People who have known me for a while may remember that I used to keep a framed poem on my desk that said, “There have been no dragons in my life, only small spiders and stepping in gum… I could have coped with dragons.” (From a poem by Niki Nymark.)
I liked this poem because it seemed to say, “Give me bigger challenges, I can handle them.”
At some point, I removed it, I can’t remember why now.
I’ve been thinking about that poem this week. And thinking about one of my favorite books, which also has dragons.
In this book, a princess takes up dragon-slaying as her purpose in life, partly because she’s bored, partly because no one else was doing it, and partly because everyone told her that she couldn’t. She became so proficient at slaying the standard dragons, about the size of sheep, that most people treated her like a glorified exterminator.
One day, a messenger gallops up to the castle and gasps out that a terrible dragon has invaded his village. But her father and all the knights and soldiers are riding out to a critical battle, and they cannot stop. After they recede into the distance, the princess grabs her dragon-fighting gear and follows the messenger into the wilderness. When she asks him to point out the dragon, he silently points to a huge black cloud above the mountains on the horizon.
She rides into the cloud and begins looking for the dragon. Although the atmosphere is thick with dragon-smog, the trees around the hill are burnt to a crisp, and the stream is choked with ash, she can’t see the dragon. She makes camp beside a rocky outcropping and hears the dragon in her dreams, and rises the next morning to prepare for battle.
And discovers the dragon just beyond the outcropping that she camped beside – who knows how she missed it, since the dragon was the size of a mountain. Perhaps, searching for the dragons she knew, she actually mistook this dragon for the mountain itself.
The thought I had this week was that perhaps I had removed the dragon-fighting poem because I had outgrown it. Instead of only seeing the spiders and the stepping in gum, I had learned to look for bigger things and had started spotting the dragons that I had been seeking all along.
When all you see is spiders and gum, you’re too close to a problem. If you feel unchallenged, back up and adjust your perspective for bigger prey – and the dragons will emerge from the background. Of course, once you see a dragon, you have to conquer it, and that’s a different story entirely…
What dragons are you overlooking in your life?