After The Alchemist…

It’s been more than a decade since I first read my book club’s selection for this month. And as I re-read The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, I was pulled back to what it had done for me when I read it the first time. It’s a wonderful story of a shepherd boy who goes in search of treasure only to find …. Well, I will leave it at that in the hopes that you may want to read it too.

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I remembered, as I turned the pages, how truly inspired I had been by its’ message years ago. I also recalled the promise I’d made after finishing it, never to lose sight of the artistic path I longed to follow and never, ever to forget to listen to the messages the universe delivered.

Back then, after the first reading, I was so moved that I bought several copies and gave them out to a few carefully selected friends. Friends I had met (much like the shepherd boy had in the story) who carried messages to me through the Language of the World. Friends I was certain would “get it” the way I had. Friends who shared my longing to “follow our bliss” thanks to Joseph Campbell’s writings, and who would understand about paying attention to the omens along life’s path because we’d experienced a few together.

This time while reading, I felt a tug so absolute that I had to put the book down a few times to ponder. The tug was a longing to get back that feeling of certainty I’d had years ago. To the sense that I was on the right path creatively when I wrote my first book and that I could actually make a difference by sharing what I’d been uncovering. I longed to go back and gather up the hours and days and weeks and months that became a decade of editing and re-editing and editing again without fully letting go.

I wanted to recapture time I’ve wasted letting unfounded fear of surrendering to my talents detour me. It’s not as if I meant to. It’s just that life and work and obligation came first. I’m not sure why that happened for me, why that happens in general, but it did.

After the girls in my book club gathered together last weekend to discuss the book, I came home and opened the file drawer in my office where I keep my two treasured manuscripts. I opened the one called “Singing For My Father” and turned to the final pages which describe a moment at dad’s funeral where I walked through fear and stood on the altar singing his favorite song. “Looking back, it’s difficult to describe what it felt like to stand on that altar and sing, but I knew. Dad and God were right there with me carrying me through the song. In that moment, as the music came from within, I understood…”

 On those pages, written over a decade ago, I saw a message similar to the one that Paolo Coelho’s book had just reminded me of. The language of the universe is being spoken to each one of us if we are ready to hear it.

I thought back to the moments with dad before his death and the message he offered of following my heart and trusting my talents. I remember him sharing regret at having given up his career in radio for a higher paying sales job. I was surprised to be let in on his secret, especially because he had always been so private. He asked me to promise that I would “go for it” in the creative areas he knew I was driven towards. I thought of all the fits and starts I’d experienced both before and after that profound conversation, the moments of utter inspiration during which I was sure I would never veer off track and then the ones where I was too busy to get back on. I honored all the people and places along the way, the ones who had inspired me and the ones I’d been challenged by.

I thought of the eight year old girl who got her first lead in a musical at school and the teenager who got a gold star on her short story, the same girl who knew deep in her soul that she had to use her voice somehow, whether through singing or writing. The girl who knew in her heart what she wanted to do and be. I wondered how it was possible that the path she set out on was so different than the one she knew she’d been called to take. And now looking back, all I can think is: “Wherever did the time go?” How could it be that so many years had passed and she hasn’t truly followed her dream? Did she really take all those detours? Yet wait, where they detours? No, they were her life. Her rich and lovely life. My rich and lovely life.

And the adult woman I have become, who still holds the dream of that eight year old, pushes back against the two thoughts that drive me regularly. One, that I am never too old and two, that I couldn’t possibly start now. I think about the tasks in front of me for today. And I wonder if this just might be the day where I fully surrender to the creative gifts the universe has bestowed on me.

And then I think of the Englishman who traveled with the shepherd boy in the story. He too searched for his treasure. He sought out The Alchemist expecting to learn a miraculous formula for turning lead into gold. But when he found him, was simply told, “Go and try.” The Alchemist merely encouraged him to keep doing exactly what he had been doing all along. And when the Englishman began his life work again, he did so with a new energy and without a fear of failing. Instead of being sad or stuck because he hadn’t been able to fully trust and begin ten years ago,  he expressed gratitude that, “At least I didn’t wait twenty.”

And at that moment, I heard the message: “Keep going and keep trying.” It was the same message I had received so many years ago and one I have heard many times since. “Go and Try” just as you have been doing. Follow your heart. Follow your dreams so that you have no regrets. Continue to start and start again and even again if you have to. You already know what you’re meant to be doing. You’ve been told by the universe all along…so keep listening…and keep trying…

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