The tenderness of trying
... and letting it matter more than the outcome
Human Stuff is a free weekly-ish newsletter. Please feel free to share parts of this newsletter that connect with you on social media or send to someone you love. If you enjoy and benefit from my work, I invite you to become a paid subscriber. This is a reader-supported offering and I’m so grateful for your presence here.
A song I’m loving:
I recently shared on Instagram about doing things I’ve longed to do, feeling the tense anticipation around finally going for it and, in turn, the deep relief of finally having done it. Last Sunday was the start of my very first three-week workshop series, To Write, To Be, and it went so well — better than I could have anticipated because of my often-small visions for myself, the challenge of fully believing in what I have to share, and my wildly high expectations for what I create. I cried as soon as I logged off of Zoom, feeling a wave of relief and years of waiting release from my body.
I’ve spent all week integrating being on the other side of the pent-up anticipation; I’ve spent all week processing the fact that I waited for years to try something I had been wanting to try, the fear routinely outweighing the longing, the perceived safety found in staying comfortable not trying, the ache of knowing there were longings left unlived not because they were out of reach, but because I was too afraid. I’ve spent all week thinking about the tenderness of trying.
I’ve recently started exercising again — sweating on purpose, feeling the atrophy of my muscles, facing the weakness developed over the last few years of the pandemic, of a hard pregnancy, of surgery recovery, of postpartum, of becoming myself once more. I lace up my too-old tennis shoes, fill my water bottle and commit, over and over, with the hope it will stick this time. I look down at my body and don’t recognize it, don’t quite know how to relate to it now, don’t quite know how to trust it to keep going when it feels like it’s about to crumble beneath me. I listen to the cheesy playlist the instructor uses and I pedal and lift and hold off from crying and celebrate finishing again. I’m trying.
I’m keeping the desire to write my next book alive, even as it gets set to the side for this reason or that reason, even as I find myself having to put it aside for longer than I’d like to, even as I see my peers and colleagues announcing their second and third book deals while I question if my next book will really happen, if I can really do it in between mothering and figuring out my next steps and learning to take good care of myself again after pouring so much out. I have both the deep desire to fully dive into it and the swirl of doubt in how un-easy it’s feeling. I have both the need for my own pace to be listened to and the push of urgency from how quickly life moves. Still, I go out to my office in the morning before my partner starts work, I open my Scrivener file with all my research and notes and tidbits and quotes, and I write: I write what swirls, I write what begs, I write what I don’t yet know and what I think I’m sure of and what I long for. I’m trying.
I’m orienting toward my daughter, who will be two at the end of October, with the kind of presence and love that feels like a new through-line in my lineage, in my family system. I’m treating her like a full human being, like someone with just as much power as me, someone who deserves the same respect, patience, nurturance and compassion as any adult does. I’m letting the grief of the ways it feels so new wrap me up as I cradle it; I’m letting the courage to be honest propel me forward; I’m letting the witnessing of her feeling entirely safe, entirely trusting, entirely herself in the world heal the pieces of me who are still learning to be that way. I’m trying.
I’m trying in many ways, seen and unseen, known and unknown. We all are.
The tenderness of trying is woven up in not knowing how it will go, not knowing whether success or failure or some combination will result, not knowing who I’ll be on the other side, not knowing if I’ll embarrass myself or impress myself or confuse myself, not knowing much at all. There is a sense of knowing when we don’t try. There is more to be in control of, more to be sure about, more to be certain of. When I don’t try, the only possible outcome is it not happening; when I do try, it could bring disappointment or discomfort, a crash and burn of experiences I’m not always sure I’ll be able to handle. But what I’m remembering is that trying can also bring complete delight, opportunities to drop in, to connect, to share our gifts or our wonderings or ourselves. And when we choose to do that, something always comes of it, whether in expected or unexpected ways.
I’m working on untangling from the fear of trying — untangling the difference between wanting a small, simple life and actively avoiding going for more in certain areas not because I don’t want it, but because I’m afraid I won’t reach if it I try. I’m working on feeling the grief that is so often wrapped up in what it means to try, to put ourselves out there, to do things differently, to be misunderstood, to be afraid and to show up with our shaky limbs and all, pushing past long-held narratives about what we’re capable of in order to forge new paths, move new mountains, embody new ways of being.
If you find yourself teetering on the edge of not trying and finally going for it…
If you find yourself experimenting with the felt sense of embracing discomfort…
If you find yourself moved by a momentum that feels new, fresh, scary…
If you find yourself fearfully trembling with each step forward…
If you find yourself questioning whether or not you can tolerate not knowing…
If you find yourself going toward the things you long for, even with no guarantee…
I hope you take some time to recognize the trying, to honor the trying, to let the trying perhaps be just as important as whatever it may lead to. I’m working on it, too.
△ Taking breaks when I need them
△ A recent solo drive to the elephant seal overlook, making a pitstop at this quintessential West Marin path on the way.
And here are links to the most recent letters for paid subscribers:
~ Behind the Scenes #1: On less-than-ideal conditions for creating
~ Behind the Scenes #2: Courage over confidence & fraudy feelings
~ Behind the Scenes #3: Money money money
Human Stuff from Lisa Olivera is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.