Following Your Heart And Finding Your Backbone

“See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

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As children, we were always taught that we had the power to make our dreams come true. The possibilities were limitless — as long as we wanted something badly enough, put in some effort and had a little faith, we would undoubtedly be able to obtain it. Our desires were merely a four -leaf clover, a penny in a fountain,  a wish upon a star away.

Innocent young creatures as we were, we felt entitled to our dreams. And why shouldn’t we? After all, we were nice enough to the other kids, did our best to behave and sometimes even ate our vegetables. Sprinkle on a little fairy dust and we were well on our way to accomplishing our goals.

Of course, as silly as this sounds, some of us have carried this philosophy into our adolescence and adult lives. Logically we know that no fairy godmother is about to wave her magic wand over us and make all of our hopes and dreams become a reality, and yet we still wind up waiting around for our lives to happen to us. We let our emotions get the best of us and meanwhile hope that the answers and solutions to our problems will find their way into our lives and work themselves out.

Sometimes, when we want something badly, we don’t think about it in the most rational way. Although I consider myself extremely goal-oriented and I have worked hard to achieve what I have, I will admit that I also have my struggles in certain areas, and that I have goals that I’ve been working on for years with no luck. This can get even a fairly optimistic person like me down. Such failed attempts at any task might make me and anyone else think, Oh, how unfair life is. Then, we blame our circumstances and wonder if our dreams will ever become our realities.

As I was reading Eat Pray Love this week (just finished today!), the above quote really struck a chord with me. Too many of us simply wish for things as if wishing is all we need to do, but then we forget to wish with our backbones, or really stand up for ourselves and do what needs to be done, as hard as that might be. Sometimes, we need to look within ourselves and find a strength we were lacking before, one that will guide us toward achieving our toughest goals and improving upon our weaknesses.

At the end of the memoir, author Elizabeth Gilbert wraps up her year of travels by discussing how she ended up with such a peaceful and happy new life. Now involved with a Brazilian ex-patriate who pledges his love to her, Gilbert writes, “I am happy and balanced. And yes, I cannot help but notice that I am sailing to this pretty little tropical island with my Brazilian lover. Which is — I admit it! — an almost ludicrous fairy-tale ending to this story, like the page out of some housewife’s dream… Yet what keeps me from dissolving right now into a complete fairy-tale shimmer is this solid truth, a truth which has veritably built my bones over the last few years — I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue.”

Too often we expect others to come to our rescue, or for timing to work itself out, or for all of our annoying little setbacks to disappear, but the truth remains that in order for us to see any real improvement in our lives, we have to slay our own dragons. A little help every so often is certainly appreciated from the ones we love and admire, but we have to rely fully on ourselves if we want to experience positive change. We can only live out our fairy tale endings if we muster the courage (find our backbone) to do something about them.

4 thoughts on “Following Your Heart And Finding Your Backbone

  1. Kalehli says:

    So true! Being at home reminded me why I left, everyone here seems to be waiting for their dragon-slayer to come along, and it’s normal here and no one thinks twice about it. Personally, I think I’m stuck somewhere in the middle of doing everything myself and waiting for someone to bippity-boppity-boo my life! Anyway, I loved this post! It was very thought-provoking in my opinion, and now I kinda want a boat and a tropical island at some point!

  2. Valerie says:

    Thank you so much! 🙂 I agree– I would love to sail off to some tropical island and be self-actualized and all that. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post!

  3. jgins says:

    Love this post, Val! Both you and your writing never cease to amaze me! You are so right that we have to rely fully on ourselves. Of course it’s always nice to have help from others but honestly, who else can we trust more than ourselves? It is essential to always take initiative!

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