In Learning to Listen

I have always loved maps. As a young boy I would stare at them, imagining where they could take me. Unknown places on a map brought out excitement in me. They still do.

My favorite ones show sea monsters or the oceans pouring over the edges of the world. My parents had an old world map hanging in our living room when I was growing up. I believe inside each of us is a map of our own inner world with people, places, ideas and experiences comprising the known lands and seas.

But what about the uncharted places? Those places that deep down you yearn to explore and discover about who you truly are and what you can become. Too often your boat is moored as you gaze out at what could be. Your mind filled with excuses and reasons why you can’t set sail.

Sometimes it feels as though my inner map looks much the same as the old maps. While It may not be filled with sea monsters, my imagination conjures equally powerful images to stop me from exploring the unknown living inside me. Forces like anxiety from uncertainty, revealing an idea that I’ve been thinking about for a long time that I’m embarrassed to talk about, a change that I wish to make that others might not understand, taking a risk that doesn’t make “good” financial sense or the siren call of a safe harbor that is in fact more of a hiding place. What stops you from exploring?

As if shaking a clinched hand up towards the sky, I become angry with whoever or whatever is responsible for this human design flaw that drives me to live a safe and lesser life. I seem to blame the gods, stars or fate for this cursed state.

This fist shaking is an exercise in futility. I must be my own Magellan, sailing through my unknown waters. When I finally do set sail, I find time after time that my anxieties were no more real than the sea monsters of those old maps I love so much.

But no matter how many times I come to the edges of my known world, I still hesitate, wondering what lies ahead.

How do you set sail when when uncertainty tell you to stay put? The answer is different for each of us. For me, it’s companions. A long time friend, my significant other, a family member, perhaps someone I’ve just met. Knowing that another person has faith in me and my ideas is how I get past my sea monsters. How do you get past yours?

The following is a poem I wrote several years ago when I found myself in a place of anxiety and uncertainty seemingly unable to move forward in my uncharted waters. I hope it helps you set sail for yours.


The Line

It’s time to start
And cross this line
Of the race
I am running

It seems that
I have crossed so many
When will I run free
With nothing holding me back?

So many starts
So many stops
I find
Along the way

Filled with excitement
Running this day
Gripped in fear
Frozen motionless the next

Why does the unknown
Have such Herculean strength
Swaying back and forth
With in me?

Paralyzed by what I can’t see
Imagining only the worst
I stop
Seemingly unable to move

Fear, pride?
I don’t want to
Be a fool

I know the truth
That lives
Inside of me
waiting to break free

What am I waiting for
The uncertainty to go away?
That does not happen
No matter what I do

I take the truths
Of who I am
And who I can be
Place it as a star before me

I pick up my feet
And move them one step at a time
It is the only way
I ever cross the line.




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  • Katherine

    Great poem.

  • Samantha

    Consistently thought-provoking, insightful and motivational which prompts me to continually fight complacency and be introspective. Truly appreciated!

    • Jim Dwyer

      Thank you very much Samantha.

  • Jim Dwyer

    Thank you Katherine.

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