Archive | May, 2018

You don’t have to be awesome, or win

25 May

4:16 pm

Yes, that’s right, folks!  At 43, soon to be 44 next month, I have at last made the realization that, nope, you don’t have to be awesome, and you don’t have to win.

You don’t have to do anything amazing, or challenging even; you don’t have to do it perfectly, or better than someone else; you don’t have to win any prizes.

Life goes on; life will go on, whether you publish a book, or open a business, or make millions as a lawyer or doctor.  NONE of that really matters; what matters, I say, is the fact that you got to fall in love with a dog, and walk him–he laughing into your tears with his tongue–until you stopped crying and starting laughing with him.  Our boy is gone now, but he lives on in my mind; and most days, that’s the only thing that feels like it matters to me.  And, I’m not sure if I am supposed to feel liberated by that or straight up SCARED to death that I am getting closer and closer to just not giving any fucks anymore!

There is so much consumerism here–buying and selling of things, of work, of jobs, of people, of relationships, of experiences–in America.  Maybe it really is everywhere, but, man, does there seem to be a desire here, almost a frenzied one, to acquire experiences.  I’m in on it, too, of course, and as frenzied as the next person–and enthusiastically so most days!  Yet, I try to remind myself of the existence of my higher power, the higher things, the lessening and loosening and lessons of sobriety.  Life is about the wind, the breath being taken away; the letting go.  Sometimes I do feel…estranged, I guess, in a “land of plenty” where there is never enough, and in some cases, feels like nothing.

I am trying to write these days, and all the usual bullshit comes up; somehow, though, I had this thought the other day that it just doesn’t matter–for real.  It’s a thought that I’ve tried believing before, and I got to a certain level and then you know, went back to being my normal competitive, hard-on-myself self.  Yet, the other day, I just thought, you know, you’re going on 44, you don’t have to win anymore.  You don’t have to get into a good school (did it, twice), be the best in that school (failed at that, but I’m sure I tried and tried), do this and that and the other (did it all, in search of “growth” and “challenge”); you don’t have to get another degree and even if you do, you don’t have to do well in the program!  You don’t have to DO anything or BE anyone except…yourself.  A person who will maybe be loved and maybe be forgotten; that is life, and that is what we fight for, and against, it seems, every single day.

At this, I drank.  I drank so much trying to be and do and achieve and win–and also, to NOT be and do and achieve and win.  Now, I don’t want to drink at this; I have accepted that this is how I feel sometimes, and what I think, and well, maybe the reality that we all have to face now and again in this lifetime.

It’s so hard not being hard on myself; it’s so hard for all of us, I assume, to not be hard on ourselves.  And, I would venture to say that, even IF someone tells you, Oh, DDG, don’t be so hard on yourself; in the back of their mind, they’re thinking and plotting and planning because there seems to be so very little example here (I’ll just call this world USA, Inc.) of actually choosing to not do, to not achieve, to not regard the world and your place in it as part of a game whose very existence hinges on your winning.

I’m not sure I know anyone who has completely said, fuck it, and decided to do away with the need for validation, by self or others.  I am not there yet, but there is a voice inside me that is screaming, quietly, DDG, it does not matter what you do, just be.  Just breathe.  You can try stuff, and do stuff; and trying it is good enough; doing it is good enough.  There are no prizes, and there is no winning, and when you die, your name and your achievements will not really be remembered as much as who you were, and what your presence meant to people.  So, just be.

Ahh–if ONLY I could practice this now-ness all the time, and not for about three minutes a day!

Who you are vs. who you want to be

14 May

6:14 pm

So, as you all know, we moved to a new place about three months ago, and we’re managing to stay sane, I suppose!  Being in a new place, my contract job having ended, and neither of us really all that extroverted or desiring to be so–it just sort of sucks!  It is NOT EASY moving somewhere new in your 40s!  Haha.  You sort of just don’t feel like any of it anymore, you know?  I knew that I would feel more comfortable in one of the many places that I have already lived, but I thought, take a chance, go outside your comfort zone (again), yada yada yada.  I think we have both realized that there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to aging and trying certain new things, like, moving to a new place.  I don’t know.

And, this has all made me start thinking about this whole, “go outside your comfort zone” thing, which I’ve been trying to do my whole life, to varying degrees of success.  Like, what IS a comfort zone, and why do we have this idea of it being a bad thing?  Are you supposed to be doing something that makes you feel comfortable, most like yourself; or are you supposed to be challenging yourself and doing things that are hard or scary or too big to chew?  I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I just can’t stand writing anymore, and I want to do something else; but, when I boil it down and observe myself in action–you know, being who I am, or who I have always gravitated toward being–I realize that I AM simply a writerly type (quiet, thoughtful, introverted, so at ease in my thoughts) and then, can’t seem to conclude that I should do something else.

Yet, what IF I didn’t want to be that thing anymore?  Can I just go and be someone else entirely, throwing off the “callings” and character traits that I always seem to relax into, and instead do something that I think would make me the person I want to be (less in my head, more active, more intrepid, as it were)?  I have thought about this a lot in getting sober, in moving through it all, in relocating, in losing yet another job that I didn’t really want in the first place but that I was “good” at and that I made money doing.  Are you supposed to be who you are, or work at being who you want to be?

I am SO fully on board right now with trying to be who I want to be–with putting in that work–because I am so tired of who I am.  I am so tired of being the neurotic writer, the science geek.  It’s like, I wasn’t that good at science and wanted to major in freaking poetry in college (yeah, the fear started way back then, and it is one of my life’s regrets)!?  Um, when as a child did I say, Mommy, I really want to be a…technical writer when I grow up?  Time is running out, y’all.  And not only that, but I am sort of becoming desperate to NOT be in my head all day–even IF it means taking a huge pay cut…at a time in my life when I need all the money I can get.

The other day, as I was contemplating who I am (a writer) versus who I want to be (maybe a public health professional, maybe someone who works for an international development nonprofit or NGO), I was struck by how confusing it is to decide who to be:  which person (the one you are, the one you want to be) is more authentic, more truthful, more along the lines of fulfilling a personal destiny?

It’s a dilemma.  As a writer, I am always looking for work, selling myself, and moving from contract to contract, subject to subject.  I mean, it would almost be easier to be a lawyer, or anything with a well-formed trajectory, and then at a certain point be like, it’s too late to change course.  As a writer, part of your job is changing course, so you are constantly also thinking about courses outside of your own realm (well, at least some of us are).

I am trying to sort of end this chapter in my life, but I have only ideas, and not enough savings, and a heavy dose of fear.  I hate that.  I hate feeling afraid at this late stage–I am 43 years old, and it’s only been in the past several years or so that I wouldn’t have just up and left a well-paying job to pursue a shitty paying passion.  And, I am grateful for that newfound level-headedness (it has enabled a lot of financial progress and big changes, like this move), but I’m also still learning how to balance my need to earn a big check with my equally large need to feel stimulated, excited, fulfilled, wanting to get out of bed in the morning.  I know there are many an alternate career I can pursue, and I just need to sit down and chart a course of action beyond the next few months.  All in due time, I say.

I gave up freelance writing because it did not pay the bills; and, I think it might have just tired me out and made me believe that I didn’t like writing when in fact, it was the stress of never making enough money.  I WANT to be like, eh, I don’t need the savings, the retirement account; I should just Go For It and become a barista (again), or a teacher, or a poorly paid writer for an international NGO.  Yet, can I expect to feel safe, or, the way I want to feel, on that kind of income anymore?  In an ideal world, we would have a thriving business, which would allow me to pursue a more “passionate” career again; in THIS world, maybe we would both feel equal parts comfortable and challenged; in this world, maybe I would love being a writer again.

Exhale.  It will all be OK, I keep telling myself.  You got this.  It’s all about balance, right?

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