I grew up in awe of the great people I read about in school books. The way my teachers told their stories convinced me that greatness was way, way up there and I am down here, almost in the pits. The question of bridging the gap never crossed my mind because I learned to reconcile myself to a life less ordinary.
This Chinese folk tale of a hummingbird who attempted to hold up the sky is about the hero in all of us.
One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying on its back with its tiny feet up in the air.
“What are you doing?” asked the elephant.
The hummingbird replied, “I heard that the sky might fall today, and so I am ready to help hold it up, should it fall.”
The elephant laughed cruelly. “Do you really think,” he said, “that those tiny feet could help hold up the sky?”
The hummingbird kept his feet up in the air, intent on his purpose, as he replied,
“Not alone. But each must do what he can. And this is what I can do.”
The hummingbird would have probably grown up hearing stories of breaking boundaries, possibilities, boundlessness…….So, she showed up, trying to make a difference in the way she thought she could.
Growing up, the elephant would have listened to stories of helplessness and the greatness that reside in others, not in himself. So, he did not do anything, instead scoffed at someone who was trying to do something.
There are systems, including the system of education, which do their damn best to keep us small, ordinary and obedient.
Sometimes, life takes us through the pits of hell and we survive. Through such experiences we imbibe lessons nothing else can teach – that we have forces within that can help us surmount any challenge and we can cross the threshold of ordinariness to embrace new horizons.
We also read or listen to stories of how ordinary people became extraordinary. Some of those stories sink into our sub conscious and colour our experiences from then on. Like the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull I read, long ago.
I love this definition of heaven and perfection I found in Richard Bach’s classic.
“Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect…….You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”
Heaven is being perfect…. which means touching perfect speed and perfect speed means being there…..with presence and intensity.
And, being there, is to show up…. I inherit a part of heaven when I show up. Because it is in that space that I create.
Perfection is not an idea, it is action steeped in presence and intensity.
In my case, incomplete understanding stood in the way of my showing up for a long, long time. I thought I was not good enough. And I was afraid of showing up with my many vulnerabilities. It took me a long time to understand there is power in being vulnerable. And, being seen as I am, means knowing I am enough. Old learnings die hard but I am learning to show up these days, even though very gingerly.
I have often heard that the good is the enemy of the best. We do not aspire for the best in us because we feel we are happy and comfortable in our worlds as things are.
It is also true that the best is the enemy of the good. We do not venture to start with what is good enough because we are afraid of being seen imperfectly.
At some point, when I come face to face with the questions…..”Did I matter, did I make a difference…?” it will be easier to answer with a clean conscience if I showed up enough in my life.
Showing up can involve thousands of repetitive, boring steps like in running a marathon. Or it can be doing just one or two very simple things every day, repeated every day, like James Altucher suggests in this very nice post.
Showing up presupposes a sense of knowing what my goals are. Finding the purpose is important… the means will follow.
The essential thing is to believe in the purpose with all my heart, for, faint beliefs will end up in a whimper of action.
And, creating a very strong ritual of habits centred around my purposes ensures my desires do not hang in mid-air.
Keeping in touch with customers, knowing the staff at office, reading the pulse of the business by investing time on accounts, operations and marketing, writing regularly in my company and personal blogs, stretching physically through running, reading, making and keeping connections, preparing CTW, the weekly bulletin, staying in touch with my loved ones, taking care of Lola, giving myself a treat, social networking……….. there are so many areas to show up in. The list is long and overwhelming.
The rose plant blooms best when the gardener prunes it. May be I have to do some pruning. And then show up every day in the areas where my heart is.
The stories I tell myself will determine how, when and where I show up.
So, I will be inspired by stories – such as that of the hummingbird and Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
And thus stitch together the beads of my own story.
Whether it is a story worth telling would depend upon how I show up every minute of every day.