A friend of mine has dreamed of visiting Antarctica for as long as she can remember. When she became a mother, she dove head-first into mommy-land, leaving her own dreams to drown in the morass.
Several years ago, she met Robert Swan, the first explorer to reach both poles on foot, and he invited her to join his annual Antarctic expedition. Although she was happy about the invitation, her knee-jerk reaction was “No way”.
Robert Swan responded to her chain of excuses with “so what?” after “so what?” and eventually, she realized that all of her fears had been self-generated - In fact, her kids were old enough to be taken care of by her husband for a couple of weeks. In fact, she could arrange for someone to temporarily take over her duties at work. In fact, her poor eyesight would not impede her ability to have an enriching experience. She saw that her worries were immaterial and that she was responsible for living a meaningful life beyond her identity as a mother. And now she’s on her way to achieving her Antarctic Dream.
My friend’s story reminded me of an epiphany I had almost 2 years ago at a 10-day meditation retreat. As usual, the retreat was kicking my ass. For hours a day, I cursed the unbearable pain in my legs and back. Despite not really “doing anything”, I was exhausted, both physically and mentally.