What if there was nothing riding on your success or failure? No approval or disapproval, no appreciation or disappointment, no money, no love, no friendship, no future work. No pressure. Nothing.
Would you do the difficult task? Would you even try, or would you drop it altogether? Maybe you’d gleefully fool around, exploring different possibilities with simple curiosity. Or take a break and let the subconscious deal with it for a while. Maybe you’d ask for help, or be more open to suggestion — no shame, no blame, everything’s beautiful, as Dancer Meg says.
When I face something challenging, like writing an essay or dancing upside down, a loud voice takes up residence in my head: I am never going to be able to do it. No way. When I look a little closer, I detect two conflicting beliefs: I must, and I can’t.
I must triggers fear and dread. I can’t triggers despair and lethargy. Not your healthiest cocktail. Usually, I force myself to overcome these exhausting thoughts. Try to give myself a little pep talk, or some such. But, really, there’s nothing peppy about it. More like the sergeant in Private Benjamin (or any other war movie): Get out of bed, you lazy loser! Get a move on! Time’s a-wasting! Just do it! Fucking Nike.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno, United States of Tara) claims to enjoy the process of writing more than the thrill and relief of having written. I want that. I want to enjoy the process, the #$%&* journey. I want to enjoy my life. (Radical idea!)
Today, tired of the overwhelming thoughts and resultant sick stomach, I tried something different. Instead of resisting, I investigated them, meditated on them, one at a time. Must I do it? Can I do it?
Must I? No. These are not commissioned essays. I’m the one imposing the deadline. I do not have to post anything today or ever again. Do I want to? Yes. These essays are a gift to myself. I want to keep my promise to publish. There has been a dearth of Elizabeth, a paucity, a lack. I have been holding back.
Can I? I have no idea. I’ve posted 43 essays so far. Chances are good I can do it again. We’ll see.
Handy little phrases, no? Must I, Do I want to, Can I.
Evidently I can, because here’s essay #44. Only four more to go.