Title Image Credit: Giancarlo Beroldo
I haven’t written on this blog in a while (What’s new?) But I’ve cut myself a lot of slack on that because writing takes energy and I’ve been putting quite a bit of energy toward my business. I also didn’t feel like I had anything interesting to talk about. I still don’t. But I realize that I need writing a lot more than writing will ever need me and I listened to Glennon interview Cheryl Strayed, who talked about embracing your mediocrity, and it was just so freeing to hear someone say that.
Basically, she had this idea in her head that she was going to write the next great American novel. She was going to write this astounding novel for the world and that would be her great accomplishment.
When you’ve been a writer like I am with a supportive, loving family system like I have, you get told stuff like that. “You’re so brilliant.” “You should write a book!” and it’s not a bad thing to hear… it’s lovely to hear people support and appreciate you. But when you get yourself stuck in this belief that every piece of writing you put out has to be something special (not because someone else said so but because you believe you must), you simply stop writing all together. And that’s what Cheryl talked about. Once she let go of writing the book, she was able to write her book.
The only book she ever had inside of her was the one she was meant to write. Thank you Cheryl Strayed, for saying that. I’m sure many listeners needed to hear it, but I did especially.
Making yourself into a new person, writing the book, the pursuit of the thing that will make you better, smarter, more beautiful, more perfect, more fulfilled… as Glennon agreed with Cheryl, the very pursuit is what keeps you from achieving the thing.
We have this idea in our heads of who we are and who we’re going to be and who we must be, even though we know it’s going to change. We cling to this idea of ourselves as this very specific person, even though time and again life shows us that will not last.
Which makes me think of smoking. I quit smoking last year. On and off. It was a doozy to quit. The physical part was rough, but the mental and emotional part was even tougher.
For years I thought, “I’m a smoker and I’ll be a smoker.” But I knew one day I wouldn’t be. I knew one day, when I was ready, I would let go of that part of myself.
And one Wednesday morning I went to bed thinking how much it sucked to get bronchitis all the time, to get sick for weeks instead of days because I smoked. The pandemic, especially, scared me. This was a lung disease after all, and so many people were dying, unable to breathe. I knew how your lungs looked and how your skin changed and how your teeth got effed up, and how Covid could be so much worse for smokers.
But none of that actually got me to quit.
What got me to quit, finally, was the moment I decided being a smoker was no longer a part of who I was. Who I am.
And that’s why I’ve always been so annoyed with New Year’s resolutions. The idea I’m going to be someone else who does different things when the clock strikes midnight? No thank you. It’s interesting to me that we are so attached to changing ourselves for the better, changing ourselves in these ways, but most of the time change happens in the moments we aren’t paying attention to. It happens when we’re just doing life, not when we’re actively pushing ourselves toward something outside of ourselves.
It’s strange that we as human beings are terribly skilled at mostly doing shit that’s bad for us; it’s this paradox because at any given moment we can believe we will always stay the same but also know that we will always be changing, even when we least want to.
We all want to change, but we also hate it. Well, at least, I hate change.
Yet I’ve gone through so many changes and every change I’ve ever gone through I’ve come out at the other side thinking “Wow, that was worth it.”
For about a year before I finally quit, I finally also wanted to quit.
Now I’m on the other side and I feel better. It feels amazing to breathe easier, to not consistently wonder where my cigarettes or vape are. I can fly on a plane now without totally freaking out!
But when I was in it, going through that change and muscling through withdrawal symptoms, that was difficult. But what was more difficult was feeling like my whole world and identity was shattering. Who would I be without smoking, or my eating disorder, or my self-hatred? Who would I be if I never wrote the book or did any number of other things I kept believing I had to do one day?
But I need the shattering. We all do. We need the shifts that come with life and growing up and becoming more of ourselves in this exact moment of being. We need to be the person we are meant to be, not the person we believe we must strive for. And when we stop striving is when change becomes magical, rather than fear-inducing.
For many years I was this or that or some other thing… and every time something shifted it wasn’t because of a resolution or a piece of knowledge. It was simply a slow unraveling of that self into a new self; it was a slow shift of simply no longer feeling like that was who I was anymore.
We all cling so tightly to the person that we are and then either one day or one week or one year or in a series of Yeses or No thank yous, we become someone else without hardly even noticing it was happening. We are writing our own stories without even realizing it, because the moment we start to strive to write our story is the moment it becomes not our story, but our idea of the story we are supposed to write. And when we simply write our stories, no strings attached, no enforced change required, is when we most assuredly become who we are meant to be.