Doilies and Your Mother’s Dishes

“When did you get so concerned about doilies and your Mother’s dishes?”, Gandolf asks Bilbo in the first movie instalment of The Hobbit, at a point where Bilbo is looking for an excuse, any excuse, to avoid joining an adventure.

At this point in the story, Bilbo is just the other side of young, tending towards fat and quite please with his life, thank you very much. Why rock that boat?

Sound familiar?

There was a time in our careers (and life) when adventure was what we wanted…and we could drop everything and up and go. Whether it is a spur of the moment vacation, an invitation to a party or to help a friend move, there was no question that we would just head out the door and take part.

Career-wise, when we were younger, we did work that no one else wanted to do (we may or may not have realized that at the time), or we did the “Joe-jobs” that are reserved for the very newest of employees. ‘Things’ were less important, partly because we couldn’t afford them, and anyway we didn’t need them! We had discovered a world that has so much to offer and were just dipping our toes into that world. We were out there ‘doing it’ and though we didn’t mean to be, we were creating those memories that we look back on and consider ‘the good-old-days’.

But once we left that hump behind us and had started to move up at work and settle down at home, things start to change. We started to like where we were, we like and love those who we had met along the way and we started to collect and keep things we like. We start making commitments – children, careers, debts (good and bad) – and so on. In short, by good luck and good management, eventually we created something to protect and preserve.

There is only one word for where we are: “congratulations”!

So why do we often look wistfully back at the good old days? How do we get that feeling back? How do we take the thrill of the unknown from feeling like it is too risky to being something that is fun and that energizes us again?

Here are three small things that can make a big difference:

Trust: there is a fine line between the caution borne of experience (wisdom) and outright cynicism, and we all need to examine where we have drawn that line. Lack of trust can save us a lot of grief but it can also cause us to not seek new friendships or to destroy existing friendships. People hurt us and that hurt is real. If we forgive those people and those circumstances, we free ourselves from carrying around the pile of hurts that can weight us down and stop us from acting.

Things: there is a common saying that when you own too many things, they start to own you. Have you ever hesitated doing something because you did not want to risk making a mess or breaking something? I have! Sometimes it is hard to remember that we bought things to use them and not just to clean them!

Try something new: taking a risk might just mean stepping out of your door and interacting with people: help a friend at a charity; go back to church; take cooking lessons; make an effort to talk to a troubled colleague or start or finish working on that big project that has been gathering dust on your desk.

In The Hobbit, Bilbo crosses half a world and fights dragons and in the process becomes a new and more confident person. By the end of the story he accomplishes great things by making changes in his life, (as opposed to trying to change others).

Our commitment and obligations to the people we love and our work really do keep us from selling up and tramping around the world seeking excitement, and that is not a bad thing (and no, our families and friends are not holding us back)!

But slaying the figurative dragons (small and large) in our own lives in our own small corner of the world can be no less adventurous and can be life changing, if we choose to see it that way.


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