The Now or Never Challenge

Two years ago I took up my Now or Never Challenge. I felt I was wasting my time with too little creativity and too much dithering. The world seemed to be leaving me behind as it zoomed on ahead to accommodate young people’s way of living and thinking, and neglected my kind of wisdom and talents.

Or was it me that was neglecting my own wisdom and talents?

So I told myself “It’s now or never”. If I didn’t get back on the horse, step up to the plate, get into the swim, whatever you like to call it, I would soon be truly left behind, and the world would get along very well without me, not knowing what it was missing.

After all, the world does move on. You can’t stand still without being left behind.

Life is Giving One More Chance

I found myself writing this little verse all over a page:

 Be true, be true.

Life is giving one more chance.

Be true, be true.

Life is giving one more chance.

Be true, be you.

Love is giving one more chance.

My saxophone teacher helped me turn it into a song.

Focusing the Mind and Heart

So I got going. I bought two small flats, one in London and one by the sea in Hastings. I did my new website. I wrote a book. I found a publisher. I started a new relationship.

And whereas there had been periods in the preceding ten years that everything I attempted failed, it seemed as if this time it all worked and bore positive fruits.

Now or never, like all deadlines, focused my mind and heart beautifully. And I did it all with a minimum of stress, because I felt less driven and more in the driving seat.

Are you driven or in the driving seat?

When I’ve been driven, it’s been by my fears that I would get it wrong and not do what I should be doing. Should was the operative word. I was always looking around at others to see what they were doing, and whether they were doing things better, faster, more successfully. It wasn’t envy, nor was it competitiveness in the usual sense.

I didn’t compare myself to people whose talents were so different that I knew they were in a different ball game. If someone succeeded as a pianist, I just applauded them. I was never going to be a pianist.

No, it was neither envy nor competitiveness. It was more a readiness to put myself down—to say that somehow their situation was similar to mine, and they  had done it better.

Where did I go wrong? 

 Charles, Diana and Me

Mind you, my comparison to others, and my assumption that they were like me, was sometimes completely mad.

I remember sitting in Skyros on the beach with Sue Townsend, who was teaching a writers course there, and telling her how when Charles and Diana got engaged, I had a day of thinking that I’d missed my big chance, and now I would never be a princess. She laughed and laughed, and then put the story in the Adrian Mole foreword she wrote to my book, Life Choices, Life Changes

But she remembered us as both laughing. I’m not so sure I was.

Looking back, I can see that this was the little girl in me who read all the happily ever after fairy tales and went to bed trying to sleep like a princess. After all, only a princess would live happily ever after.

There was never a whisper from the adult New Yorker from a family of teachers, now living in London with a husband and 2 small children, who had never moved in any royal circles in her life nor was ever likely to.

I literally thought I had made some terrible mistake and I would never be a princess.

Mind you, being American, I didn’t quite get the rigidity of the class system. I was raised to believe anyone could do anything. That was the mitigating circumstance, Your Honour.

Is it too late?

At that time in my life, the Now or Never challenge often took the form of It’s too late. The time for the now is over. It’s already never. I was always waking up in a panic, thinking that I’d made a mistake that couldn’t be repaired and there was no way forward. That was so painful, a kind of self inflicted torture.

I usually found that when I thought it was too late, it was actually now or never. In other words, that form of self-attack seemed to come just when I had to act soon or forever hold my peace. So it was a useful message, put very badly indeed.

I must say a word here in praise of the younger me. It was not all neurotic striving.  There was also something else.

Yes I was driven, pushed by a fear of getting it wrong. But I also was led forward by a profound intuitive sense of what was right for me, and indeed what was right. That was the visionary in me.

That was what enabled me to marry, have children, start a centre on a Greek island where people could come to be happy and to change their lives, write books, and all that.

You could say that my soul shone the light forward, while my everyday driven personality fought a rear guard battle.

It’s never too late for a new beginning

And now?

I am still led by visions. It is a little different. It is not so much about what is right but what is true. I sense that if I clear away all the illusions, the inner light will shine the way forward towards my own best possible life.

My Now or Never Challenge takes the form of seeing what I want to do, and going for it to the best of my ability. As my friend Pam said “I’ll do as much as I can as well as I can.”

What happened to the urgency?

The urgency is still there, in the sense that Now or Never is an urgent call. The world is moving forward, and it is not so much that it will leave me behind, but that I want to have a little say in how it moves forward. I don’t want to fiddle while Rome burns, so to speak.

But that urgency includes a trust that if I am called on, from within or without, to do this, there is a will and there is a way, and I just need to find it.

And it really is focused on the Now of Now or Never. There is only now to do this. I can’t possibly be too late. I can’t possibly have painted myself into a corner.

Now is the light that shows me what is possible.

It’s never too late to have a new beginning.

Do you have a Now or Never challenge in you? If so, Now does mean Now.

Go for it.