An Outside Chance
The guys held out hope
that through plain luck or accident
they might suddenly discover
they were brilliant at golf—a stellar success.
Any future afternoon might find them
on the green, irons and woods turning to gold.
They ignored the usual course for triumph,
formulas of training and time,
banked on the promise of the prodigal,
the fortuitous rush of unexpected skill (plus money).
The trick was not to try, not to find out yet.
The possibilities tantalized: triple axels,
chart-topping novels, Oscar statuettes.
Even the links were tempting—
but I kept to the devil I knew,
stuck with the barre, trusted
that if another fate came along,
I’d have sense enough to know it.
I wrote this poem for my first husband and his brother—and it's alluring: You might wake up one day and discover your passion and find out that you're absolutely fantastic, the best.
At dance class last week, people brought up this new concept of "The Secret." They explained it as the idea that by being grateful for what you have, you open yourself up to receive what you need from the world. It isn't really new, but I like it.
Then I did a little reading online and found out that "The Secret" also encompasses the idea that if you just want something enough, you'll get it. (I think the exact words were "Ask. Believe. Receive.") Wishing will make it so.
This flies in the face of what I believe: that if you work hard enough, you'll get what you want. (Corollary: if you stay open to possibilities, you may discover opportunities—good ones—that you didn't even know you wanted until they appeared). This won't work in every scenario. I didn't ever get good enough in dance, even with that barre. But I could argue that I didn't try hard enough. And I should remind myself that I am dancing again on most Saturday mornings.
For me, the same work ethic applies to poetry: I can't write the kind of poems I want without some metaphorical elbow grease. I can't polish the poems unless I revise them. They won't get published unless I send them out—and that's a lot of work, because chances are very good that I will be sending them out time after time after…
I even have a short list of professional poetry goals for the year. I write them down (it's a little bit embarrassing), and I want them. Because I have never achieved all of them, I carry them forward from year to year. And I can honestly tell myself that I probably need to work harder—even if it won't hold true and if at some point I'll find myself up against a set of limitations that I can't get past (like not being good enough to get into Twyla Tharp's dance company).
What about you? Do you have goals (or secret desires)? How do you keep up the hard work, or what do you think about "The Secret"?