Here Is the Scene
You and all the people in your little universe, known and unknown, important and unimportant, treading along together, bumping into one another, trying to make it.
Climbing over little barriers, getting to the other side only to find a new obstacle waiting. Taking a rest. Breathing. Giving up for a while. Then summoning your strength and climbing over that one too.
And you chat, you wave, you smile, you have relationships, you have random conversations, you buy somebody a coffee, you delete a voicemail, you take a ring off or put one on, you change along with the people near you, the people making up this little universe you’re in.
All of you encountering and affecting each other, thoughtlessly most of the time, all of you doing your best to get somewhere, to do something, to matter, to be significant.
Most of you with no clue how to do it.
So you all keep finding these small obstacles and climbing over them.
Sometimes you help each other up, and sometimes you stand and watch, and sometimes you laugh and point, and sometimes — you’re ashamed of this, but you know it’s true — sometimes you pull each other down.
Here Are the Rules
This has been your life, up to this point.
You, moving around with all these other people, in your portion of reality.
You could think of it like a gigantic chessboard. It’s huge, and filled with plenty of obstacles, challenges, sources of entertainment, ways to find meaning or fulfillment. And rules. Plenty of rules that tell you how we do things here.
Rules that define winning and losing.
Rules that tell you what’s accepted and what isn’t.
Rules that have been accepted, and followed, and are now so ingrained that no one even remembers where they came from.
No one asks.
You have followed along, competed, won and lost, worked and loved, but along the way (you don’t really remember when), you noticed something that nobody else seemed to notice.
Here Is the Edge
The edge of the chessboard.
The edge of normal.
It scared you, then, and you backed away, and hurried to find something to get involved in, and managed to spend many months and years of your life not looking over at the edge again.
Why would you?
You have everything you need here.
This, the here-and-now, these people, this life, these pursuits: this is what matters. What else could there be out there that anyone would want?
You won and lost a little more, worked and loved, maybe hated, maybe failed, maybe got hurt in a way that was so deep it sent you reeling, spiraling, running. And when you stopped running and looked, you saw it again.
Right there, not so far now. You could see it, the line, but you couldn’t see anything beyond it. All misty, gray. A haze.
Here Are the Stories
You didn’t go any closer, but this time? You didn’t run away, either.
You camped out there, within sight of the edge. You sat there at night looking at it, wondering. A few of the people hanging out with you there noticed it too.
They had different stories.
One said, “It’s the sure way to paradise, man, right there,” but he would never go all the way to it. When you asked him why, he said, “Oh, it’s not for me, man. Not for folks like me. This is my world, right here.”
One said, “It’s not real. It’s just an illusion, so we waste our time on that instead of on what’s right in front of us. Forget it. It’s nothing.”
One said, “It’s evil, pure evil. This is the world we have, this is the way to live, this is everything we need right here.” She seemed really certain. “Anything else is just there to tempt you away from your mission,” she said. “Forget it. Focus on what you have, what is right.”
One said, “I really want to get closer and check it out, just see what it’s all about, what’s over there, but… my partner doesn’t want to. And I love them. So, maybe some other time, I guess…”
Nobody got any closer.
You won and lost, you worked and loved, and then you noticed something: you were getting closer.
Every night, when you sat down to look at the edge, you moved a step closer. And every morning, when you got up, you stayed that much closer.
Soon you couldn’t hear the other voices. They were just a little too far away.
But you could glance back and see their faces: some laughing, some questioning, some angry, most ignoring you.
Here Are the Watchers
Now you’re here.
Right at the edge.
And this is where I see you, and I want to tell you what I see.
You’re at the edge of normal, and you’re terrified to take that step. You’re on the edge of your comfort zone, your known universe, and you have no idea what waits for you.
You’re pretty sure about one thing: whatever it is, waiting, out there? You can’t handle it. How could you?
You haven’t trained, or prepared; you’re not important or special; you’re just like the rest.
Maybe you should go back to the rest. You weren’t even unhappy, really. Why are you here?
You shiver. You hesitate. You’re miserable. You don’t want to go back, but you’re terrified to go forward. Terrified to face what’s out there. Terrified to be alone. Terrified to try only to find it doesn’t matter, or only to find that you’re destined to fail.
I see something behind you, something you don’t see: all those faces, all those voices. It may seem like they’re mocking, or ignoring. Some of them are.
But amidst those are the others.
That girl who’s watching you, willing you to show her that someone is brave enough to take a risk… even a risk on her.
That guy who’s peeking out from behind his macho act, knowing how you feel, because he stood there once and he turned back, and he’s dying inside, and he’s hoping you’ll do it, move forward, because maybe that will give him the courage to try again.
That kid who has never felt like she fit in anywhere, here, but everyone told her to just make the best of it…
That old man who spend his whole life staring at the edge but never moved any closer, because he had responsibilities… a family… a duty… And now he’s alone with his unmade choices.
These, and a thousand more, are watching your every move.
Willing you, wishing you, to show them the boldness they don’t have just yet.
Willing you, wishing you, hoping you will move forward and take that step they want to take.
Show them it’s possible.
Show them it’s real.
Show them it can be done.
Here Is the Fear
Fear is the great enemy of life. And fear whispers to everyone on the board:
Don’t make the wrong move or it will all be over!
Fear is the master of the worst-case scenario. Fear tells you all the potentiality for failure, for pain, for disgrace, for sorrow.
You’ll notice fear never, ever mentions the potentiality for success, for hope, for glory, for love, for meaning.
But if there is a potential to fail — and yes, there always is — there is also a potential to risk it and succeed. To do something that matters. To achieve something that has been waiting in your heart for so many dark years now.
If there is a potential for pain — and yes, there always is — there is also a potential for peace, for freedom from the constraints and constructs, from the rules and impositions, from the mediocre and the mundane.
Life is a risk.
Fear’s greatest lie is that you can be safe. You can’t. You’re never safe. The risk is always there.
You just buy into the lie that if you do things right, if you don’t risk much, if you follow the rules, if you play the game, then you won’t lose too much. You’ll avoid the pain.
But the truth is that by choosing to risk so very little, you get to live only a very little.
You trade in your ability, your power, for a mythical feeling, a temporary security, a white-washed, beautifully decorated, and comfortable holding cell.
And in that cell? That square of the chessboard? That place that we call normal, acceptable, safe? You find yourself side-by-side with the pain you’ve traded your freedom to avoid. You can cover it up, sometimes. You can amuse yourself. You can get busy, really busy.
But you can never quite escape it.
Here Is the Choice
The only way to escape the pain is to risk more of it.
To walk up to the thing you fear, knowing that you are inadequate, inept, unable, and face it anyway.
To take on that challenge that makes you quake inside, and conquer it anyway… or at least spend your life trying.
To gulp in one last huge breath of air, and jump off the edge of normal,