How to Succeed in Hard Times

Dancing FeetAn old friend called from the East Coast yesterday to tell me times are hard.

“I can’t get anywhere,” Ken said. “I think they made up that phrase ‘dime a dozen’ just to describe writers in New York.”

Then he told me he had a story stuck in his computer that was a spell check away from finished.

“I can’t get myself to finish it,” he said. “They’re only paying $80.”

Of course, you and I know what to tell him. We’d say, “Are you nuts? Just finish it, send it in, and use the $80 to pay the phone bill.”

But the truth is, Ken knows that, too. How come we don’t act on what we know when life gets difficult?

Maybe it has something to do with that expression we all know: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I don’t like it. I think most of us are already too tough.

No, I prefer my cosmic Jell-O approach. It’s a way of working in tune with the universe rather than forcing something out at gunpoint. It requires a shift of perspective.

Dancing on Cosmic Jell-O

I imagine consciousness as an infinite sea of Jell-O. We’ve all got a spot on it, and when we dance in tune with our own particular rhythm right where we are, our wave reverberates through the whole cosmos. What comes back around to us, from an unexpected direction, is what we need. Of course, it may not be what we thought we wanted.

There’s a trick to cosmic Jell-O dancing. You step with positive intent and wide-eyed expectancy. You glide, opening to all possibilities. You whirl without hanging on to how you think it’s got to turn out. (For a more sophisticated version, check out Carl Jung on synchronicity, Lao-tsu on the Tao, or even Catherine Ponder on prosperity.)

I first experienced it as a kid back when Jell-O was a major food group.

When I was thirteen, I set out one Saturday to get a job. My mother thought this an overly optimistic enterprise in our little Idaho mining town where times weren’t just tough, they were desperate. But I interviewed every shopkeeper on Main Street and beyond.

They all said no.

I remember standing at the end of the street as dusk descended, reassessing what was important in my life. Proving my mother wrong clearly outweighed money. So did doing anything that might make me popular by the time I got to high school.

Decision made, I went back to the House of Flowers and told Mrs. Griffith that hers was the best business in town and that I would be working for her after school and on Saturdays. For free.

She protested. I admired her corsage technique. (She used glitter-edged net puffs amongst the roses and carnations. Any high school girl with a shoulder to pin them on wore Mrs. Griffith’s creations on dance dates.)

She hesitated. I assured her my future depended on glitter. (Somehow corsage proximity would transform me into a Popular Girl.)

She agreed. After a few weeks of free sweeping and dusting, I was on the payroll and up to my elbows in glitter. But I was never Homecoming Queen.

What I got instead was an unshakable confidence that I could make something happen in the world just by being me. By dancing right where I was.

Unfortunately, this is not something once learned, never forgotten. Over the years, I’ve left a lot of skid marks on the Jell-O.

Fear breeds amnesia. So when I get scared I forget about anything cosmic, come to a dead stop, and sink. The way out, I’ve discovered, is to tell the truth about my predicament, unhook my objecting mind, and give my whole heart to what’s in front of me.

Once when I did this, I took a temporary job that could scarcely pay the rent. The job never got any better, but I did meet my future husband.

So—what if Ken were to unhook his mind, run the spell checker, hop a train, and personally deliver his story? Maybe this isn’t about $80. Maybe it’s about a cosmic Jell-O ride into town.

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