Jenny loves to sing. I know how she feels. At her age, I would ride my bike the half mile to town and sit at the piano of the empty church and sing.

I wasn’t good, just okay. Jenny’s okay. She’s even good. She wants to be spectacular.

“You’ll never be that good,” I said in that motherly voice we all have, “until you get outside your box.”

Spectacular is waiting outside the box.

Oh, we all have our “box.” It’s that comfortable place we like to stay because, well, because it’s so darn comfortable.
It’s safe. It’s predictable. It’s certain.

But nothing spectacular happens in a predictable, safe, certain box.

Sure, it’s safe to be “just like everyone else.” But that won’t get you spectacular.

If you want spectacular, you have to tear up the box holding you back. You have to take a chance.

You have to risk being bad in the hopes of being very good.

For Jenny, that meant pushing her music to the edge . . . and over. It meant taking a chance that she wouldn’t hit that high note in the hopes that she would.

If you’re gonna goof, might as well goof good.

The chance of something good is too good to pass up for fear of something bad.

Now let me tell you a secret we haven’t admitted to very many people. When Jenny hurt her knee last spring, the physical battle wasn’t nearly as big as the mental battle. After the two-week layoff, she was eager to compete. In the first meet back, she cleared the first hurdle in fine fashion, then, in what seemed slow motion, I watched her knee give way as she fell over and through the second hurdle.

I’ve never jumped a hurdle in my life, but I guess once you “eat” a hurdle, you never look at it the same again.

Every day we’d go to the track, and every day she would get to the second hurdle and stop. Over and again. Jump first hurdle, then stop.

I waited, unsure what to suggest. The scene repeated itself day after day. We even tried skipping the second hurdle and starting at the third, and that worked until those silly race officials made her include the second hurdle. Imagine that.

I began to hate the second hurdle. Eventually, she could get over it, but never without hesitation. She would run full strength at the gun and over the first hurdle, but as the second hurdle approached, she remembered it all … the stumble, the fall, the pain … and then she would stutter her steps and hesitate.

Hurdlers can’t hesitate, and they can’t stutter.
The second hurdle put her in a box; a box with chains and barbed wire; a box of her own making, built by fear and self-doubt.

Finally frustration gave way to anger from both of us.
“Just attack the stupid hurdle,” I screamed across the track. And she, angry at my frustration, took off running, over the first over, and, over the second hurdle, and, over the third hurdle.

She smiled when I caught up with her.
She figured it out. Some fears you can’t be gentle with. Sometimes, you have to close your eyes and give it everything you have.

You have to risk being bad in the hopes of being very good.

From then on, she went on the attack of each hurdle.
“Did I get outside my box?” she asked. “Honey, you threw the box away.”

I can’t wait to see what happens
next . . . for her and for you.
The Journey
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Outside the box
"When nothing is sure, everything is possible"

—Margaret Drabble
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