When I make a choice, or when I am doing a thing that is working (for me, for other people), I have always had a frustrating tendency to immediately want to abandon it. I get in a groove -> I get self-conscious -> I get freaked out -> I quit.
My fear is about:
- getting stuck doing the same thing forever
- being defined by that thing
- things becoming too easy
- succeeding at something that I stumbled on by accident
- things feeling too good--because eventually they are going to end, and then I am going to feel that much worse when it's over
I've always beaten myself up about this pattern because I know better: I know that making choices based on fear is a fool's game, and I know that planning for the worst is a loser's game, and I know that there are no accidents--but I end up doing things this way anyway. I've gotten better about not doing this in my personal life. I've learned how to lean in when it comes to my own work, but this pattern still comes up when it comes to the other Work, the Work that is destined to live outside of me. I imagine that to other people, sometimes my creative choices might look like calculated risks. Sometimes they might look courageous. Sometimes they might look like stupidity. Sometimes they might look like passion. I'm really not sure how my choices look. All I know is how they feel. And right now they feel weird.
I've been trying to stay off of social media lately as a radical attempt at self care/preservation, but I have an obsession with checking Facebook's "on this day" feature--where it tells you all the things you posted on this day in history going back all the way to the beginning of time/when you joined fb. (Check out this amazing little book you can buy that has this same function!) It really does flood me with memories that I'm not sure I would have otherwise. Right now I'm seeing a lot of 2008 election posts, a lot of those same sentiments ringing truer than ever "Undecided is just another way of saying FUCKING STUPID" (Me, October 2008).
On this day two years ago, I posted a story about my friend Bess, who I had just hired to housesit my house for a week. I re-read the story today and it made me cry. Not just for Bess, who I hope is doing better (if anyone sees her please tell her hi for me), but for myself. It brought me back to the emotional place where I was coming from at that in my life that made it seem totally reasonable to invite a homeless stranger to stay in my home.
Two years ago I was feeling incredibly restless. I was feeling dissatisfied, and feeling guilty about being dissatisfied. I was wanting more, and felt ashamed that I wanted more. I tried so many different ways to change the structure of my life so that I could feel better. Inviting Bess into my life was a stressful, yet transformative experience that got me closer than any of my other efforts.
Becoming friends with a woman who carried her life with her in a big blue duffel bag helped me to see what was really missing. She would visit me at the shop pretty often, and when I wasn't busy, we'd sit and talk. She would have moments of intense joy, mirrored by moments of unimaginable sorrow. I could see it in her face--it would physically transform before my eyes, as her perspective shifted. I tried to just hold that space for her--the joy and the sorrow, the light and the dark. During one of those conversations, she said something that has stuck with me ever since--she was describing how difficult it was for her to remain positive, but that she was doing it anyway. She said "YOU HAVE TO FIGHT FOR YOUR LIGHT." I don't think I experience darkness to the same degree that she does, but I knew what she meant. And I didn't even make a Beastie Boys joke. She meant you have to really want the thing that brings you joy, and you have to not stop wanting it, not ever.
On this day, two years ago, I decided to fight for my light.
And today I'm here. I fought my way here, toward this light, which is still elusive and sometimes dim and most of the time looks really weird and different than I thought it would. The path was not (and probably never will be) easy or clear. I'm still fighting for it--although what "it" looks like is (and always will be) changing. Today I remember Bess, and the gifts she gave me, as I write this blog post 6 days after its self-imposed due-date, two years after making a conscious choice to make a very big move. And because of this, I remember the things I am committed to. I remember that it's bigger than an art project or an art degree. It's about really wanting joy and tenderness and vulnerability and truth, and it's about not stopping wanting those things just because it feels weird. My unsolicited advice for you today: sit with the weirdness. It will guide you.