this winding road
is out of course
disconnected from the memory
of an imagined end
and full of the sounds
The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
I used to look at successful people and think they had it all together. It seemed to me that they must be a special category of human being, less prone to the insecurities and struggles of lesser mortals like me. I have always battled with confidence, and assumed that those who were making their way in the world with such eloquence and apparent self-assurance must be of a different essence. It was a discouraging but oddly comforting idea. I would never be a ‘success’ but since I was not cut from that cloth, I didn’t have to make the attempt to grow beyond my particular set of competencies.
I think differently now. I realise that successful people are those who reach into their vulnerabilities and recognise them as stepping stones, as ways of becoming aware of themselves in order to move forward, towards their goals. It’s hard work, of the inner self and of the outer world of learning skills and applying oneself to being better at what you do, every day.
A few weeks ago I listened to a very well respected author say that he doesn’t think his writing is good. I remember, several years ago, watching a trio of A-list actresses talk about how nervous they feel on the first day of a film shoot. One of them even said that she often calls her agent just before shooting commences, to say that she doesn’t think she can do the film. Knowing that others face these fears helps me to see that I am not alone in my battles.
It’s tempting to give up. I can find a lot of excuses for not doing things. My mind is a very effective generator of reasons for ‘why this will not work’. But the truth is that this kind of thinking only feeds my fear and keeps me stuck.
I love Wendell Berry’s thoughts on ‘The Real Work’. When I apply my mind to solutions rather than problems, and I take the leap and do something, I develop resilience and capacity. This is when my life really does start to sing.