Today I am thinking about Dr. Seuss, a man who wrote brilliant poems for children, witty, funny, rhythmic, that also teach life lessons, good for “big kids” as well. One I particularly like is Oh, The Places You’ll Go. Here’s an excerpt I’d like to focus on for now:
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
can happen to you.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don't
Because, sometimes they won't.
I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.
If you never read this as a child, I strongly recommend it. It is delightful, but extremely thought-provoking. As you laugh and enjoy the poem, it stops you several times as it comments on life, and especially on the themes of shame and perfectionism.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go is about growing up and leaving home. It talks about flying higher than everyone else, running faster, being on television, and suddenly adds, ”Except when you won’t.” It goes on to say that no one is ever the best in everything. It discusses making mistakes and life’s hardships. It talks about having a choice between two scary, dangerous things and not knowing what to do, and is really addressing how a person who has difficulty making decisions will have a hard time with this, because sometimes you just have to do something. It goes on to talk about ending up in a “waiting place,” a land of ambiguity, indecision, insecurity, and avoidance, and then offers encouragement to get out of there. I have seen adults very moved by reading this poem. Take a look at the whole poem here. Enjoy the genius of Dr. Seuss and smile, while taking in the lessons that we are not perfect, that life is hard, and that we sometimes do better than other times.
It is a sad fact that people are full of shame, of never feeling good enough. I have seen this in different ethnic groups and both men and women. The people who suffer with this are very decent people, which makes this even sadder. Trying harder and harder to “prove” to oneself that one is not stupid, lazy, bad, or whatever that inner voice says, does not work for more than a few minutes. That is why many people with shame and perfectionism are very high achievers. The only way to not live this way, with a painful, nagging feeling of not being adequate or good or worthy, is to face your real feelings. I think that practicing mindfulness needs to be done with your authentic feelings, not the feeling we wish we had. I think to find the road to peace you need to look at those feelings so desperately fought against.
In the meantime, enjoy this poem by the wonderful Dr. Seuss. It is entertaining, funny, and very wise.