I Will Not Fear Failure, And Choose To Achieve Greatness.
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” ~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
I am not a manifester. I am not one who wields her wishes, whispers to the winds, and walks in bountiful abundance.
I grew up in a town that lived The Secret before there was The Secret; my workplace facilitates countless workshops to that effect, and runs a business because of its potency, and yet, this is not the way for all of us.
I wanted to be married once. We lived an ocean apart. Counting the days until my return and our reunion, 12 days before my return, there was an accident. Then I wished, I prayed, I willed upon my knees for a speedy recovery, for my plan to unfold as intended, for my one wish to come true. Eight days before my return, he died.
While I could assume the role of victim, and begin to regale you with many more stories like this, I will stay with this one because it changed my life. Death humbled me, forced me to look at my beliefs, my values, my fears, and brought me to the Buddhist path which has beautifully framed my experience, and taught me about groundlessness:
There is no ground, nothing is promised, and the places we think we are in control, it turns out, we aren’t. And then if we control an outcome and get what we want, we still want for something else, the next want, and the next, consuming our wants and never filling the void.
So thoroughly humbled by life, by loss, by growing up female, by my birth into an alcoholic and drug-addicted family, I learned (mostly) not to want. This is good, as above, for staying humble, for staying grateful, for staying present. Unfortunately, it is also good for staying small, and staying in survival mode.
In December 2014 I nearly ended my life. Saturn arrived, and I hadn’t done my homework. The world was collapsing around me, my concepts were disintegrating, loss was all around, and the depression I’d worked through with mindfulness and other contemplative practices felt too much to endure.
Survival mode taught me not to plan, not to dream, not to wish — and hey, the times I made exceptions to that rule, I was denied at best and face-down-in-the-mud-humbled at worst. So when Saturn beckoned about commitment and creating a life I could care about, I damn near folded.
WHAT DO I WANT? WHAT DO I WANT TO DO WITH MYSELF? WHAT WILL I DO WITH MYSELF? HOW WILL MY LIFE MATTER? HOW CAN I BE OF SERVICE? WHERE DO I WANT TO LIVE? WHERE DO I WANT TO WORK? WHAT DO I WANT TO DO FOR WORK? WHAT DO I WANT TO DO IN MY LOVE LIFE? ALL BIG QUESTIONS, ALL CAPS LOCK.
They were big, looming questions, and for someone who wouldn’t dream, and who was completely paralyzed by trying to conjure want, they were nearly fatal. A wise friend and colleague asked me how I wanted to feel, and to start there.
It was a helpful meditation, but brought me to some similar snags; I assumed the position, I cleared my mind, and explored how I wanted to feel.
I noticed the mental chatter about how fickle I am, and decided rather than to judge so sternly, to inquire, openly, about how my feelings change, what makes those changes happen, how what feels good shifts so often for me. I came to the conclusion that like all sentient beings, I am drawn to pleasure, and repelled by pain.
This felt assuring in a way, but ultimately triggered more feelings of work to do.
And then I came to it. Okay, I am in the push/pull of duality. I understand this to be the root of suffering, but I’m neither enlightened, nor ready to abandon determining necessary logistical steps to make my life feel meaningful, compassionate, and of service on the planet.
So, if in my aqueous nature, I am bound to change; if in my non-manifesting nature, I cannot have complete vision/clarity/commitment to a set course, could I be willing to explore the options? Maybe I can’t say in finite or linear terms that I will go to grad school, marry so-and-so, get X job, but that doesn’t have to mean I’m lost at sea.
What am I willing to try? What am I willing to acknowledge needing? What am I willing to risk? What am I willing to dream? Where am I willing to make mistakes? What am I willing to create? What am I willing to change? What am I willing to let go of? And, am I willing to live my life as if I am precious and worthy?
And so I arrived at the place of feeling sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was no longer willing to continue as I was. Even if I was there for fear, for guilt, for shame, for lack of inertia. That decision brought me back into dynamic and relationship with life: neither master of it, nor victim to it. I am co-creator, I am flexible, I am curious, I am willing.
I told myself: I will not fear failure, and thereby paralyze myself by trying to control outcomes. I will not just trudge through. I am willing to actively create and pursue a life of meaning, in whatever form that takes each day.
I am willing to use my abilities to adapt, not to numb and hold a pattern, but to move with change.
I am willing to trust myself, that my gut will chime in when something is way off, and I will course-correct as needed, since I have proven thus far that I can survive, pick up the pieces, and carry on.
I am willing to open myself to whatever visions come to me, that I will meet them with courage, curiosity, and flexibility.
At the moment, I’ve got some ideas for all of those willing questions, even if I can’t answer any of the wants, and for now, that feels perfectly in tune. I might not force my will but I can celebrate life in the process of cultivating it.
I might not have been born great or been thrust into great, but I am willing to welcome the unfolding, and choose to work to achieve greatness.
Jacqueline Lieske has been writing poetry and prose since age 9. After meeting and receiving encouragement from Lawrence Ferlinghetti at age 11, she coined ‘coolical’, and believed this to be the pinnacle of poetic license. Raised in a hippie town, her rebellious phase entailed stifling her voice and individuality. After finding dharma, and working for several spiritual non-profits, her passion for expression was reawakened. Just JQ is the alias for her personal blog where readers across the globe share in her journey, process, and grounded spirituality. Jacqueline writes and resides in the beautiful Hudson Valley.