It’s been a rough year. From losing the dog in my life (I love you, Grace) in May, two days after her 16th birthday, to a summer filled with sad anniversaries and scary milestones, I’ve felt at times as through the universe was actively rooting against my happiness. Every time I turned around, there seemed to be a reminder of loss, of how I had failed to meet even the smallest expectations I had for my life. When was it going to change? What was it going to take for things to get better? I woke up each day in a battle with reality, and by each evening, felt as through I’d gotten my ass kicked.
Come fall, after the worst of the heat and hopelessness, I decided that I either had to completely give in to the negativity or fight it once more. As I often do when I’m not sure of the next step, I turned to a group of old friends. A few have been in my life for a long time, while others are new. I met some of them through random encounters; then there are those who I targeted and sought out for their unique wisdom. They have names like Wayne, Anthony, Napoleon, and Julia—my gurus, as I fondly refer to them. Over the course of our relationships, I have looked to them when times were tough, or when I knew that some kind of shakeup was needed to kick-start my life again.
If you aren’t a self-help aficionado, you may not recognize my friends. For while I wish I could say I actually know them, the truth is, I only know what I have read in their books. Books with inspiring titles like Unlimited Power, The Master Key to Riches, and Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. For many, many years, they have been giving advice, examples, and encouragement for those of us who sometimes need a bit of direction.
Here’s the thing. I’ve let these folks down, many, many times, whether by stopping halfway through their guidance or by making half-hearted efforts that I knew wasn’t enough. After each attempt, I would place them on the shelf and tell myself that it just wasn’t the right time. I’d come back when I was ready, when I had the strength to follow through. Inside, I wondered if I just didn’t have what it takes.
Like all writers, I’m on the constant lookout for stories to tell. Though I can come up with ideas, the thought of turning them into something real usually stops me in my tracks. How do I start? What happens next? Who will want to read this? The questions attack hard and fast, and generally knock me over before I can form a reply.
This time around, a wise friend (the real kind) had a suggestion. There were all these examples of people who took a goal and turned it into a documented quest. Like the home chef who cooked every recipe in Julia Child’s, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Why not, she suggested, take on my gurus’ challenges to live my best life, master my fears, and become rich in every sense of the word, and share my experiences with the world (or at least the audience I could manage to muster up)? At worst, it would get me writing regularly; at best, it could be the firm-footed start of a journey that I’ve been trying to take for 20 years.
This is where you find me: at the start of the long and winding road, the road less traveled, and all of those other magical paths I’ve heard about. I’m terrified to be making it public, even if only a few people ever actually read about it. But it’s time to restart the old engine and get out of the block. I picture myself on the edge of the sea—I wish I was the type to dive off a cliff and start swimming, but I’m really more the “hold your nose and jump in” type. Either way, I’m getting into the water, more than just up to my knees.
Since he fills me with the least angst, and seems most like the grandpa I wish I had, I’m beginning with Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. Wayne has a quiet, yet insistent voice that provides both safety and the gentle, but firm, push I need. My plan is to work through a chapter each week, with purpose and energy. I will do the assignments—I will accept his challenges. And I will record my thoughts and reactions as if I were both lab rat and scientist.
Let the adventure begin…