- 5-minute Journal- every day
- Beautiful Writers Podcast: Anne Lamott & Glennon Doyle Melton: Hallelujah Anyway; Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: Brene Brown; Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: Glennon Doyle Melton
- Visualize for 5 minutes – Everyday, this morning with quick meditation
- Exercise: Bar online (20 minute version) and 4 mile run; track workout; rest day; 4 mile run
- Goal- submitting revised article to 2 different journals
- An item off your shitty things to do list: Still checking off…
- Do something fun: Friend came to visit…so much fun was had.
Well, we made it. I was really hoping that I would arrive on the other side of this happy, healed, and heartbreak free. Not quite there, but I guess I am 30 days closer to getting there.
As far as ‘drama’ goes, I was relatively successful. In comparison to the past year, specifically in the past 7 months, it was a bubble of all things good and beautiful. But it wasn’t, really. Life just doesn’t work that way. But , there was still a lot of both of those.
The first podcast I can’t recommend highly enough. I was an interview with Glennon Doyle Melton and Anne Lamott. I literally could not stop listening until it was over. These two, especially together, were riveting. It is centered around their writing careers, but everything they discuss is applicable to all- everything around facing your fears, pursuing your dreams, etc.
So Glennon Doyle Melton is my new hero. She is just so unbelievably real and raw, and also funny, charming, strong and bold. I think I wrote about her last week. Lamott is a bit older and so incredibly wise but without the least bit of pretention. She, like Glennon, is extremely raw an honest and, yes, a little crazy.
The second and third podcasts were Glennon again, and then Brene Brown.
All of these discussions each woman’s path that led to her need to write and the way it has impacted her life, as well as those of her readers. The themes that kept surfacing in all three of their stories were fear and failure…which I am finally figuring out are one and the same.
Each woman had to do the one thing that scared them the most. They had to accept that they had failed. They had to look at all of their pain and shame and guilt and fear, all their demons, and not only TO name them but to expose them and identify exactly where they came from.
Failure. That is always the source, right? Our pain, our guilt or shame that comes from a deeply ingrained fear that we will fail or that we did fail. It makes us completely powerless because we have no control over it. ‘They” do. We are afraid of failing them– our parents, our children, our partner, our boss…We fail because we believe they think we failed.
Lamott asked a seemingly simple question that proved to make the most profound point in the podcast.
When was the first time someone told you couldn’t do something well or made you feel like something you created or did was bad?
I feel like every one of us can quickly conjure up this memory- your art teacher, parent, sibling, or classmates. You proudly, or timidly, offered up something you created, just you in all your innocent glory, and they laughed at you, ridiculed you, embarrassed you. And it hurt on a level that changed you.
I thought of mine and am a bit surprised that it had such a lasting impact. But when you’re little, you have no choice but to use others’ thoughts and opinions to form your frame of reference, and this includes your identity.
I was in the first grade and we were given a picture to color. The best one got a…no idea, a sticker or an eraser or something seemingly insignificant. We handed them in and the teacher put them up on the wall for everyone to see. I have no idea what my picture was, but I remember I was proud of it and thought I might even win the prize.
I didn’t. She even selected a runner-up, but it wasn’t me. I went up to the teacher after and asked why mine didn’t win. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but something to the effect of I didn’t stay within the lines. (such a metaphor for my life right now).
I remember being so embarrassed and furious with myself for not knowing what the rules were. So I kept coloring, probably compulsively, until I learned how to do it like everyone else.
But it’s wasn’t about ‘coloring’, was it? She planted a seed. I wasn’t good enough, or worse, there was something wrong with me. So I had two choices: I could either kill myself trying to be better, or I could just stop trying and accept defeat.
So I went on a mission. I would do better. I would be better. This message started a vicious cycle that became a life-long battle- a war against myself. And victory would only be mine if I achieved one thing, which was everything: perfection.
I’m not saying this event was the only contributing factor to one of my most relentless issues, but I definitely can see how it helped set the stage. You can’t be perfect if you color outside the lines. And you can’t be celebrated if you aren’t perfect.
It’s crazy, right? Are demons are born from our innocence. Our naive tendency to trust ourselves and those around us with our safety, our love, our confidence and self-worth. We are completely oblivious to the fact that our unconventional drawing will manifest into a never-ending battle to be good enough- a battle that most of us don’t even know we are fighting.
I was very clear that I wasn’t in a battle, I was in an all-out war and I knew exactly why. But I truly thought I was winning. I was winning because I was achieving. – college degrees, great jobs, athletic endeavors, exciting travels. What I was actually doing was running. They were forever closing in, but I was always 2 steps ahead. It was exhausting, but it was so much easier than trying to disarm them.
To be clear, I don’t think setting the bar high and achieving your goals is a bad approach to life, not at all. This is what makes us human and why we are here- to experience, to achieve and evolve. Anything living has to grow, right? Otherwise, it dies.
The problem is when we are doing what we do as a way to prove our self-worth. If we interpret success as ‘how much’ or ‘how well’ we do something, and those quantifiers are determined by others’ standards, then we will never get it right. We will never own anything but our failures, and any of our successes will be theirs.
So while I was running full force, stacking up one accomplishment on top of the other, I truly thought I was succeeding in building my credentials. But what I was actually building was a fortress.
It seemed like a good strategy. I didn’t have to endure everyone’s’ criticisms. I now had this extremely powerful weapon- an impenetrable wall to keep the demons at bay while keeping ‘my good enough’ safe from scrutiny.
Herein lies the tragic flaw, right? All the things I accomplished now defined me and you got to decide if they were good enough…if I was good enough. My carefully constructed walls were an unpredictable façade that became my prison. I was constantly petrified of failing “you”, so you stayed locked out, and I remained trapped inside. I unknowingly granted a safe haven for the very demons I was trying to eliminate. They grew steadily in strength and numbers, leaving no room for anything that close to good enough.
I assure you, this has to be what hell feels like and has become far more exhausting than running. The prospect of remaining invisible and far removed from all the things I love and want is far more terrifying than facing the shit that has sucked all the joy out of the things I’m most proud of.
So here is the crux. Lamott so eloquently reminds us that “failure has its function.” I failed. My worst fear came true. But doesn’t that mean I just did the scariest thing I will ever do? I already survived the very thing I feared the most (rejection on so many levels), so anything that happens now can’t be worse, right? I’m still standing and now have the most powerful weapon of all.
What is fear, exactly? It’s a belief that something could be dangerous and cause us pain. But it’s not truth. It’s not knowing what will happen; it’s we believe might happen. And even if our fear does come true. It cannot destroy us.
It will feel like death at some point, because it is in a sense. It’s the death of the belief that the rejection we experienced as a child defines who we are. It’s the dying off of the fears that are preventing us from taking risks, discovering what our truth is, not the truth imposed on us by society and religion, our spouses and families- our truth.
And if we fail, if our whole world is turned upside down and gets unfathomably messy. Even if we’re judged, ridiculed, and rejected. These circumstances and feelings are temporary.
This is almost impossible to remember when we’re in the thick of falling apart. But it’s only through the dying off of these parts- false truths that someone else instilled in us decades ago- that we can shed the layers of fear, shame, and guilt that have been paralyzing us.
Because it’s only through the decomposition of our calloused layers that we can unearth our essence. And only then will we experience renewal needed to bloom into the bold, extraordinary work of art we were always meant to be not the lines someone else drew to the designate a space that’s orderly…that’s ordinary.
So this is the function of failure; it forces us to disarm our fears with the knowledge that, even at its worst, they will not destroy us.
I think I’m finally getting to the place where I don’t give a shit if I fail anymore. I already have failed, in so many ways, none of which were small. So, that’s out of the way. And yes, I am embarrassed, ashamed and angry. And yes, I still feel fear. But it is not the fear of failing you. It is a fear of not doing all of the things I still want to.
And remember, fear and excitement elicit the same physiological response.
So next time you feel paralyzed with fear, maybe your just excited about the possibilites of all that are waiting outside the lines.
I think that is a good note to end our little experiment on. It has not been a perfect 30 days. But I feel like some destructive patterns were interrupted and some new ones were implemented. That was the goal.
Thanks for coming along for the ride and for your all of your support and wisdom. I send all of you lots of love and wish you an endless string of happy, exciting, and peaceful days