When You Are Trying Too Hard

Mrs. Barnes, my beloved teacher
From 2nd grade, to twelfth,
This is not about the person who was Mrs. Barnes,
--I confess I don't truly know her--
This about the Mrs. Barnes in my mind:

She taught me the value of self-discipline,
Of faithful 'follow through',
"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right".

But her influence combined in my mind
With the feeling of not being worthy,
So I tried and I failed, and then
I failed some more,
Not realizing I never could quite rev it up
To that 110 percent effort I'd need
To do well in these
Deeply hated tasks.

40 years later, my head still hung low,
I dreamed about my teacher,
This Teacher of the Will,
And she had a grown lion under her care,
Obediently standing at her side.
It showed not a shred of its natural aggression
So Mrs. Barnes was well satisfied.

It was also fatally skinny,
Like a thing that had been clearly starved
It stood there, rail thin,
You could have blown it over with a feather,
This mighty lion was well under control.

Even I knew it was wrong,
To so twist a being's nature,
That it resembled God's blueprint
Not at all.

I woke and found the spell was now broken.
What shall I do with my life?
But this time it was myself that I asked,
Not her,
And I answered, Just accent the positive!
Just let me be me!
Spend time doing what I'm really good at!
Stop trying for what I don't have.

I never would have seen
How I was doing myself harm,
But for that dream of the lion
In his pathetic, shriveled form.

I thank Mrs. Barnes.
She did teach how to persevere.
And I thank the dream screen-writer
Who showed me the lion
Reduced to a deer.

A violin with strings too loose
Will never make a sound.
Yet with strings turned much too taut
There'll be noise and distortion profound

The 'just right' amount
Is required for creating music
And if you find your heart too tense
.... Without joy,
Maybe now is the time
To loosen it.

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