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Getting out of my own way
Not too far gone -- not too late
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A song I’m loving:
Last Sunday, after sending out my newsletter, I went on a hike by myself — the first solo hike since becoming a mother 15 months ago. I had been afraid of exerting myself, afraid of moving my body, afraid of sweating and breathing heavily and pushing myself after my body spent the last year feeling weak and untended to, loose and unworked. Some part of me has felt like my body is broken, like pushing it will cause everything to combust or fall apart right then and there. Stagnancy has felt more comfortable. Staying seated has felt more safe. Not exerting has felt more known, more in my (perceived) control. Yet I haven’t felt like myself in my skin for a while. I know I need a change, to fully inhabit my physical self again. I know I need physical momentum to support the creative momentum activating in me. I know movement and physical practice has long been a crucial support, one I feel my cells asking for. Begging, really. And I’m working on listening.
I got to the trailhead and made my way down the rocky path, ferns sprouting up between rocks lining each side, dust enveloping my boots with each step, almost stumbling several times as if I were new at walking. The downhill part was easy — my knees feeling a bit of pressure but nothing extreme. After walking a while, pausing for the occasional sip of water (a nod to my efforts to stay more hydrated this year), I made it to the waterfall I hoped to find. The sound is one of my favorites — running water in nature, from the light sprinkle of a tiny stream to the loud gush of a full-on waterfall bursting out the edges of a cliff — the sense of hearing water does something to my nervous system, lulling me into place, into presence.
I climb over grey rocks and slippery mounds to get to the waterfall’s landing place, clear pools of water illuminating stones and moss and earth underneath. I dip my hands in and splash stark cold water onto my cheeks, waking up my nervous system and offering a much-needed jolt to my sense of self as I arrived to a resting point. I sat on the rocks below the waterfall for ten or so minutes, just sitting, just listening, just breathing, and I suddenly began to cry. This isn’t entirely unusual for me — I’m a quite emotional person (just like every human) — but it was unexpected.
I cried over finally pushing myself to go for a hike alone, something I used to cherish doing and couldn’t bring myself back to long after postpartum. I cried over the disconnection I felt with my body after growing a baby, with other bodies after the pandemic, with what it meant to tend to my body. I cried over the aches I felt in places that once held ease, the ease living in places that once only held pain. I cried over not really recognizing myself in the mirror anymore — over all I sacrificed and gained to bring my daughter into the world and the beauty and grief and stuckness and flow wrapped up in it — over my hesitation to be seen anywhere other than on the page — over the freedom felt in sitting next to the falling water, witnessing it move and make its way, watching it be itself without reserve, without hesitation, just doing what it was there to do, feeling my hand sweep the pool’s top layer and gently submerge underneath. I cried. I cried. I cried.
There’s this fear that some of the things I long for are now out of reach — that I’ve passed my “prime”, as if I’m a slab of steak — that things are too far gone now to bother reaching for. Most of me knows this to be bullshit; some part of me holds onto it as though it’s fact. So I participate in the writer’s workshop, musing on tense and first-person and uses of time, feeling out of place but also like I was supposed to be there. And I get on my exercise bike, huffing and puffing alongside everyone else I assume to be breezing through the 30 minute pop ride. And I finish the book proposal and press send to my agent, even when it isn’t entirely formed or known, even when I’m unsure and my fingers shake after hovering over the Send button far longer than necessary. And I make the salad to go with my soup instead of not eating vegetables with dinner. And I pick up the book to read five pages instead of needing it to be 40 to count. And I hike to the waterfall alone. And I take the smallest of strides toward the things part of me wants to believe I’ll never reach, never do, never finish, never actually bring to life. And I build a path for my longings to become true, no matter how slow, no matter how wobbly I am while doing it, no matter how crooked the path is or how it all turns out. I don’t let it be too late. I don’t let it be too late. I don’t let it be too late.
Life is short and long. There’s time and there isn’t. It’s full of possibility and the impossible, all asking for our belief, our attention, our devotion. There is something important about choosing to let ourselves be one of those places we direct our belief, our attention, our devotion. That we let what we love, what brings us alive, what we hope for, what we want to try, what we want to move toward… that we let those things take up space in our own efforting. When we begin the path toward what we want, we’re not only paving it for ourselves… we’re paving it for everyone else looking for permission to do the same, to move toward their wants, to let themselves be beginners in order to get there, to breathe heavily uphill, to write the shitty first draft, to take the first step after being stagnant for longer than ideal, to slowly inch toward the thing they’re envisioning to be a richer, fuller, more true life.
The fear of not succeeding, of being seen failing, of not knowing what the outcome would be kept me from moving toward beginning many things, for many years, in many ways — ways that still linger under my skin at times, teasing impossibility and making the belief in possibility feel too vulnerable, like the desire is dangling over a cliff and in order to reach it, I need to jump and trust. I want to jump and trust. I want to jump and see myself soar in places I assumed I’d fall. I want to jump and tend to the discomfort of inevitable failing. I want to jump and honor the process of being in flight — the process of trying — the process of fucking going for it, regardless of what happens on the other side. I want us all to jump, to try, to move, to hike, to write the first word, to make the first move, to book the flight, to say the thing, to get on the bike, to do whatever it is we think will bring us closer to ourselves, no matter what happens next. I’m working on it. And if you are, too, just know it’s something to feel proud of, to hold a little celebration for, to notice with awe.
△ Writers: I can’t recommend Before & After the Book Deal bymore. It has been an essential guide and resource for me the last few years, and with Catapult on thin ice, now is a good time to get it!
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