I’m often afraid to try new things. I see things I want to do and places I want to go and think that they are for braver, more capable people. I have things I want to share, but I’m afraid you won’t understand. The fearful parts of me can be quite dominant sometimes, but they aren’t the only parts of me that have something to say.
Today I’m going to do something a little different and share a bit of a fable. This story played in my mind like a movie while I was taking a shower after a conversation with my coach. It helps me visualize what it might look like to give both the fearful and the adventurous parts of myself a voice so they can play their roles in a more balanced way.
What parts of you tend to be more dominant? Which parts are struggling to be heard?
Once upon a time in a snug, safe cave there lived a big brave adventurer and a timid little mouse. The cave was tucked into a quiet spot at the edge of the forest at the top of a hill. It had sturdy stone walls and the only opening was high up near the ceiling. The big brave adventurer was tall enough to see the land beyond through the narrow opening, but the timid little mouse could only glimpse the flutter of tree leaves and the blue of the sky high above her head.
The timid little mouse never left the cave where she felt snug and safe. She spent her days bustling about the cave sweeping it clean and making sure everything was in its rightful place. For a brief time each day the sun shone through the narrow opening. The timid little mouse relished the warmth of the sun on her face, but she never ventured outside or even to the mouth of the cave.
The light and warmth felt good as long as she was safe and snug in the place she belonged. There might be more sunlight out in the big wide world, but it would be foolish to chase it. Why risk losing everything? Here she could enjoy a little good while knowing she could control and sweep out the bad. Out there, who knows?
The big brave adventurer was not content to stay in the safe, snug cave. She stood at the opening and sighed over the beauty, excitement, and possibilities she could see beyond their door. She longed to explore everything and see what she could see.
From the cave’s high up vantage point she could see valleys filled with trees and rivers. There were mountains and off in the distance the great shining sea. The top of the highest mountain peak was always veiled in mist. The big brave adventurer longed to know what was at the top. On certain days when the sun hit just right she thought she could see a glimmer of something. She imagined a beautiful palace filled with wonderful people and music and art.
Sometimes she talked about going on an adventure, filled with excitement over what she might see and learn. But these musing upset the timid little mouse very much. She blustered and scolded and ranted and cajoled—whatever it took to keep the big brave adventurer safe and snug inside their cave.
Occasionally the big brave adventurer ventured out a little ways to see what she could see. It was exhilarating to be out in the free air, walking among the things she’d observed from afar with longing. But the timid little mouse’s fears weren’t completely unfounded. There was danger out there too. One night the big brave adventurer had a close call when she was so enamored by the shimmer of the moonlight on the far away sea that she didn’t hear the brash brawny bear stalking up behind her until it was almost too late.
The timid little mouse was so distraught when she heard about how she’d nearly lost her friend that she made the big brave adventurer promise to stay home in the snug, safe cave. The big brave adventurer felt obligated to listen. She didn’t want to upset her friend. But the harder she tried to limit her mind to the known in the cave the more she lost her energy and joy. Instead of standing at the narrow opening and imagining all that lay beyond, she sat in the corner and stared at the stone.
The timid little mouse was sad to see her friend so subdued, but she was just so afraid of the danger. It was her duty to protect them both, even if it hurt.
One day, after a week of gloomy rain, the sun shone bright and warm through the narrow opening. The big brave adventurer sitting in the dark corner noticed the look of joy as the timid little mouse raised her rapt face to greet the sunshine. The big brave adventurer hesitated for a moment, but then quietly asked, “Can I show you something?”
The timid little mouse scrunched up her face and studied the big brave adventurer with a wary eye. She knew every inch of their cave. What was there to show? Finally she very reluctantly agreed.
The big brave adventurer got to her feet and gently scooped up the timid little mouse, asking her to close her eyes. The timid little mouse trembled in fear, but complied. The big brave adventurer lifted the timid little mouse up to the ledge at the narrow opening. Then she told the timid little mouse to open her eyes.
It took a second for the timid little mouse’s eyes to adjust to the light and the space, but as the vast world came into focus her eyes opened wide and her jaw dropped. She stared around her in awestruck wonder for a few moments, scarcely breathing. Then suddenly she jolted up and scurried back down into the cave, berating the big brave adventurer for playing a mean trick and putting her in danger.
The big brave adventurer felt bad that her friend was upset, but took courage from the wonder she’d seen in her eyes. She took a deep breath and asked the timid little mouse to listen for a moment. “I have been trying to honor your request to stay always in our safe snug cave. I love our cave and I love coming home to where I feel safe and snug. But I also love to imagine and explore.
I feel like part of me is missing when stuck in the cave. But I also feel like part of me is missing when I’m out in the big wide world for too long without you. We belong together, but how does that work when you want to be here and I want to be there?
Would you be willing to sit with me up here for a while each day. I want to talk to you about the wonders I see and the things I imagine. We’ll still be quite safe and can scramble down if danger comes, but there is so much I want to see and so much I want to share with you.
Then maybe sometimes I can get down a little and explore while you watch for danger from the ledge. I’ll report back to you what I see. And maybe someday you’ll want to see it too and can come with me.
Someday I want to discover what’s at the top of that mountain over there, but that is a long way to go with many adventures along the way. Let’s start where we can see and take the next step from there. For today, will you just sit and look and talk with me?”
The timid little mouse was fearful, but she was reassured by the big brave adventurer’s strong paws. She wanted to refuse and stay where everything was known and safe, but she had seen the big brave adventurer could not thrive there. Maybe just a tiny step out onto the ledge would be ok. If she busied herself and looked around maybe that could become known too.
So the timid little mouse and the big brave adventurer started exploring the big wide world together. Sometimes the journey was slow and often they retreated back into the cave for a while. But they discovered other snug caves along the way.
The big brave adventurer helped the timid little mouse find the courage to see the world and the timid little mouse kept the big brave adventurer from taking unreasonable risks. Gradually and slowly they made their way up the mountain where they discovered a beautiful palace…and a view of an even more majestic mountain far off in the distance.
I’ll be back next week with some exercises and prompts that are helping me listen to and honor all parts of myself. In the meantime, who are some of the characters in your personal fable? Do you know what role each of those parts plays in your life? Do your characters work together in balance? Or is there one that tends to run the show?