I went into this cycle feeling like a rocket ship dying to take off. And yet: it’s ended with me accomplishing almost nothing on my goals. But, to say I accomplished nothing at all would not be true. Still, I wish I had some clarity on what’s been stopping me. So this post is an attempt to figure that out.
This last month was shockingly challenging in a number of ways. I didn’t feel good after coming home from my honeymoon. I felt horrible. Discouraged. A little lost. Disappointed. Frustrated. Depressed. Tired of everything. I was all too happy to fall into overwhelm, worrying about post-wedding debt, conflicts arising from Jimmy and I finally fully living together, angst at my inability to access the same love and freedom I accessed during our wedding and in St. Lucia.
Josh raised the question to me of whether crisis is my comfort zone. I believe the answer is yes. My brain loves crisis. Give me a problem, a challenge to solve, and I am in my element. I understand the world and my place in it. Give me peace and happiness, and I will panic like there’s no tomorrow — until I’ve created the crisis I crave.
Am I committed to crisis? Committed to struggling? But, wasn’t the tension and difficulty I experienced somewhat inevitable? A necessary transition I had to go through to adjust to a significant change in my life?
“Positive thinking” is great, and useful, but, sometimes you’ve got to flip out a little, you know? Get overwhelmed. Feel anger and frustration. Be pessimistic. Or maybe that’s just me?
Or maybe that’s just me.
I also needed to address work. I was bordering on depression that felt too familiar, like how I felt at the firm prior to this one. I could barely drag myself out of bed — every fiber of my being resisted it. I’ve probably told this story before, but one of my first post-Basic OKCupid dates was with a guy who had gotten diagnosed with MS at age 20. He was from Santa Fe. Soon after getting that diagnosis, he moved to NYC to try and make it as a cinematographer, which was his dream. By the time I met him, he was 35, and had just started off on his own after working for a large movie production company for a number of years. His MS was of the more severe variety; he had to inject himself with steroids every morning. He told me he had learned to be grateful for those injections, because every morning it reminded him that in order to honor himself and his life, he could not spend a single day doing something that was not worthwhile to him. We went on a mere three dates before he began focusing on supporting me in my misery. One night, he straight up yelled at me, and told me the truth: what the heck was I doing, still trudging off to that high rise corporate building every day? Did I realize I was killing myself?
Remarkable person. I wanted to want him so badly, but, the chemistry just wasn’t there (despite the fact that he was quite attractive). He didn’t take long to confront me about that, though it wasn’t in a mean way. And I wasn’t surprised when he did. He lived life urgently. He payed close attention to how he spent his days, and he knew what he wanted (a woman who wanted him in the same way he wanted her).
Do I pay close attention — and I mean close attention — to how I spend my days?
THIS, my friends, was the utter funk I immediately spiraled into post-honeymoon. I love my time with Jimmy, and I truly enjoy doing most everything else (time by myself, time reconnecting with friends, playing guitar, watching stupid TV shows) — but damnit if I just can’t stand work. And work takes up the majority of my time. It was a dismal conclusion to come to.
Choosing to enjoy work seemed impossible. Is it really a choice? Enough impromptu sessions with Jimmy (I can hear him yelling at me now: “Stop talking about me like I’m coaching you all the time, people will think it’s creepy!”) and a couple of calls with Vanessa and I became intellectually convinced that enjoying work is, indeed, a choice.
But what does that mean with regard to what Jared (the OKCupid guy) had said? Wasn’t what he said also true? Isn’t living your best life all about being authentic to who you are, not forcing yourself to choose enjoying a job that you can’t stand, that your body and soul literally resist (it reminded me of a toddler’s “dead weight” trick when its parents are trying to force him to go someplace he doesn’t want to go — it would feel like my body and soul would turn into “dead weight” when I was trying to get up and go to work)?
Do I sound incredibly whiney right now?
I’m confused, to say the least. Reading the book on creativity by the woman who wrote “Eat. Pray, Love,” she’s in the don’t-go-quitting-your-day-job camp. She says countless artists keep a job they don’t love and fit their creativity into their free hours. And maybe that’s what they do their whole life, and maybe that’s just fine — even preferable. The romantic idea of a starving artist is, after all, anything but. Not having money is stressful and difficult and why do that?
For me, keeping my job and pursing creativity at the same time is not even that incredibly hard (logistically) — I have developed the ability to keep my schedule very balanced. Jimmy has heard me confidently recite to people who have asked about my job that the great thing about it is all the flexibility! You all have heard me say it too.
So what is the problem? I guess it’s the nagging question of, does this “don’t subscribe to either/or” thing really work, or is it just a tired coaching cliche?
Because, what if Jared’s right? What if just the fact of going into a job that’s not authentically you pushes you so far out of integrity that you simply can’t follow your heart’s desire in your free hours? Am I just a giant weenie who is unwilling to risk, like Jared did? Go all in, balls-to-the-wall, 100%?
You can list me examples of people who did something they didn’t love and managed to pursue something they did love at the same time. But, what if that’s just something SOME people can do? What if intense people like me can’t do the “middle ground” thing? What if, for me, it has got to be all or nothing?
I can’t even have brown hair, for example. It has to be blonde or dark. Extremes only for me. I saw my high school friend Sarah about three or four years after moving to NYC. I hadn’t seen her since high school, and I had barely spoken to her since age 17. It took less than hour for her to tell me, point blank: “Wow, it’s crazy how you’re exactly the same. Everything is still black or white for you — there is no grey.”
There is no grey.
And: I kind of like being that way. I kind of don’t want to change it at all. I kind of think embracing the grey is really fucking boring (excuse the language). I don’t want to live life in grey, I don’t want to find middle ground. I want all or nothing. Is that a limiting belief, or is that just what I plain WANT?
Jimmy used to ask me: “Do you know what you’re going to write before you sit down to write, or do you just start writing and it takes on a life of its own?”
Clearly it’s the latter. How did I even get on this topic?
OH right, I was trying to figure out how my rocket-shipness turned into… nothing.
WELL now I have a clue. It has to be all or nothing with me. Either Kyla is a starved, struggling writer who writes 12 hours a day or she’s not a writer at all. Either she’s a starved, struggling musician who practices guitar and does vocal exercises 12 hours a day or she’s not a musician at all. And those things are not worth pursuing under any other circumstances because, why bother? So I can end up being “kind of” a writer, and “kind of” a musician? That’s LAME. That kind of half-ass dream can’t wake me up because it’s just not sexy enough.
Is any of this true, or am I like, rationalizing up a storm as to why I won’t just take the risk and start writing? Jimmy would say that’s exactly what I’m doing (only he wouldn’t say it, he’d ask some question that would force ME to say it and then I’d get angry).
Here’s the maddening part: I AM writing right now. And there is no resistance.
As luck would have it, I didn’t finish writing this yesterday, and so I had a chance to talk it over with Jimmy in the in-between time.
He told me my issue is not time, but commitment. I am not committed to music and writing. Even if I had all the time in the world, my commitment would still be lacking. Time is just a convenient excuse that other people will nod along to.
As predicted, that feedback angered me. He doesn’t KNOW me. He doesn’t KNOW my LIFE.
Oh, wait. He does.
Ironically, he was on the flip side of this just two weeks ago. He wants to quit working in the schools to focus on coaching, and he said it was because he didn’t have enough time to do what he needed to do to grow his business. I flatly told him I was certain that was merely an excuse. What was missing from him was not time, but commitment. I still think that’s true. The second he gets committed is the second things start moving — time makes no difference. When the school year was out, he had time, minus our wedding (which admittedly took a lot). But, still, he had tons of time, and yet — I had experienced him as more committed months earlier, when time was far shorter.
I mention that not to call him out, just to reinforce his point, and my point to him, which is that commitment is what’s missing, plain and simple. I don’t want to live in “grey,” but, I AM living in grey. I’m half-ass pursuing writing and music. And part of me still wants to say, well, of course I am. I don’t have the TIME to do anything different.
The other conversation that comes up is, it’s not WORTH being more committed.
And then we’re right back to square one. My creative goals are unimportant because they don’t bring home the bacon, and likely never will.
Where does that leave me? How do I just BE committed when there are SO many inner conversations fighting against that? Part of me feels like I just need to be loud and messy with my creativity. Just spew it out all over the place. Get unbalanced in the other direction. I was practicing guitar the other morning, and I found myself abruptly stopping any time I heard someone walk by on the street. God forbid they heard me (they don’t even CARE).
I need to just take that in — no one CARES. I think people CARE way more than they do. They’re so involved in themselves and their own life, of COURSE they don’t care (and I don’t say that to make the point that “people suck,” it’s just how they are and it’s fine). So why do I hold it all in? At some point I’m sure I’ll desperately want people to care. I’ll want them to read my stuff, pay attention to me and what I’ve created, and that will be the thing I will be complaining about to all of you. But, for the time being, the fact that they DON’T care SHOULD be the most liberating thing ever.
So maybe next cycle needs to be less about goals (though you’ve got to have them so I’ll still have to make them) and more about a beingness. LOUD and MESSY, with a willingness to look bad, obnoxious, garish, stupid, etc. It’s not about whether I actually ever come across that way, it’s just about being willing to come across that way, because that’s what I need to get past all this — willingness to be a complete embarrassment.
In short: I need, to like, get the fuck over myself.