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Scampering into the Fire Swamp to escape Prince Humperdink and his cronies…
Buttercup: “We’ll Never survive.”
Westley: “Nonsense. You’re only saying Never because no one ever has.”
“I will Never pay more than $___ for a house.”
“I will Never be able to swing a 14kg kettlebell without hurting myself.”
“I will Never get through all 12 weeks of this TRX Force program.”
“I Never thought it would turn out this way.”
As we all know (“’to blave’ means to bluff…” and holy cow, if you don’t know, please stop reading this instant and watch The Princess Bride!), Westley and Buttercup make it through the Fire Swamp, albeit with a few bumps and bruises. Despite Buttercup’s grim forecast, Westley leads her one step at a time: past the Flame Spurts, out of the lightning Sands, and in spite of the ROUSs, or Rodents Of Unusual Size. Having believed him dead, then being rescued by him from a trio of bandits, tumbling down a mountainside after him, and following him through the Swamp, Buttercup learns a critical lesson in overcoming passivity and nihilism. Okay maybe that’s a stretch, but whatever, this is my post.
We all have our Nevers. The ones above are just a few of mine. I spent more than I ever planned on my house and regret nothing. I can wing a 14kg kettlebell with confidence—I rather kick ass, if I do say so myself. I Never could have predicted my life looking this way—the good, the bad, the gorgeous, the ugly—and yet here I am. And it is, really, mostly good (as opposed to “mostly dead”). I’m starting to see possibility around the TRX thing, but I still think, I’ll believe it when I see it. No, actually, I look forward to it. On any given day of the program so far, I have thought, No.Way. It wants me to do what? I try anyway, just to see how far I will get, and lo, turns out I actually get through. So who knows what I can really do?
What helps us overcome our Nevers? In Buttercup’s case it was clearly Westley’s courage and love. For me, the kettlebells, and the TRX, it’s Melissa, my trainer. She has completed the program herself, she knows what’s required, and she knows what I can do—better than I know myself. As for the rest of my life, well, it’s everybody else—my family, friends, colleagues, mentors, patients, et al. I’ve said and written it ad nauseam—it’s my relationships that hold me up and save me. I have very few Nevers anymore, because I’m surrounded by people who give me the courage to try.
And, there is another important practice to overcoming the Nevers: Mindfulness, the practice of the Now. Never is about the future or the past. Often it’s a shadowy, catastrophizing perspective of things. But we cannot predict the future, despite our arrogant human certainty. And we cannot live every day to come based solely on what has already happened or not happened. Circumstances and attitudes change. Landscapes change—at times literally, and in an instant. We evolve, we learn, we grow. How can we be so sure that Never is real?
Mindfulness teaches us to redirect our attention to what actually is. It invites us to let go of what and how we think things should be, or will be, or were. We don’t have to like it, and we also need to be comfortable with, or at least accepting of, our dislikes. When we practice mindfulness, we slow down. We see and think more clearly. Anxiety and depression loosen their vice grips on us. Mindfulness liberates us from the constraints of Never.
We are better off thinking, speaking, and acting in the Now. It is the mindset of agency. This is what I know Now. This is what I can promise you Now. My sincerity is real Now, and I ask you to trust me. I will keep my eyes and ears open to the new Nows; I will roll with the punches. Westley makes no guarantees. He simply forges ahead with conviction, bringing with him all (and only) the knowledge, skills, and wit he has acquired until this moment, when he realizes the only way out of the Fire Swamp is through. He is present to the swamp’s dangers, and also to the potential tools available to him in this harsh environment. He has no idea what will happen, whether they will actually survive. He only refuses to accept the Never, and focuses like a laser on the Now.
There may be some things to which we can truly apply the word Never. I think we need to reserve it for the truly deserving statements, and leave the rest of our minds open to possibilities and growth.
Still, most of me thinks I will Never try bungee jumping…
I agree! I will ‘never’ try bungee jumping ….. and then again ‘never’ say never! 🙂
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Right! Teeheehee 😉
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