Recently I watched a fascinating documentary on elephants. There was an alarming escalation of elephants rampaging through Indian villages, trampling people to death. Generally speaking, elephants are peaceful, but something was changing them, and this filmmaker was seeking to unravel the mystery. He was able to trace back the beginnings of most of these rogue elephants, and what he found was striking. All had witnessed their mothers being murdered by a poacher when they were babies, and that seemed to have imprinted violence onto them. (There’s your proof that elephants do indeed have a long memory.)
Sometimes it just came down to the fact that an elephant had endured years and years of torture by it’s trainer/captor, and finally snapped one day. Aside from the heartbreaking subject matter, what really struck me was how these abusive captors kept the elephants from running away – they simply tied a thin string around the elephant’s foot. Of course an elephant could easily break this string, but he doesn’t believe he can. You see, the sad truth is when the elephants are babies, the trainer keeps them chained by the foot. The elephant is beaten into submission and can’t get away. After a while, he stops trying. He becomes so conditioned to his captivity that a simple string tied around his foot makes him believe he is powerless.
I thought long and hard about that. I think the people who end up going on murderous rampages are the ones who could never break those strings. And aren’t we all, in some way, living with a string tied around our foot? I mean, for the majority of my adult life I lived with the limitations imposed on me in my childhood. My childhood no longer exists, my circumstances are completely different, but I was still attached by that string. I believed I was powerless, that I didn’t have a right to speak up, that I wasn’t a deserving person. Thanks to a good therapist, and the support of my husband and friends, I sawed through that string…but it wasn’t easy.
Still, other strings remain. A biggie is fear of failure. Right now I am standing on the precipice of so much possibility … but I’m afraid to jump. I’ve finished my book and am about to start sending it out into the big wide world, and I have some other things in the works, things that are new and therefore scary. I’m having nightmares every night, giant snakes swallowing my ponies of optimism, ants invading my body, and, strangely, Cameron Diaz stealing my jewelry (have no idea what that was about). I don’t know why I should fear failure, I mean, I’ve failed fantastically in the past….many times. I failed to the point of bankruptcy, and I’m still here. So what’s the big deal? I might fail? Who cares.
God, it’s like when I was watching that documentary and I’m screaming at the elephant through the TV screen…just RUN! And then I imagined him looking back at me with a bubble over his head: Look who’s talkin’!