Excerpt From Part I: Beauty Within

The Burning Ship

 

On the journey to becoming our better selves, there is always a risk. In essence we are leaving behind the only way we have ever known, however self-destructive it may be. The best analogy I could use here is a burning ship.

Negative thoughts have a way of gaining momentum like a fire stoked by a fiercely moving wind until they quickly surround us with smoke so thick it is hard for us to see through the haze. No matter how much others love us, how many admire us, or how successful our lives may be, we find it harder and harder to breathe.

Trapped on the burning ship that is our inner self, the only way to escape the engulfment is to jump into the water waiting below. The choice to jump can stem from a variety of reasons. It could be a life-changing illness, a divorce from an unhappy marriage, or simply waking up to the fact that we want more for ourselves. Tentatively, we cross the deck and are ready to take the leap. Then, screaming from the abyss of our souls, we take the leap off the ship and land safely into the cool, refreshing waters.

Relieved, we feel the intense sensation of a new start, a new beginning. Happily we laugh as ripples of freedom break through the surface of the water with our every movement. And then the inevitable happens.

We look to the shore and suddenly realize how far away it is. Can we swim that far?

Panic sets in.

We look back at the burning ship and begin to desperately rationalize. Maybe if we splash water on the deck, the flames will retreat and it won’t be so bad. Sure, the boat isn’t in the best condition, but maybe, just maybe, despite all the holes, it will still make it to shore.

Change can bring a sense of vulnerability to anyone experiencing it. It can be very frightening to step out into new waters. Instinctively, we retreat to what makes us feel safe and secure even if it’s a burning ship. Then without realizing it we, like the burning ship, sink back into the same negative patterns of the past. We try to reassure ourselves that it wouldn’t have worked out anyway, but in truth we never know because we were too scared to venture beyond our fear.

As you work to better yourself both internally and externally, you may feel the fear that often accompanies change. Like many before you, you will see the distance to the shore and look back to the burning ship. This is a natural reaction that does not indicate weakness.

But instead of returning, you have to make the conscious decision to swim away from the burning ship. With each stroke you will fight the currents of doubt, and each kick will strengthen you and propel you toward your goal. You will tire as everyone inevitably does. But instead of letting yourself sink into the depths of naysayers, float on your back and rest for a bit. Let the waves of hope and the belief in yourself carry you toward shore. And when you are rested and feel strong again, roll over and start to swim again, and don’t stop the journey until you reach the shore.

There have been many burning ships in my life from which I have been forced to jump—bad relationships, dead-end jobs, and self-destructive behavior, to name an attractive few.

And because I have the tendency to be stubborn, I have experienced the pain of repeat voyages. How did I learn to stop setting my ships on fire? I began to look for the warning signs. There is always smoke before the flames. When you smell the smoke...