I hear voices. Not like in the movies. And I don't see dead people, but the voices are creepy and dangerous just the same. They speak to me in soft, familiar notes. They are the white noise to my everyday life. Disguised as old friends, the voices sidle up next to me and ask me to do unspeakable things, such as give up on my goals, forget my dreams and abandon my ambitions.
If I decide to move forward, they try to lull me into complacency, whispering sweet nothings "...Really? You're going to try that ? But why bother: everything is fine the way it is. Besides, you probably won't succeed anyway, so why trouble yourself?" They are the voices of self-doubt and I've spent a fair amount of my life trying to outrun, outpace and simply outsmart them.
Maybe you hear voices, too. Think back to the last thing you wanted to attempt outside of your comfort zone: a new job? Maybe it was a promotion. Could have been diet or lifestyle change. Perhaps a goal you've been dreaming about for a long time. When you reflect on it, did you move ahead full-force or did you give up before you started? Did the fear of failure prevent you from taking that first step or cause you to abandon your plans somewhere along the way? If you're like me, you have a fair amount of aborted attempts that appear as road kill in the rear view window of your life.
Why do we listen to those voices and why do we give them power? Life is full of therapists who can try to help you answer that question. Trust me; I know most of them. And yet, after all the years and dollars we spend on therapy and self-help books, it's really pretty simple. Stop listening to the voices that say, "You can't." And start saying, "I can."
Wouldn't life be more fulfilling if we could pursue our passions, dreams and goals without the fear of failure, defeat or discomfort? Would we not enjoy a social engagement more if we were able to push aside our fears so we could break out of our shells and strike up a conversation with an interesting stranger? I think we'd hold our heads a little higher and walk a little straighter into that interview if we thought we had just as much chance as the next guy or gal to get the job; or maybe even a better chance! Pretend every day is Halloween and do something that scares you just a little bit.
This Sunday, I will be among 40,000-plus runners in the New York City Marathon. One year ago, I never ran more than 30 minutes on the treadmill. I was afraid to consider attempting such an event because I assumed I couldn't do it because thats what those voices told me. I put my name in the lottery to gain entry to the Marathon one year ago because it represented more than a race or an experience. To me, this is for all the things I've been talked out of by those crazy voices in my head; for all the experiences I missed in life because I was afraid.
It's for the people I never met, the jobs I never applied for, the games I didn't participate in, the highs and lows the come with living out loud and without regret. This race is for all of that and whether I finish or have to be carried off on a stretcher, I will always know that I tried. I'll remember that this is one time those little voices in my head did not talk me out of missing something I wanted to do. For all those reasons and for everyone who gives those voices power over their dreams, this race is for me -- and for you.
On Sunday, my number will be 54078. What is your number, and what will you do with it?
Editor's note: Fairfield resident Linda Soper-Kolton is the owner and chef of GreenGourmetToG o,a vegetarian catering and educational center in Bridgeport.
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