My mother spent the first few years of her life in Tucson, Arizona back in the 1930s. She was a precocious child—curious and frequently doing things without thought, once jumping back and forth over a rattlesnake until my grandmother snatched her away.
One day she decided to go for a discovery walk toward town. Unfortunately, the closest route was across the railroad tracks, which she’d been told time and time again not to go near. Now, we’re not talking about crossing the tracks. No, I mean, the tracks formed a bridge that spanned a deep gorge that was nearly a mile across. So, this particular day she started on the tracks, skipping and probably singing, as she jumped between the rails.
She was having a grand time until the ground began to shake. She glanced over her shoulder and was terrified to see a train bearing down on her, horn blasting its warning. She ran as fast as her five-year-old legs would carry her, but even at that young age she knew there was no way she could make it to the other side before the train arrived.
As death raced toward her, getting louder with every passing second, a quiet voice spoke within her. “Climb over the side.” Without hesitation, she lowered herself over the side of the track and hung on to the trellis with all her might. The passing train was inches away and deafeningly loud, but she hung on, fearing her bones would shake to pieces, until at last the caboose passed her by and she could pull herself up and, with shaky legs, make her way home.
And why do I tell you this? Well, aside from the fact that it’s just a really cool story, it does have a purpose—one that has affected me throughout my years.
Things got hard. Terrifying. Life threatening. But she listened to the spirit inside of her and she survived. She made it through the hard and survived to become something more.
Now, if you read my short post last week, you’ll know that life has been really hard for me lately. For a solid year or more I’ve struggled with a rebellious, disobedient, and disabled teenager that I thought was going to put me in jail or a mental institution. I wanted to die, just to make the pain stop.
But guess what? The spirit spoke and I listened. Time after time after time I received peace and reassurance from the other side. You’ll be okay. You can make it. Be patient. There’s a time for everything. So many words and such comfort despite the difficulty, and finally life is getting better.
Let me share something that my friend Regina Sirois wrote to me recently, as I feel it applies to all of us:
“Giving birth to words is like giving birth to people. Sometimes they come with only discomfort, sometimes with a struggle that seems to threaten life instead of give it. Since you know dragons, let me remind you how many you are fighting right now. They are savage and relentless. You fight on, bloodied, tired, wounded, feeling the cause is hopeless. It isn't. I wish you could see the faces of the angels fighting with you. Their jaws are clenched, their eyes are burning with determination. They will not leave you. This is their battle, too. Because you only feel the fire burning over your head, you don't realize how brave and strong you have been. You don't have time to look around you and see how many enemies you've slain. And someday when these dragons fall you will sit down and rest. You will have time to look around you. You will remember what you have done and you will smile. Give yourself permission to fight one battle at a time. Give yourself permission to tend to your wounds. Give yourself permission to feel how loved you are. . . .
" . . . Give yourself permission to fail. And after the first attempt fails, give yourself permission to try again without feeling like a failure. The words will come. Like children, sometimes they arrive late. Sometimes they surprise us. Sometimes they cost a great price. But always, they are miraculous.”
I really can’t say it much better than she did. Life gets in the way much too often, and as parents, especially mothers, it is easy to feel guilty, whether it is guilt for not writing, or guilt that we are writing too much. Guilt that our children aren’t making the right choices. Guilt that we just aren’t good enough, our writing isn’t good enough, nothing will ever be good enough.
Let me tell you right now, that is not true!
My mother told me two things over and over, and though I still face guilt and fear of failure, I remember her words and they make me strong. I give those words to you.
“You can do anything if you want it enough.” And “I have confidence in you!”
Those words have helped me to try things I’d never known. I’ve created useful projects that have helped me move or simplified my life. I’ve built bookcases and laid carpet and tile, painted, and built an entire office in my garage—all because I KNEW I could do anything. My mother told me so.
I’m telling you now. You—yes, I’m talking to you—YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!
Believe it. Live it. Do it.
That’s where you’ll find your joy, and isn’t that what we’re here for? Find joy in the journey each and every day, despite the trains bearing down on you. Because why?
You can do anything.
Anything at all.