She called my writing courageous
I tried to climb inside the word
Wear it like a second-hand jacket
which once held stories that were not mine
but now would only know the slope of my shoulders
and the place my elbows bend
Wanted desperately for it to fit
Turned it over in my hands
Traced all the stitches with my fingertips
sure I’d find it falling apart at the seams
But it was true enough
It fit well enough
No matter how well I know
it’s all about the things
still layered underneath
It’s easy for me to want to change it. To assume I’m going about it all wrong. Tell myself there ought to be a better way to do this. A “right” way. I fight hard against the current. Watch the people around me. Compare, question, make lists of how my life falls in line and where it differs.
I press my shoulders hard against the wall and slide down. Place the heels of my hands against my eyes and stretch my fingers up my forehead. “Why isn’t this working?”
The fight is exhausting. It takes on fights of its own. Grows two heads for every one I manage to dispatch. No longer a simple list of things I want to do, but a more detailed collection of all the ways I think I’m supposed to do them. As if forcing myself into a mold is going to do me any favors. At some point I forgot how to play to my strengths. Maybe I never learned how in the first place. Instead, I made models of characteristics I admire and tried to benefit by acting like I have them.
Of course it doesn’t work like that. No matter how delicious the scent of that promise is gliding in.
Again I find myself wondering how I can go about all this different. Wade into a river already flowing in the direction I’m interested in. I make lists of all the things I respond well to. Outside accountability and words of encouragement. Someone leaning over my shoulder and telling me, “You’re doing great.” High fives and deadlines.
So I knit myself into those situations.
Make it a point to always smile at the staff in our new apartment building.
Stop going to meetings which make me feel broken.
Apply for a full-time job in my coworking space before the position even exists, then work hard to earn it. Return to the workforce after almost exactly two years absence. But not at another coffee shop, not in some customer service position which only fulfills my desire to help people. This strikes a deeper chord. This is belonging, mattering, creating.
Sign up with a personal trainer and tell him about how I want to do pull ups and back squat more than I weigh. He nods, smiles, and says, “Okay. Let’s do this.”
Find myself in weekly meetings, telling people what I want to do over the next couple months. They stop me in the stairs and ask me how my writing is going. Ask me what time I got up that morning. If I’ve been getting my cardio in.
My grip on the idea that needing external accountability is a weak trait loosens.
I grant myself permission to just do what works for me. Remind myself that if I’m successful then I’m doing it right. There is no “better” way to get from A to B.
Kid, life will beat you up enough, you don’t have to do it yourself. That’s not where you need assistance.