Friday, August 7, 2009

Seeds of Doubt

“Men are not prisoners of fate,
but only prisoners of their own mind.”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt
Proud Hummer © 2008 M. Johnson
Rumor has it I have the best sugar water in the Canyon. A little birdie told me so. That must be why Bad, Bad Red-Rufous Brown hoards that sweet stuff by chasing off—or dive bombing—other hummers as they refuel at the feeders. He’s a real bully.
I’ve already talked to him twice about his boorish behavior. The first time, I stood on the front porch, next to his favorite tree, and said, “Listen here, friend: I provide you with that delicious sugar water, and there’s plenty to go around. You don’t have to fight so hard for what you want. Have a little faith, dude. But if you keep this up, I promise you’re going to end up all alone without a friend in the world . . . What then?”
Lady Hummer © 2009 M. Johnson
Still, he continued to alienate himself—meaner than a junkyard dog—as he greedily guarded the feeders. Meanwhile, the other hummers organized themselves into factions and came back fighting, retaliating with games of intrigue and clever diversionary tactics, like chasing Mr. Rufous this way and that, steering him away from the feeders in small groups, while the other hummers drank in hurried shifts; trading off, two-by-two, until everyone had their fill.
Mr. Red-Rufous Brown © 2009 M. Johnson
But the next day he was back, more determined than ever, and he single-handedly chased the others away. That’s when I saw him, sitting all alone on the branch of an Aspen tree, rain pouring down on his little bird head; not a friend in sight. He looked so sad and pathetic; I couldn’t help but feel compassion for his greedy plight. I didn’t have to say a word. I just looked at him with a weary I-told-you-so sort of look that he seemed to understand.
I know, I know. Anthropomorphism is a funny thing—the way we project our human motivations onto our animal and winged friends. But I can’t help myself when I watch them in action. I’m fascinated by the patterns displayed in all of life.
After all, we aren’t so different from Mr. Rufous, are we? Consider the way that we, at times, grasp and hoard and jealously guard what’s “ours;” clinging to our treasures; afraid to share for fear that if we give it away (whatever “it” is—money, possessions, ideas) we might find ourselves without.
I’ve done it from time-to-time—operating from this fearful place—worried that I won’t get my fair share; doubting my ability to connect with my heart’s desires. At times, I’ve found myself holding back or, worse yet, questioning my voice: What could I possibly have to say that others want to hear? It doesn’t happen often but, when it does, I’m amazed at how quickly fear grows in a vulnerable heart.
Take my path as a writer, for instance. Having achieved a measure of success as a lawyer, I find myself floundering in foreign territory when it comes to writing and publishing and all that it entails. I log onto my Twitter account to discover a whole world of people sharing similar messages—many aspiring or published writers—all wanting to be heard and recognized for their uniqueness; some with elaborate websites and platforms and thousands of dedicated followers. I feel sick as I compare myself to them all, wondering if there’s room for me. Or I walk into a bookstore and find myself anxious among the hundreds of thousands of books stacked on tables and spilling from over-stuffed bookshelves, all vying for the readers’ attention, and I am overwhelmed by the realization that I couldn’t possibly read them all, much less compete with them. Or could I?  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
On such occasions, if I’m not careful, I can get myself so twisted up in doubt that I disconnect from that creative spark that led me to write in the first place. That’s when the fear kicks in and, suddenly, I feel the need to mark my territory; to defend my metaphorical sugar water, like Mr. Rufous Brown.
And it was on such an occasion that my friend told me the story of the Seed Planter, an old Moroccan tale passed down from his grandmother many years ago and translated here in my own words.
“Beware of the Seed Planter,” she said. “He will come to you when you’re worried or scared and whisper terrible things in your ear. He’ll tell you that you are not enough; that you’re not good enough; that you’ll never have—or be—enough. Do not listen to him! He will make you doubt everything you know in your heart to be true. Then you will need more, want more; you will never be happy with who you are and the gifts of your Creator. Like seeds planted deep in your soul, this kind of fear grows wild, poisoning your thoughts and stealing your happiness.”
No doubt, the Seed Planter had been whispering in my ear, and I knew he would come again. It’s the way of the human—we get stuck in our heads, dwelling in thoughts of lack and limitation. I don’t like how that feels. I want to thrive!
When I reflect on my life, I see that faith, hope and courage have long been arrows in my quiver, protecting me from doubt even when I couldn’t see the road ahead. Learning to be gentle with myself—an ongoing discipline—has helped me to look upon humanity with compassion, where I connect with the common thread—that all of us, in our deepest parts, just want to be loved and understood. This understanding allows our self-respect and faith in the process of life to deepen and grow; secret weapons in our battle with doubt.  Remember, our greatest, most heart-felt desires are there by design, and, like stars in the night sky, are there to guide us. We must never give up.
Take a look around. All of nature is abundant—the earth, flowers, trees, animals, the sun, moon and stars— always creating, ever-expanding, and life-enhancing. We are not forgotten.
What kind of seeds are you planting?
By Melissa Johnson


Jose Araujo said...

Dear Melissa, You write with Your heart. Every word writed in this story make us stop to reflect about our acts. We all should learn how plant the right seed,in the right place, not only put then over the earth. I like to think that the seeds that I`m planting, are the seeds of love, and You my friend, I know that it`s exactly what You are doing here! Congratulations for You Beautiful heart!

Melissa Johnson said...

Thank you Jose! Thank you for your continued support and thoughtful comments. Isn't technology great? That we have connected through our writing, you in Brazil and me in America; united by similar passions--amazing!

TR Hughes said...

Love the pictures of the hummers! You are so right...we have to consciously mind our thoughts. I think we've all had some experience with the seed planter whispering in our ears. Is it our own fear of failure or is it an outside chorus of society that leaves its' music for us to contemplate? I think it is certainly both - after all, our own inner thoughts are derived not only from spirit but also from how the world has left its' impression on our expectations. We must overcome and be true to our unlimited potential, accepting what is a societal standard of what is and is not attainable will never do. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, your story, and the awesome pictures.

Oscar Wright said...

Hi Melissa, just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your blog and your story and comments. There is so much to say about so much that you have written. Suffice it to say that you have that passion for living, for discovering, for discovering meaning. There is that whole profound issue about who we really are and what we are.

I teach tango in Rome through Zen but am originally from Austin. You'll have to come visit me and take a lesson and we'll talk about so many things...and dance which gives more lasting meaning to "being" than most things. I wish you well. Do come vist sometime. Rome is the most beautiful city in the world. The food and wine are fabulous. Here is my latest tango video

Shawn Flannagan said...

It takes a strong person to put there most intimate thoughts / fears out there like you have in this article. I think your vulnerability makes you available to your readers. It's good to know I'm not the only one who, as you say, battles with doubt. Great story. Thanks for sharing.