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Stronger Than We Know


Years ago, I read an article in Fortune Magazine where a successful businessman talked about the best lesson he'd ever learned. He was in India, I believe, walking by a large elephant tied to a small stake. He asked the elephant trainer why the elephant didn't pull the stake out since the animal had more than enough strength to do it. The trainer explained that to keep baby elephants from walking off, they are tethered to stakes. They try to break away, but can't. By the time they're full grown they've stopped trying. This full-size elephant didn't know his own strength. It's one of those ah ha stories that makes me grab my heart and wonder, where is that true in my life? Where am I stronger than I know? I can get obsessive about this and say, well, Joan, if you were more organized in your life — if you hadn't flunked ballet when you were three — if you hadn't let your mind close up one day in honors geometry…

There are greater, deeper stakes in my life that need yanking, to be sure. And I try to imagine what would happen if just for a moment I threw back my head, roared through my trunk, took a big step away and the stake popped up from the ground. I don't normally think of myself as an elephant person, although I have an earlier blog (Toys in My Office) where I discuss the symbolism of a balancing elephant toy. But there's something stirring about freedom being one yank away — not a hundred yanks, or years of yanks, but one proud, boundary breaking yank of power. I love that. May we summon our strength and yank up the old stakes that can no longer hold us bound.

4 responses to “Stronger Than We Know

  1. Joan,
    Your words and thoughts are stiring. What elephants have stayed needlessly, longingly, and (yes) stupidly stuck within me that are just “one yank away — not a hundred yanks, or years of yanks, but one proud, boundary breaking yank of power” from being freed. Thanks to you, I will play with this thought and image this week, and see where they lead me.

  2. Wow! I needed to read this. As an “aspiring” writer (note: aspiring in my case means lazy) I’ve allowed my “stakes” hold me back for so long. Very strange how I came across your blog. Tonight I was in Barnes and Noble and I carried around your book “Hope was Here” for twenty minutes I’m not familiar with your work and
    decided to buy “Criss Cross” instead. Then insomina had me online just now looking up recent and past winners of the Delecorte Contest and there was your name again!
    Now I wish I had bought the other book! :o) Oh well, next time for sure! Great blog btw. I’ve recently started blogging myself:
    http://nofrills-sarahjane.blogspot.com You should visit sometime.

  3. Thanks for your response. The Delacorte contest was so instrumental for me. Had to wait nine months to see if I’d won — the length of pregnancy. I had nausea, my back hurt toward the end. I was sure I wouldn’t/couldn’t win, but then the phone call came and I was finally in the game. Wishing you all good things with your writing. Joan

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