Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.
In this week's TED talk, artist Phil Hansen reveals how his greatest limitation--permanent neurological damage that caused his hand to quiver and defeated his ability to create the pointillist pieces he so loved--evolved into his creative liberation. His advice? That we all should "embrace the shake," accepting our shortcomings and letting go of expectations.
My metaphorical shake began when I was 32 years old. Up until that time, I had enjoyed a pretty blessed existence. I had a loving middle-class family that sent me to great schools. I excelled as a student and involved myself in dozens of activities. I cultivated a large social circle. I was happy and successful. Whatever goal I aimed for, I achieved. I believed that with hard work and a positive attitude, anything is possible.
Rather than viewing my ego annihilation as a tragedy, I began to view it as a gift--perhaps the greatest gift of my life. -- MeiMei Fox
Then failure struck me down like a tree felled by a winter storm. My parents got divorced. My six-year marriage dissolved into a puddle of betrayal and misery, and I left all my possessions--including my dog--behind in LA. My father was convicted of a crime and placed under house arrest, his photo plastered on the front page of the local newspaper. All this happened within a matter of months.
Suddenly, I didn't know who I was anymore. All I had known was success. What could I claim as my identity now that these public humiliations had toppled me from my self-assured perch?
Like Phil Hansen with his uncontrollably jittery hand, I developed an uncontrollably jittery soul. Anxiety became my constant companion. I couldn't sleep without pills. Tears arrived from out of the blue, streaming down my face as I traveled through San Francisco on public transit. I longed to melt into the pavement like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Then, gradually, through the help of yoga, meditation, psychotherapy and wise friends, I learned to "embrace the shake." If my identity had been destroyed, then I had no choice but to build a new one. Rather than viewing my ego annihilation as a tragedy, I began to view it as a gift--perhaps the greatest gift of my life.
No longer was I confined to defining myself by a set of achievements: Stanford, McKinsey, published author, blah, blah, blah. I could re-invent myself in any way that I desired. And what I wanted to be was not a resume, but a human being of value and worth. Someone who makes a positive impact on the world. A person whose suffering has brought her wisdom. A woman known for her courage, compassion and wit. A spreader of the message of all the great spiritual leaders: That a fulfilling life is one lived with vulnerability, compassion, happiness and love.
As I came into my power with this new understanding of my purpose, I learned to love myself again. Not long after that, I met and married the love of my life.
I have let go of expectations. I no longer judge "success"--for myself or others--by what people do, but rather by who they are. I am more accepting of their flaws and of my own. My focus is on being rather than doing, on surrendering rather than controlling, on treasuring sweet moments here and now rather than striving to scale the next mountain peak in record time.
Now, when people ask me what I do, I say, "I am JOY champion!" Whether writing books and blogs, making films with my talented husband, life coaching others to realize their dreams, or just being, I strive to help people tap into the beauty and love that surrounds us as all the time, every single day. My "shake" has opened my eyes to the true meaning of life.
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