The Universe is a relentlessly uncooperative negotiation partner. For years I tried to make a deal—I would lead a small life if the Universe would eliminate fear from my experience. But over and over it places amazing people and ideas and opportunities in my path. Naturally, when something wonderful comes my way I get excited, tell my friends, read books, take classes. I talk with people who are doing what I aspire to do, make plans and decisions, and feel thoroughly alive. Obstacles are inevitable and I tackle them with skill and determination. I allow myself to imagine enormous success.
Eventually the voice of the saboteur emerges to thwart the wily Universe. The voice asks if what I’m doing really matters. You know, in the big picture why bother? It tells me that no one in my family has ever succeeded at anything important and it’s unlikely that I’ll be the first. It suggests that my friends’ question, “How’s your work going?” is code for, “Hey, why aren’t you making more progress?” Suddenly even small problems overwhelm me and I wake in the middle of the night feeling a lead weight on my chest. I look at my life and I all I can see are the places where I’ve let myself down.
Experience tells me that giving up now will cause less pain than failing later so I stop following up on plans and commitments, I ignore encouragement and offers of help, and I hide my best ideas in a notebook no one else will ever see.
Why doesn’t the Universe grow bored with my continuous efforts at sabotage and just agreed to my terms? In despair and frustration, I look up antonyms for sabotage to see if they reveal the Universe’s motivation. I find the words faithfulness, devotion, and loyalty. This stops me in my tracks as none of these words describe my relationship to myself. I am not faithful to my own desires. I do not devote myself to my own happiness. I offer no loyalty to my dreams. Too many reasons, too many stories but this sudden awareness of my own lack commitment to myself allows me to face the most uncomfortable question:
Can I forgive myself for fixating on failures so that they dominate me, terrify me, and paralyze me?
With trepidation I offer to change the terms of our negotiation. I’m going to look fear in the face, acknowledge it as it passes through me, and continue on the path of faith, devotion, and loyalty the Universe has set before me.