When I chose to accept the first rescue horse, a flood of thoughts rushed through my mind, both good and bad. We all suffer from that incessant self-talk, that little voice of doubt, fear, and anxiety. But, that voice gets louder and faster whenever we embark on new ventures. The unknown future creates dark spots in our visions of things to come. We flip through our mental view finder, from cartoon to cartoon, imagining the worst possible outcomes even when the probability of occurrence is quite low. This fear can immobilize our intended action, causing a retreat into unfulfilled dreams.
As Henry David Thoreau described, "the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation." I've always understood Thoreau's "desperation" to mean the paralysis of fear, not the outcome of failure in trying. Again and again, our own "desperation" originates in our own word, our own self-talk, through which we allow doubt, fear, and anxiety, however inaccurate, to paralyze us.
So when I chose to accept that first rescue horse, my view finder displayed images of injuries, disease, and death. Horses getting loose and running away. People getting injured. Finances running dry. I imagined every worse possible outcome.
In Don Miguel Ruiz's "The Four Agreements," he describes the first agreement-- " be impeccable with your word." "Impeccable" means immaculate, pristine, and with the highest standards of propriety. Ruiz explains all communication, including oral discourse, self-talk, and silence, should be executed impeccably. Ruiz explains we should only say what we mean and mean what we say, that our words have profound effect on ourselves and those around us. While seemingly self-evident, manifesting the concept in practice is not so easy.
Throughout Courtney's pregnancy, I imagined every possible negative outcome, even when there was zero indication for such outcomes. Much like with Emma, the first rescue horse, I imagined injury, disease, and even death. My self-talk--my view finder--supplied no shortage of negative cartoons.
Ruiz's words, "speak impeccably," were a constant reminder during the pregnancy that my words, whether inner-thoughts or outward expressions, would impact Courtney and myself. Speaking and thinking impeccably helped calm tenser moments.
Some might chalk this up to "Think Positively" or just "Be Positive." But words are the building blocks of "thinking" or "being" positive. Ruiz's advice to "speak impeccably" is a guide to the building blocks of being positive.
We all throw words around cheaply, and each time we do we either enhance or degrade life goals. Seldom do our words wade in neutrality, but rather promote or demote our own life visions. While we cannot control outcomes, we can at least avoid Thoreau's desperation of not trying at all.
I recall once my father took me to a Barnes and Noble Bookstore because child care author Dr. Benjamin Spock was signing books. My father, a reader of Dr. Spock's work, wanted to introduce me to the author who preached in his own right "speaking impeccably." Not only did Dr. Spock preach speaking impeccably, but his preaching itself was impeccable. He wrote, "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do."
The funny thing about my negative vision for the rescue farm is that it all came true! Animals have been injured, suffered infections, and one even died due to age-related arthritis. Horses and pigs have escaped!
But, those injuries and infections healed, those escapees returned, and the death was grieved. Despite it all, we kept rescuing and we'll keep rescuing because we've accepted that responsibility in our lives. It's good for the animals and it's good for us. In 17 months, we've rescued 53 farm animals. Who knows what adventures await Courtney and I as we raise John Jr. We will not have lived in desperation for not trying. We will do our best to speak impeccably to our son and to each other.
And so I am reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz's words from The Four Agreements,
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use your power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
John Paul Fiske, Sr.