by Stephanie Cowell
I was under three years old when I had my first sinking feeling that I did not quite measure up to what I was supposed to be. There was a sadness in my tummy as I lowered my eyes. My world was full of tall, magnificent people who knew a great many things. How would I ever become like that?
My family moved a lot so I attended nine schools in twelve years, trying to find where I fit in. I was always the new girl who couldn’t be considered for so many things because she was new. I carried the feeling inside me that other people were smarter, prettier, more successful, easily got dates for the prom and were definitely more worthy. They learned French verbs quicker. They had some secret that I was clueless to grasp about how to manifest improved versions of themselves everyday while I sort of limped along with my old one.
Many years have passed yet every once in a while I realize I still harbor within me the conviction that if I could somehow find the right button, I would become who I was really supposed to be: this person and novelist who writes more and better books and never forgets to call her sister. And I know when I’m thinking like that because I get more and more tense, and my yoga teacher has to remind me not to hold my shoulders so tightly.
There are certain movies I watch repeatedly and one of them is Chariots of Fire. In it, the young minister who is also a great runner says, “I believe God made me for a purpose.” I was also reading the New Testament the other day and came across the part where it speaks of God making you for one thing and not another. I took a deep breath and said, “Well, this is how I am. He made me as He wants me so I guess I’m ok.” In those moments, I have the grace to stop looking for my upgrade and just be myself, doing the best I can.
I read a wonderful exercise in a yoga magazine some years ago and lost the issue (if I were the upgraded me, would I do that?). This is how I remember it. You breathe in and think, “What I have is enough.” You breathe out thinking, “What I do is enough.” You breathe in with, “What I give is enough,” and breathe out with, “What I am is enough.”
The little exercise is worth so much more than trying to find the improved version of myself and when I do it two or three times, I don’t even care to look for that upgrade. I am just happy to go about my life doing the best I can and knowing that those tall and beautiful people I saw when I was three years old were also trying to do just that.
Historical novelist Stephanie Cowell is the author of Nicholas Cooke, The Physician of London, The Players: a novel of the young Shakespeare, Claude & Camille: a novel of Monet and Marrying Mozart. She is the recipient of the American Book Award. Her work has been translated into nine languages. Her website is http://www.stephaniecowell.com She is an Episcopalian, a yoga student and a reiki master.