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It’s sobering, that moment when we catch our reflection in the window of a storefront or see the reflection of a stranger mirrored in the pond and wonder what happened to who we hoped to become. It is the eyes of a stranger staring back; we turn, rejecting the image that seems tired, harried and nothing at all like those childhood dreams that have vanished with the years. Is this it, we silently wonder? Will it be more of the same until the image reflects gray hair, deep wrinkles and a stooped back? What have we traded all that promise for; how did it happen?
We arrived filled with wonder; we knew our self-worth, it was reflected in the way we expected our simple demands to be met. We grew into childhood with natural grace in our manner, beauty that shone from within; charm that soothed our childish missteps and our own particular brand of brilliance.
The image staring back reflects a self-image tainted by failure, talent squandered through misuse and potential bartered for security. The brilliance of our mind, the quickness of our tongue all traded for mediocrity. The opportunity to be average beckoned; we answered the call and settled for this. And lo, our worst fears have come to pass.
Somewhere in the process, we accepted our own foundation of beliefs; they define and limit our potential as every foundation defines boundaries. Our foundation is built one brick at a time as we accept or reject what we imagine can be real. This is frequently determined by the vision of the adults in or life. Without intervention from an outside influence, we can only see as far as their vision permits.
Once the foundation is in place, we begin to build walls that confine us even further. These walls are protective barriers that shelter us from mocking, ridicule, pain, grief or sorrow; all those emotions that surface as we grow from childhood to adulthood. We encounter things we don’t understand, our response is inappropriate and suddenly our world is painful, we feel like a failure. We need protection and so we build more walls and build them higher to keep out any danger of more of the same that caused us pain. This is the box that built us.
The nails that hold it in place normally arrive in the form of words. “You can’t do that.” “How are you going to do that?” “You don’t have the money to do that.” “You’re not smart enough to do that.” “People like us don’t do that.” All those responses, lovingly offered, when we share a hope or a dream become the nails in our box that is really a coffin for our unfulfilled dreams, helping to build the walls that prevent us from embracing dreams we now believe can never be. The ashes before us are the remains of our burning map to happiness, the dying embers our final claim to peace of mind. Our tears plop, plop onto the flames of the candles that had been placed along our path we were certain was destined for glory. This darkness of futility is a hell of our own creation. How can we escape before it’s too late?
We look closely at the box that has now built us. It is not so tall or inescapable. It only felt so because we were crouching down to hide from pain and anguish. We discover that when we stand tall it is merely a swift kick away from destruction and the freedom to be is right before us… as it always was. We merely needed to find the courage to look farther than the walls that had become our prison. We see there was never a guard or a gatekeeper, just a fear of more failure or pain that imprisoned us.
If you can find the courage to stand up and look over your walls you will find your hopes and dreams are parked right where you left them, just outside the door. It takes courage to take the dare but courage fans the flames of dreams, igniting the fire of hope again. With hope comes faith, where all things are possible.