I’m in a big fight with myself right now. Writing this very post, these words, is a volley in the fight.
There’s a part of me that’s too tired, too disappointed, too frustrated to start. Again this happens! That part of me would rather eat ice cream, or play a video game, or re-organize my desk in the name of Justifiably-Productive-Non-Productivity.
But there is another part of me: the part that loves to write and sees the possibility of a future where I can do more of what I love, and even support my family through my writing. That part is there waiting for me to choose.
So I’m choosing to start again.
At the end of December I had this whole list of great plans for the new year. My first little book was just coming into production. I had laid out a schedule of blog posts, guest blogs, and other activities that would promote the book and help it get into the hands of more people. I was looking forward to building relationships with some other bloggers. I had a social media schedule laid out, and a list of topics to write on. I was looking forward to pouring all my extra time over Christmas break into writing, and building a great springboard for the new year. Then life happened.
The Life Happened.
We bought a house. Actually, we made an offer on a house months ago. This was a short-sale transaction and you just never know how long those are going to take. Close friends of ours were tied up in a short sale purchase for more than a year! But not us. The week before Christmas, after waiting for weeks and weeks, we were told to get our final documents ready because the bank wanted to close before the end of the year. The Friday after Christmas we had the keys.
We hadn’t packed ahead of time because we had no idea if or when the deal would close. We suddenly found ourselves swept into an avalanche of packing, cleaning, fixing and painting in the new house so we could move in, fixing and cleaning in the old house so we could move out, with ever-approaching deadlines. All my grand writing plans got buried in the flood.
I imagine a more emotionally mature person would just admit that “this is what is,” flexing like a zen master to accommodate the new reality without disappointment. Not me. I got frustrated. And disappointed. And a little bit grumpy. As the days passed, these feelings grew and my attitude degenerated.
Slowly the chaos of the move is sorting itself out. We made our deadlines getting out of the old house. We’re all moved into the new house. There are still an overwhelming number of boxes to unpack, but we all have our beds and most of our clothes. We have a functional kitchen. So, in reality, we are fine. Today, my wife Christina, forcibly pushed me out the door and told me to “Go write.” So here I am.
When the unexpected gets you stuck.
Maybe you’ve had an experience like me. You made plans for something that you really wanted or needed to do. You made commitments and set goals. But then life happened. Things changed and those plans just couldn’t happen. When that kind of unexpected detour changes your route, how do you handle it? What do you do?
For me the risk is pretty dark.
At first, I feel like a failure. “I’m not keeping my commitments. I’m not moving forward in my goals. I’m losing ground.” These are the voices that I hear in my heart. I feel them too in sadness, frustration, and a short and grumpy attitude with the people around me.
With those feelings shaping my internal landscape, I start to feel stuck. The voices in my head amp up. I can’t find the motivation I need to clear away the noise. Television or Facebook wandering or purposeless action can drown it out for a while, but those things also fill time. Every moment they fill is a moment that can never be turned toward life-giving purposes. The emotional feeling of being stuck results in spending time in stuck ways. Slowly stuckness is no longer just a feeling, but has become a way of being.
This is where I was at when I got out of bed today.
Abandoning What Matters.
The next phase is no good. For me, at least, being stuck for too long leads to abandoning my goals. Sometimes it’s a defacto abandonment. Time passes. Forward motion is not made. The project loses relevance. Other commitments come and go, and eventually it’s just the truth that the project was left behind.
Other times, it’s been a clear decision. It’s just so painful to contemplate the goals that are not being met, that it’s easier to set those goals aside. This is done with spiritual sounding words. “I’m learning to let go.” “I’m waiting on God.” “I have more important priorities. I’m just trying to simplify.” They sound wise and mature; the practical result is simply stepping away from my passion.
The cycle may be different for you, but the results are similar. The unexpected twists of life provide an off-ramp in pursuing your dreams. Trying to just get by keeps you from experiencing who God made you to be.
Start again by starting again.
Today, I’m planting a flag on this hill. I’m taking back the ground I’ve lost. I’m not going to give in to the cycle that has sidelined me so many times before. How?
I’m going to get up and start again. Strike that. I’m not going to do it. I’m doing it right now. I’m getting back up and starting again.
Each word, each paragraph, is a volley in the battle. Renewing my commitment to post twice a week shakes my courage. (Can I do it? What if life happens again?) Tomorrow, I’m going to contact the bloggers that never heard back from me, or that got left high and dry. I’m going to pull out my list of ideas for moving my book forward. I think it will help people live a more effective and enjoyable life, so I want them to know about it. And then, having written these words, I’m going to hit the big “Publish” button and send them out into the world where I can’t really take them back.
I won’t go down the road of giving in to my frustration or fear. I’m taking action to start again. I can already feel my attitude changing.