What is it about us humans that even when we’re not happy or fulfilled, we’d rather stay stuck where we are than undertake the efforts we know, or at least believe, can lead to a more rewarding life? Sound familiar? Sure: You’re human!
I’m an astrologer and shaman in Bradenton, in Southwest Florida, but in my other life as a journalist, I recently interviewed an amazing 50-something writer, wife and mother.* Okay, she’s an Aries with three other planets in Aries, including butt-kicking Mars, so being a risk-taker and trailblazer comes a little easier to her. But in the previous year, she challenged herself to become a good enough ballet dancer to perform onstage with her local professional troupe in Oregon. Oh, and she hadn’t danced since she was nine years old.
But she pushed herself—hard—taking dance lessons and a slew of other training classes to get back in shape, and not just “shape,” but ballet-shape! On top of the physical agony, she had to face a host of personal demons, including self-doubt, defeat and at times a crippling lack of self-confidence. And somehow, amazingly, she did it! Being up onstage in a stunning costume, dancing her all-time favorite ballet, The Nutcracker, was a highlight of her life. A huge part of what made it so rewarding was how hard she worked for it. (Think “no pain, no gain” on steroids.)
In our interview, I commented, “Yeah well, you’re an Aries! Other signs—er, people—may not have your willpower or fearlessness. For them, pushing themselves is just more of the thing they hate and avoid more than anything in life. Why should they even bother?”
Her response has stayed with me ever since, and it’s something I have repeated on several occasions to friends and astrology clients when they tell me they’re struggling with accepting change or trying to get unstuck in their lives. The reason to push yourself when you don’t have to is, she said, is because one day, soon or later, you’re going to be faced with something very, very challenging; something you’re not going to want to do but your life may literally depend on it. And the more accustomed you are to getting out there and being strong and pushing past what you consider your limit, the better equipped you’re going to be when the you-know-what hits the fan.
I think about elite athletes, who push themselves on any given day harder than most of us will in a lifetime. I have so bottomless respect for people who on a daily basis struggle with physical, mental or emotional handicaps and refuse to give in. These people are my inspiration. Character isn’t about the hand you’re dealt; it’s about what you do with those cards. Refusing to accept a lousy deal and fighting for what you want and deserve is, yes hard, but it’s the one of the most amazing attributes to being human.
Change sucks—sort of. On the surface, in the moment, yeah, it’s hard. But the better we get at accepting it and making the most of it and, dare I say it, embracing it, the stronger we will become. Change is a vehicle. ’Cause sometimes the only way past something is through it. Even if we never dance the Nutcracker, we can come a little closer to living our dream.
* Want a great, motivational read? I highly recommend Lauren Kessler’s Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts & My Midlife Quest to Dance the Nutcracker.