Elmo, is that you?

Today, I’m going to do something that I wouldn’t normally do.  I’m going to share a post that I wrote almost exactly 10 years ago, because the concept relates very powerfully to a transition that all of our ’90-Day Blitzers’ will be working on within themselves over the coming months.  And since we’re beginning the preparation process for this journey right now, the timing is perfect  So, even though we personally don’t celebrate Halloween anymore, I’m going to leave the article almost exactly as I wrote it back then, to preserve the integrity of the first-person frame of reference through our experience…so here we go!

This past week (October 2009) I was reminded of a very powerful lesson from my twenty-month-old son (he’s now 11-years old), and I’d like to share it with you today.  Elmo is my son’s favorite character.  He doesn’t watch television at home, but he absolutely hates riding in the car, so we save videos as a special treat that he gets from his car seat.  We’ve tried multiple DVDs to give him some variety, but he completely disregards anything but Elmo.  In fact, as we tell him that it’s time to go bye-bye, he is pointing toward the car ceiling and asking for Elmo before we can even get him strapped in.  Needless to say, I find myself singing along with all of the Elmo songs more than I’d like to admit.  And JD’s love for Elmo has grown way beyond a road-trip relationship.  His Elmo books and stuffed animal keep him company all throughout the day.  So, when it came time to select a Halloween costume, there was really no decision to be made at all.  Our little boy was going to finally live his dream after 20 long months on this earth.  He was going to become Elmo.

            We searched far and wide for the perfect costume and finally found one online.  When it arrived in the mail, our whole house stopped to rip into the box and see if the costume met our expectations and held up to the “real” Elmo that we had come to know and love.  It did.  And JD was thrilled.  In fact, as we were taking Elmo out of all the packaging, JD was running in circles, flapping his hands and giggling in delight at his life-sized dream come true.  He kept giving him kisses and exclaiming “Elmo!” over and over again, as if he was being reunited with a long-lost friend.  So, we sat down on the floor and unzipped the costume to give it a whirl…and that’s when the mood shifted.

    We had the costume pulled up to about shin-level when JD started saying, “Off. Off!” in his tiny little boy voice.  I convinced him to keep going, but as we shoved his arms through and zipped up the belly, JD was way past hesitation into absolute disdain.  So, you can imagine that pulling the headpiece up over his ears didn’t exactly thrill him.  That was the trigger that brought on the tears.  A look of panic swept over his face, and the kid went into hysterics.  I swept him up and ran him into our weight room so that I could plop him down in front of a full-length mirror.  I thought just maybe, if he could see Elmo, it might help him accept the transition a little better. 

And, sure enough, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror between sobs and got really still to take a closer look.  He actually cocked his head to the side and managed to squeak out a sniffling “Elmo?”, as if to say, “Elmo?  Is that you?”  He was intrigued enough by the confusing image of “Elmo JD” looking back at him in the mirror to keep him distracted for a few moments, but the costume didn’t stay on long that first day.  Or any of the half a dozen other times we put him in it over the next month in failed attempts to warm him up to the idea of becoming Elmo.

            I’m proud to say that we did manage to have a Happy Halloween with a happy little Elmo, but it was quite a process to make it happen.  Here are the six things that stood out to me as I watched my son live out his first little dream:

  1. Stepping into your dream isn’t an automatic process.  It can be awkward and uncomfortable before your body (and mind) adjusts to the “new you”.  It can take a lot of work, and you might even break a sweat as you adjust to the heat of becoming the person you want to be. 
  2. JD wasn’t expecting his Elmo costume to be hot and stuffy.  We always like the look of a dream from the outside, but we’re not always so willing to put up with the heat long enough to experience the dream from the inside.
  3. Human nature always rebels against parameters.  So as you begin to zip up the suit of the discipline that will be required to become your dream, your instincts will be to rip it off and break free. 
  4. It may take several attempts before you have your break-through.  Don’t quit when it doesn’t feel “right” or “natural” or “easy” the first time – or even the first fifteen times!  We knew JD had a desire to be Elmo inside him, but it took more than a few rounds to get JD inside Elmo.
  5. Surround yourself with cheerleaders, not naysayers.  Your sphere of influence is very powerful, whether you recognize and acknowledge it or not.  Your dream is too fragile to withstand the poison of lazy, half-hearted skeptics or apathetic fair-weather fans.  Only listen to those who will believe in your success, stick with you to the finish line and cheer you on to victory.
  6. The sacrifice will melt away on the day you get to stand tall and live your dream.  When trick-or-treat time finally rolled around, JD was still a little nervous as we suited him up.  But the look of pride in his eyes and glee on his face made it all worth while as he proudly waddled down the street after all the “other big kids” in their costumes. 

Oh, and guess what?  Once you conquer your dream, it’s amazing what perspective you have in hindsight.  We left the Elmo costume in the kitchen for the rest of the weekend, and every time JD walked past, he would give it a little pat and say “ha-ppy”.  Of course, that was his way of saying “Happy Halloween” as the memories of his victory from the night before flashed through his mind.  Take it from little JD Elmo, don’t be left standing on the sidewalk when you could be right in the middle of the action, living your dream.

         

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