I’m Going for It…No, Really This Time.

old-school typewriter

I tend to beat myself up, periodically, for not being a better person.

I’ve been saying I’m going to write a book for…well, most of my life, and it has yet to happen, which is embarrassing.  For a long time, it was just that I lacked the confidence in my abilities, and then I had little kids, which took up too much space in my brain for anything longer than 500 words. Oh, I have started a book plenty of times.  I’m in the running for an award: “Most half-books on a hard drive ever.” I always get cold feet and quit, though.

Why?

Unfortunately for me (and for you) the “why” is a complex mess. I’m writing, creating story like crazy, then… I have a few days where the creativity is flagging. I feel like I should be doing something more productive or lucrative. Read “lucrative” as something that makes more definitive money, since that is the measure of success in a capitalist society such as ours. But money is a personal thing, too. Jason stresses about money, and I would like to relieve some of that mental burden he carries because I love him and we are partners.

Then, I write a book, self-publish it, no one buys it, and I lose money on the deal. Jason loses his job, we’re in danger of living in a cardboard box on the street and end up in a flophouse in Duluth. Jason hates me because it’s all my selfish fault for wanting to do what I love instead of making a living to support our family. You see how quickly I can get from publishing a book to homelessness?

So then I stop writing the book

and go back to my piddly freelance jobs that don’t make a ton of cash either but at least make it more quickly. And then I don’t want to sit in front of my computer writing a book (or anything else for that matter) in the evening because I’m tired, both body and brain, and I want to hang with my family or read or go to bed early.

All of these thoughts stemmed from my getting pissed off at advertising this morning

for taking up too much of my time and attention — popup ads in front of articles I’m trying to read, junk email, junk snail mail. I swear I recycled a whole tree after leaving the mailbox this morning.

The junk mail led me to all the other things that are distractions from writing a book. There are a lot of them. Some of them are forced on me like door-to-door solicitors and pop-up ads, and some are tempters like my phone games. Some are guilt inducers like volunteering at school.

I’ve tried to cut the cord so many times,

tried to simplify my life. I go on an “unsubscribe” rampage, but I always get sucked back in. Now though, I think I’m ready. It still feels scary, but I can do it. I’m going to stop writing for other people, stop accepting the distractions, and focus on writing my stuff — my blog, my book — and have the confidence that, even if the book is a flop, we’ll figure something else out before we end up in an actual flophouse.

It’s time for me to belong to myself,

to belong everywhere and nowhere. (Thanks, Carrie Harper, Brené Brown and Maya Angelou for that idea.) Deepak, a friend of mine who took the leap to quit his existing, comfortable career to start a business about which he was passionate told me he knew, in order to be successful, he couldn’t have a “way back.” He cut the cord completely with his old company so he would HAVE to make the new business work. It was scary, but it’s working. That’s been rattling around in my head since he said it to me, so it must resonate with something inside me. Yep, I’m going for it.

The Virtues of Being a Quitter

IMG_2238
2008, NOT snowboarding

I grew up in the era of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This is pretty sage advice, especially for children like me, who shied away from doing anything at which I wasn’t instantly perfect. The problem with me, the pitfall, is that when I take something to heart, I am all in. The reason I talk about balance and middle ground all the time is because I have trouble finding it. I give you exhibit A, snowboarding:

In my early 20’s I went skiing with some friends and decided to learn to snowboard. It was all the rage, and I thought I looked pretty cute with a board tucked under my arm. I took lessons for two days and stuck with this new-fangled sport for four days. For four days, I repeatedly tumbled down the mountain, cracking my head on ice, bruising my knees and cracking my tailbone. I could be found huddled on the side of the run, practically crying my head hurt so bad from being bashed on packed snow, sniffling and fishing ibuprofen out of my pocket. I listened to my instructor, I practiced, but it just wasn’t in me. To top it off, I was doing this by myself, since my friends were all already badasses at boarding, and I couldn’t keep up with them.

Finally, halfway through the fourth day, I fell shortly after stumbling off the lift. I lay there in the snow and thought, “That’s it. I am f&^%ing done.” I clipped out, stood up, tucked the board under my arm and walked down the mountain. And it was beautiful. I was enjoying myself for the first time that trip. The snow made things so silent. I could look up at the towering firs, with their dusting of snow, and it was so peaceful – quite the contrast from sliding down a mountain mostly on my head.

Several people stopped and asked if I was okay. I just smiled and said, “yes.” For the first time on that vacation, I was actually okay. It was time…well, past time, to give up snowboarding, and I finally realized it. It was a relief to admit I had failed at this thing, and I was over it.

Sometimes, giving up isn’t really failure. Sometimes, knowing when to cash in your chips is your success. There is a satisfaction in knowing you’ve done your absolute best at a task and failed anyway. You can move on, knowing you suck at that, and you never have to do it again.