fear, than it is to live in limitation, indecision and avoidance because of that fear.
Sounds easy enough, right? Um, maybe not so much.
You see, to actually be aware of the situation and naming it for what it is are two different things. Different puzzle pieces of the same whole, yet pieces that can, and sometimes do remain forever apart. And going in further, to see it, name it, and then act upon it is an entirely new animal all together.
But this new animal, well, it’s my animal. Like Enzo the dog belonged to Denny, his owner, and Denny belonged to his dog, Enzo, so does this animal of living and venturing into the unknown belong to me. Believe me, there are times when I don’t want to claim it. When I want to shoo it away into a back room and not think about it. But that can only go on so long.
And, quite frankly, I’ve learned that the longer I shoo it away and try to avoid or forget about it, the worse I feel, and the more opportunities I lose. And once that opportunity is lost my friend, it very often is lost forever. Period. The end.
That game, as I’ve mentioned before, that “what if” game of what I could have done differently, replayed again and again and again in my head is a torture I’d rather forgo.
So, here I go again on my own, as the band White Snake sings. The territory is strange. The path is not laid out before me and the inhabitants of this new land are not known to me. Yet, despite this, I still know in my mind the direction I must go in this new territory, just as I understand that the inhabitants I hope to encounter are ultimately known to my heart.
All will be revealed in good time. And when that happens, I have learned the reality is often better than the dream. And the fear is replaced by an indescribably feeling of satisfaction, joy and rightness. So be it. The journey awaits...
© Copyright 2013 by Eden Robins