Who knew a walleyed pike could be so down-right inspirational?
But there I was, sitting in church on Sunday, goofing off with my friend, Katie, giggling about how our friend, Julie's, unborn baby nearly leaped out of her belly upon hearing the blare of a trumpet that was accompanying the Men's Choir in their rendition of "America The Beautiful."
Pastor Lee had just begun digging into his sermon, and Katie, Julie and I were finally settling down to give it a listen. He was referring to a study that some scientist at some university or something (Pastor Lee was much better about properly referencing his references) had conducted on walleyed pike and minnows.
They had put a piece of glass between the minnows and walleyes, he explained. The walleyes would bang and smash themselves against the glass, trying to eat those minnows, to no avail.
Eventually, they simply stopped trying.
At that time, the scientists removed the glass partition so that all the fish were swimming together again. But the walleyed pike wouldn't try to eat the minnows anymore. They had been conditioned to think there was no way they could get to them. Even when the little fish bumped right into the mouth of a walleye, the predator would just swim on, ignoring the prey.
The sciency part of my brain was fascinated. Wow!, I thought, it's so interesting how the conditioning process can work on animals.
Then Pastor Lee went on, "Those walleyed pike would rather starve to death than even try one more time to eat a minnow it thought it had no hope in catching."
For a second, my breath stopped. In that breathless moment an electric thought flashed through the less-sciency, more spiritual side of my brain - Hadn't I been just like that? Willing to let my soul starve rather than take the risk?
My lungs became operational again as Pastor Lee was sharing another story, this time about a goldfish who had spent it's life in a fishbowl. The owner, one day, decided to set it free and dumped it into a river. However, the little orange fish had been so conditioned to do nothing but swim in circles, it remained swimming in a circle around a rock, up until a bigger fish came along and ate it.
(I'm gonna take a guess that it was one of the walleyed pikes from the earlier story. Having given up on minnows, the poor guy must've been ecstatic to find such an easy lunch!)
The sermon was pointing out that most of us have been conditioned - because of previous experiences with loved ones and bullies, teachers and bosses, failures and losses - to simply stop trying. That we have a whole ocean surrounding us, yet we still swim in circles, our fears and anxiety becoming the glass bowl that we have conditioned ourselves into seeing.
This particular sermon struck me because it so encapsulated the progress I have made over the past year in dealing with my own fears and negativities, all produced within the confines of my head. I'm not really sure how a woman can be surrounded by so many supportive friends and family, and still have such a strong voice in her head, sometimes whispering, sometimes screaming, that such-and-such idea is absolutely not going to work, so don't even bother trying.
"I miss reading your posts," I would hear from a friend or a cousin every once in a while, "they always made me laugh!"
I have a running list of fears regarding my writing. Basic stuff, like nobody will like it (or worse, TELL me how much they don't like it!), to issues about being more vulnerable with my readers. But would you like to know what is at the top of my Most Silliest Fears Ever?
#1 Most Silliest Fear EVER
* I will stop being funny and have nothing left to write about.
No lie! That is one of my biggest fears! That if I really write whatever hysterical post I've dreamed up.... and it turns out to be the funniest post that has ever been written in the entire history of the blogosphere.... that I will suddenly be struck dumb and have no inspiration to follow up with.... letting the millions and millions of untold readers who were waiting for the next equally funny writing... leading me to devastation and ruin!
WAIT! What?!?? Devastation? And RUIN???? Sometimes, I am just ridiculous.
Which was what I finally realized in the ongoing course of overcoming my fears. I told that nasty little voice in my head that if I suddenly never write another word again, I would rather know that I tried and that I made at least a few people chuckle before the well dried up.
After that, I reminded aforementioned Nasty Voice that I am no longer listening to it anymore, and that I will be putting my faith in God*. If God wants me to write, then that is what I will do. And if He decides to pull the plug on the whole thing, well, that's fine, too. Perhaps I will be a dog walker instead.
(Although I do hate to disappoint those "millions and millions" of fans that I will have by then, but, hey, maybe some of them will have dogs that need walking!)
In this past year I feel like I have never seen my own fishbowl so clearly. And not only do I SEE my fishbowl, I actually see what is beyond the glass. This very post, for instance, puts me WELL outside of my fishbowl, my comfort zone.
What about you? What is outside of your fishbowl? What have you had a nagging urge to do, or be, or see, but stopped yourself for reasons you're not even really sure of? I would love to hear them! (And you can leave anonymous comments, if you'd like!)
*My spiritual, New Age-y Dad would frequently tell my sister and I, during one of his many spiritual-type talks, "I don't care if you wanna call it God, or The Universe, or a Great Big Tree, it's all the same thing." So whatever term you want to use for God, it's alright with me!