I had the honor of celebrating love twice over the past month. My brilliant and beautiful niece and one of my favorite people in the world, a sister from another mister, got married. It occurred to me how often we start over—whether it be in the form of a union like marriage, a career change or something seemingly minute as trying a new hobby.
Over the past few weeks, I was in a writing class. While there is nothing wrong with the class and the teacher is absolutely lovely, I found myself pacing during part of the first class (Zoom class and off camera, of course), missed the second due to illness, needed to leave halfway through the third and felt a lot of resistance about the fourth class so I sat that one out. I could not figure out what was going on. The people were great and the opportunity to write in an open and kind environment was there. My husband simply said maybe you just aren’t feeling it right now and it’s ok to stop. I started to protest but what was I protesting? If my body prefers rest on a Tuesday evening, then that is that. There does not need to be another reason. The other thought that has been challenging me lately is that I have grown and though I still need a writing space that centers kindness, I also need one that encourages critique. I have looked at listings for classes where the focus is on fiction. I still have poems I want to share. There is another book of poetry in me but there is no denying that I have started to yearn to write fiction again. This would not be my first class—more like my third fiction course. I know there’s nothing stopping me but myself and I can easily acknowledge I have a fear of not doing it well.
My expectations are realistic and I have been reminded that if my dreams don’t scare me, they are not big enough. I am scared so I am letting fear lead me down the path to share new poetry (aloud) and register for a class where I might want to scratch my own eyes out after reading early drafts.
That’s ok. It’s worth trying again instead of wondering what may have been. Regret has never looked good on me anyway.
This past weekend I went to a wedding. Outside of the beauty of watching them become husband and wife, it had me thinking about commitment. What happens when you go from flirting with it to have it living on the insides, this willingness to attach, gambling with your heart, betting you will gain more than you could ever lose?
Writing feels that way to me. When I left a career a few years back, I was betting that I would not only brush past my fears, but that I would take them by the lapel, throw them to the ground and proceed to kick them into submission. It needed to be that serious for me. I saw how easy it could be. I could have spent the next 23 years at a job that admittedly had more lows than highs but I could have scraped by. I could always look forward to being in my mid-50’s and starting over again from there.
But I didn’t want to wait until I was worn down by years of stress and lack of fulfillment. The need to commit to finding out if I had what it took to do this far outweighed staying in misery, even if there was a level of comfort in that misery. I realize I am blessed to put in the work, even if half the time I am scared I am doing this only half-right or not at all. Even when it feels like no one is reading.
I will (and have) made my fair share of mistakes but I don’t have to live with wondering what could’ve happened if I never took a chance on myself.
If I never decided to commit.
Your turn: What have you recently committed to? How has it changed you?
I have found the more I move towards what I’m supposed to be doing–writing and focusing on achieving my wellness goals through plant-based eating, the more help I receive. I know there are some who advise to keep your dreams a secret but reaching out to others has been life-saving for me. I would never say not to be careful about naysayers or people who claim to “support” in word but never in action.
Although I have definitely run across people like that in my life, I have seen that it has been more worthwhile to keep opening myself up to people. In general, I think it makes people feel good to support you by buying your books, coming to your events and sharing ideas contributing to your growth. For the people who don’t, I think it’s best to wish them well and let those people fall away in their own time.
I keep finding with those who truly supported me, it revealed their character to me. It seems when you reach milestones in life, people either rise up and support you or find a way to fade into the background. I have experienced some sadness but overall, when I started blogging and then wrote my E-book journal, I experienced so much growth that it was worth a small amount of pain.
So I vow to remain open. Open to people. Open to help. Open to contributing to others’ successes.
When it comes to this, I believe there is no such thing as going it alone.
Tonight is our last night in California. Our conversations with the last two Lyft drivers provided some food for thought. Every time hubby and I travel to a new city, we ask the same question: Could we live here? As grateful as we were for the views, the food, the beauty and our time with my cousin, we both said “No” to the question about the Carlsbad/Encinitas area. We arrived at the Gas Lamp Quarter in San Diego yesterday morning and I immediately felt in sync with my environment. However, we are preparing to leave tomorrow morning and both of us wish we had more time here. We could use 2 or 3 more days right here so we could answer our question with confidence. We had lunch at Cafe Gratitude and walked down to the the Harbor waterfront area. Hubby proclaimed he could see living in the apartments down the street from the restaurant. We watched locals stroll along the water, their laminated IDs swinging from their necks and belt loops, lucky enough to work nearby the harbor and bathe in the sun during their breaks.
But back to the Lyft drivers. The one who took us to Balboa Park to go to the Zoo and museums told us he had been living here for seven months. He and his girlfriend visited from Philadelphia last January, looked at one another and made a decision to move here. Within a matter of months, they were in San Diego and found jobs days later. Our second driver moved here from Brazil fifteen years later and has not looked back. I know we are playing tourist but everyone we spoke to seemed so sure of the risk they took. Of course, it is unlikely people would pour out their deepest fears and insecurities to a complete stranger.
However, I choose to believe them. As someone who decided not to continue down a career path that would have been “just fine” and “safe”, I understand what it means to take a risk to become who you want to be. Sometimes, it means moving across the country, forging a new career path or choosing to end a relationship.
My future risk may not include an adventurous move across the country but I know I am open to the exploration of what comes next.
Your turn: What risks have you taken lately? Or what risk do you want to take?
I picked “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert back up again. I have a horrible habit, especially with non-fiction, personal development books of reading a quarter of the way or halfway through, sitting it down and diving into another one. It got worse after coming back from Summit of Greatness 2017 with a whole new stack to add to my dysfunction.
Lately, I have been reading a few pages every morning of Big Magic and there have been several moments where I have been slapping an invisible Elizabeth Gilbert hi-five in my bedroom.
Here are a couple of the gems that caused me to act a fool:
On keeping a day job: “I held on to those sources of income for so long because I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay their bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.”
That passage was screaming at me earlier this week. It was the exact confirmation I needed that I had made the right choice to leave where I was to provide more for our family. The insight was impactful because I realized I was putting undue pressure on my creativity and to be frank, I am not there yet. I will get there but it will take time. I will work on my craft and my discipline in the meantime.
2. On Permission: “It doesn’t matter in the least. Let people have their opinions. More than that–let people be in love with their opinions, just as you and I are in love with ours. But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business. Lastly, remember what W.C. Fields had to say on this point: “It ain’t what they call you; it’s what you answer to.”
When I decided to leave my career at Social Services a few years back, I did not encounter a lot of negativity but I did have some hesitation about proclaiming my choice to pursue writing when I shouldn’t have had a moment’s hesitation at all. It was between me and my God, me and my husband and me and my creativity.
Outside of writing, dancing and a couple of other commitments this weekend, I will devote my time to work on this dysfunction and blissfully get lost in the joy of reading “Big Magic.”