I knew I wanted to devote some good reading attention to the email titled “How to know if you’re on a good path” by Penelope Trunk. I definitely do not love everything she writes, but even the posts that I strongly disagree with bring me satisfaction in the form of loving that she has polarizing opinions. Opening the email, it begins with photos of tiny pornographic scenes built of little figurines and everyday objects. A bit hard to explain, check them out HERE. I gave these in the form of postcards to my sister and her boyfriend for Christmas. In the light of this lovely coincidence I knew it was going to be good.
I was immediately sucked in by the big picture questions and declarations about those envisioning their futures. Trunk writes “Do you know where you’ll be ten years from now? That’s not a path, that’s a destination. If you can see where you’ll be, you’re already there. If you know for sure where you are going then you are actually living someone else’s version of a path.” Part of me exhales and feels an immense amount of relief. THANK GOD. Working with Lululemon and receiving goal coaching, plus working on my own goal development through the Live Your Legend E-Course, I have been struggling with pinning down details of what I want my future to look like. While manifesting dreams and trying to make them a reality in the near future can be exciting, there is something about illustrating my life ten years down the road that makes it feel mundane. That is why the above statement feels validating to me, I am creating my path, enjoying the journey, not overly concerned with the details of the destination.
Trunk goes on to describe how writers only produce good writing when they are surprised. She says “If you are not surprised at the end of your writing, then the reader is not surprised, and then the writing is boring both of you. But it’s hard to let yourself be surprised in your writing because it’s not that fun to not know where stuff is going.” Another AHA! moment. Something clicking into place. This is so simple, yet complex. Again, part of me is so relieved, but the feeling is followed by wrestling with the discomfort of not knowing. DAMN IT.
This is what I do all of my therapy around. I have been speaking to the same therapist since 2004. I like her so much that we have largely developed our relationship over the phone. I would see her here in the Bay Area when I was around, but then I went off to college on the East Coast and could only do phone sessions with her. Now I call her whenever I start getting overwhelmed, which happens fairly regularly since I never really know where I’m going. She has always made time for these impromptu sessions, which is probably one of the reasons I keep in touch with her. She recently told me I am one of her favorite clients because I am so open to feedback. Well, Hallelujah! And she’s my favorite therapist because she gives me so much support and holds me in unconditional positive regard. It’s a good thing that I am participating in Interchange because now I get a lot of counseling for free. My therapist I talk to over the phone is somewhere around $250 an hour. That price makes me consider getting a Masters in Psychology. I’m not gonna lie, I would love to make that kind of money hourly. And I love listening to people talk about their problems (and giving them unsolicited advice! HA. That’s another story.)
Trunk moves on to explore the relationship between trauma and secrets, which is relevant to my life and this post because I am reading about trauma for Interchange in this fascinating book called Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine. So I found it poignant to read “trauma is not as accurate an indicator of future emotional mess as much as secrets about trauma is. Secrets are what give long-term emotional bite to the trauma.” I totally believe this to be true. And while Trunks blog keeps her in line, my therapist, my family, and programs like Interchange, keep me in line because they provide outlets for me to be completely open and as nerdy and involved in my feelings as I need to be. One reason I am so intrigued and endlessly obsessed with feelings and talking about feelings is because I am continuously surprised how much other people have been told that it is not OK to express and explore themselves. This was much less the case for me growing up.
So I keep reading and fall in love with the post even more:
“But one of the most true things I know is that the more you talk about secrets, the more you are able to talk about secrets. It’s like forming a habit for anything. And an article in the Atlantic, about forming habits, has a great quotation from Aristotle: ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.'”
This gives me reassurance that I can cultivate the habits I find important and build the relationship that I desire. I recently made a pact with a friend that we would practice being open with one another and make sure to communicate about our relationship on a regular basis. It felt really good to create this agreement where we both have the space to be honest with each other and where it’s expected. I am also reminded of a friend who would share a lot of his life with me, but he made me swear I would never tell anyone ever. I would often get frustrated with him because it felt like everything, even small little things, were shrouded in secrecy and it blew things out of proportion. While many of those stories were his to tell, I could feel them begin to eat away at me based on them being shared as “secrets.” Whereas maybe I never would have shared them in the first place if it were casual. Weird.
More awesome validations come in the form of hearing that successful people (like Trunk) also go days on end without writing blog posts, that they give bullshit excuses as to why, and then the truth comes out that it’s hard to create the “emotional space to cope with being surprised… surprises are exhausting.” Amen Sister.
No wonder I’m exhausted. The last three or four months of my life have felt like a complete shit show. Now that I’ve been living in the same room for six weeks in a house it looks like I will be in for a while, I can relax a little. This is also interesting information for me to absorb because I have been struggling a lot to write and post to my blog. It is one of my 27 x 27 goals to write about each goal I am working on and the ones I accomplish. Now that I am working with Sports Psychologist, Stevo, at San Francisco Crossfit, I am reconsidering the entire 27 x 27 and the way I have it set up. That should be another post. My point is, I may never post anything if I wait (or work) for my writing to be good enough to surprise. I am dealing with surprise in so many other areas of my life currently, that part of me simply wants to relay information. But you know what? I’m scared.
I have recently begun to uncover something I believe is a basic fear that strongly influences all of my actions and decisions. I think that when I really boil it down, it comes to this:
I am terrified of looking stupid.
There. I said it. I don’t simply want to relay information. I want to WOW the fucking pants off of every single one of you with every word, every post I ever write. Or at very least seem like a strong, competent writer. A smart one. I don’t just want to go to Crossfit and get semi-fit. I want to become a ninja and have complete range of motion and help people improve their technique as well. This way, I will seem strong and knowledgeable. But that’s not real. You know what’s real? The way Trunk goes on to talk about self promotion.
Another breath of fresh air to read “I hate that I get embarrassed to ask you for anything. I hate promoting myself.” A 30-something-year-old who has started multiple businesses and was a competitive volley ball player gets embarrassed about promoting herself? In the words of my awesome friend, Maria, “THAT’S REAL.” Shame, struggle, and more hard work up ahead. A breath of fresh air and then the realization: “Shit! I guess I can write or not write. Strive to accomplish what I want most in the world or not, either way, I am going to have to keep staring fear in the face and just KEEP WORKING.” Am I on a good career path? I’m working on creating that path. Am I scared? Yes, I’m freaking scared OK! Do I make emotional space in my life to be routinely surprised? Hell yea.
In the words of Carl Sandburg, one of my favorite quotes that resonates deep in my soul:
“I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.”