I was going through some old writing and I found some pretty powerful words I wrote shortly after the little was born.
What am I afraid of?
I’m afraid of not fitting in.
I’m afraid of not being accepted.
I’m afraid of not being loved.
I’m afraid people will think I’m a bad mother.
I’m afraid I will be a bad mother.
I’m afraid everyone will think I’m a fraud.
I’m afraid I won’t measure up.
I’m afraid people will hate me.
I’m afraid people will make fun of me.
That person is feeling less and less like me these days.
We all have fears, insecurities and excess baggage. On some level those that choose to create want a space to feel safe. Creativity takes nurturing.
I think we’re all wanting social acceptance to some degree. I love people, but I’ve also always been the type that was willing to step away and be by myself for a bit. You don’t have to like me for me to feel my own worth. I know all the ways I’m socially awkward and imperfect (I’ve lived with these things my whole life). This doesn’t mean I love people any less.
I’ve started to view these things as an asset instead of a liability. For me, this has meant figuring out what self-acceptance is and what it is to be truly self-confident. I can’t do or be anyone but me. It’s unclear to me whether this newfound self-awareness is something I chose for myself or whether it has an innate nature to it. Was I building this self all along through each misstep and choice or have I just finally reached an age where I can truly settle into who I really am as a person?
At the end of the day, all I can say is that it feels good to have grown in to the woman I am today.
Star Wars Dot Gif
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my underlying anger as of late. Despite the fact that humans are social animals it can feel like each individual is in their own universe, sometimes even speaking their own language with little regard for communication and connection with those outside that universe.
As for the five and under set, I can attest to this being by and large the way they interact with the world developmentally.
Anger management issues aside, I’ve come to depend on two things while I face these harsh realities:
- Going Against the Grain Can Get You There Faster: I’ve started to explore the fringe places (especially those on the internet). I actually have this sense that the younger generation has already caught on to this trend(through limited, but powerful case study) and I applaud them. There’s no doubt that going with the flow can be just as important as going against the grain, but in this case I find that people on the outside edges can actually help me gain a better sense of who I am in the world. We are inundated with information that comes in 24 hour cycles. MOST of it can’t be processed by the human brain in that amount of time. We pretend that it can or we take other people’s word for it. I need this space to form my own opinions based on evidence I’ve collected. In many ways I need to be able to stand in my own belief system with my feet firmly planted on the ground.
- Play Matters: Honestly? I’m loving irreverent humor right now. Also, I’ve declared Mitch Hedberg as my spirit animal for 2017. I just can’t…keep taking things so goddamn seriously. I know there are important issues to attend to, but really I think I’ll just eat a gallon of ice cream in my pajamas and wait for Spring to do her thang before I throw my hat back into the ring. This is of course all a pipe dream because I’m pretty sure I’m booked from now until sometime mid-July, but it’s a nice thought. Ultimately, there has to be a way to disengage from all this constraint to rejuvenate my soul and help me reconnect with renewed purpose. I think one of the key ways we can do this is through play. I play with ideas in the same way I play with my kids. I play with social media in the same way I use it as a useful tool to connect with friends and family or advance my career. Sometimes I just crack wise, both as a way to amuse myself, but also as a way of getting closer to the “truth” (or my own truth) about any given situation. This is why unadulterated goof off time can actually be the best prescription when life feels all “adulty.” What one might deem as a colossal waste of time can actually have a powerful effect on centering us and give us new insight when we go back into problem-solving mode.
I won’t let anger cast me aside and cause me to hide under a rock. The first step in dealing with strong emotion is acknowledging that you have it.
Goals are defined as “something that somebody wants to achieve”; resolutions are defined as “firmness of mind or purpose.”
I’m trying to process both these definitions. My goals for 2017 are clearly defined and growing. My resolutions are experimental (I’m mainly focused on improving my health in 2017).
Goals are the things we seek to achieve in life. They are the tangible things we can point to and say “I did that, I accomplished that or I made that happen.”
Resolutions are different. Resolutions are less concrete. They speak to the type of animals we want to be in the world.
More than anything I still struggle with balance in my waking life. I know I’m not alone in this. I’m pleased with so much of what 2016 was, but I know there’s still a lot of work to do. I feel scattered. I want to reign things in.
In doing so I’ve started reading Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) with the confidence that there must be a natural rhythm and order to all I want to accomplish in 2017.
I was born 10 days late and I’ve always felt like I was running behind in life. 2017 is not much different, except that I’m wanting so very much to keep up with the pace life has thrown at me (and in a joyful way).
The winter malaise runs deep this year and I’m working hard to carve a path. I feel stuck in it, like the soggy mud as the snow melts mid-afternoon: you can barely make it back to your shelter in one piece and the beauty of the fresh, pristine morning snow is nearly forgotten (except in a text or a tweet or a post). All you can think now is “Wow, was going out in this really worth it?”
Deep down I know it was and is and will remain so. It’s just the getting there that’s the deep struggle.
So, cheers to 2017.
I’ve always had a different vision for what craftonium.com would be, so I am moving my regular blogging adventures to jenniferfraley.com. I hope you will join me there!
✪ buildOn – buildOn builds schools both here and abroad. They work closely with local ministries of education to build schools that last and offer vital skills to children that need them. It is their belief that education is a basic human right.
✪ Heifer International – The church I worked for split the plate one month with this organization. Heifer seeks to end poverty and world hunger through sustainable agriculture. Your gift of a goat or a cow can have a lasting impact on a family in need.
✪ The Herren Project – I’ve had friends that have battled addiction in various forms. “It’s very easy to judge people who are in programs that accept charity, easy to say that they’re weak or stupid for putting themselves there. What I found out about Chris Herren is exactly what I found out about myself: we are both addicts, and we made some very bad decisions in life because of our addictions. The addiction was not chosen, however. Chris didn’t consciously discard his dreams, he was doing what his body and mind were telling him to do by taking pills. The mind of an addict is not easily explained to someone that has not been addicted, and their actions will always seem irrational to everyone on the outside, but not to us. ‘Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.’ Learning to not react with inebriation is incredibly difficult, and it’s very easy to slip down into that slope in to addict mode without noticing. Addiction never cares who you are, you’re just an addict. And now you’re the one that needs serious help.” People in these situations need outreach and support. Redemption is possible, especially through the work of caring individuals.
✪ Trinity Place Shelter – “For many, the holidays are about family. However, the harsh reality is, our beloved shelter residents were often kicked out of their homes and thrusted into the streets BY THEIR FAMILY, because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or both. So, for our residents, the holidays can trigger their trauma, rejection and be a time of particularly deep marginalization and loneliness.” With the help of donations and community support, Trinity offers a shelter for some of the most vulnerable teens. Family is love and through a network of dedicated individuals Trinity extends that love to its residents.
✪ The White Helmets – Last year I remember hearing a story about a woman that was helping Syrian refugees by organizing a donation program of baby carriers. The belief was that women fleeing their war torn home could have their hands free as they made their way out. This notion stuck with me in a situation I could not even begin to imagine. There are people, feet on the ground, helping others. These stories of war don’t need to leave us powerless. Together we have more power than we know.
The past few weeks have been full. Visitors stopped by, haircuts happened, church was a thing, decorations have gone up and I have had some pretty important plans to attend to.
It’s times like these that test me the most as a human being. When the world keeps upping the ante and life happens and you have to just keep trucking along the feeling can be overwhelming.
Tim Ferriss has made a powerful distinction in his work between stress and eustress. Stress is the thing that causes us to be quick to anger. It debilitates us and sometimes limits our focus. In turn it is detrimental to our health and well-being.
Eustress is the feeling that pushes us to be our best selves. It gives us urgency while at the same time allowing space to feel empowered.
It’s the deadlines that matter most to us. It’s the things we try and retain. It’s the commitments we’re willing to follow through on.
It’s not a race to the finish line. It’s whether you make it there or not.
Technically, I lost at NaNoWriMo. Winning is completing 50,000 words in a month. I did not do that.
Most things in life aren’t “win or lose.” The concept is still important, but for me the act of doing this was its own reward. Honestly, I could have been more diligent. Preparation helps. Also, when sitting down to do a thing there can be a million and one distractions.
Last month wasn’t throwaway. I more consider it an important exercise in an activity that brings me joy. For much of this blog and in life I have spent the majority of my focus on writing nonfiction. Writing a story reminds me of childhood. It’s the ability to play with story, characters and ideas.
It’s like art – when you’re five, everyone’s an artist. When you’re young you learn the basic elements of story. When you’re in school everyone’s expected to write. At some point writing becomes a burden over being a joy. Writing a story “just for fun” as an adult can be liberating.
Here are a few of the other things that I learned over the course of November:
I can write from anywhere on almost any device.
Some days I wrote on my phone while chasing after two boys. I like the idea of doing this – my smartphone is full of “time wasters.” Even if I’m moving one sentence at a time, I have the ability to add to a body of work I’m proud of.
Some days I wrote from coffee shops on my laptop. I loved this because I was out and around people. It gave me a focus and sometimes added to my work.
Some days, I wrote in a paper journal or on napkins or random papers I could find. This was both an act in gathering ideas and sometimes I find that actually writing the words from hand to pen to paper helps.
It’s fun to bring people on the journey (even if they do it better).
I have a draft to read. A good friend of mine, one many miles away, did this too. I’m eager to read his story. I’m eager to see what his ideas were. I tend to keep my writing close to my chest. The friends I made in November were so much more generous with their ideas and their thought process. I’m working my way up to that. Right now documenting the journey was more important than “the thing” (especially because it’s not finished yet). Another new friend finished his novel as well. I’m proud of them both and more importantly I’m grateful for the connections we made with each other. It’s really awesome, when you’re doing a thing, to collaborate with others. It’s also really awesome to all be geeking out over the same thing.
This draft I wrote will be one of many.
50,000 words is a short novel. Mostly, at the end of November you have a short draft (unless of course you go above and beyond). I still want to complete this novel and I want to write other things as well. My parents were incredibly supportive of my creative endeavors growing up. They never questioned my artistic pursuits. At the time I couldn’t see a way to make it work. I heard many times that if you have a “Plan B” you’ll end up using it when the work gets too hard. Creativity will never be my “Plan B.” Even still – we as creators, artists, writers need to find concrete ways to hold ourselves accountable.
Don’t be like me (in this moment). Don’t say you’re going to do something or that you’re working on something and let it go. Write your novel if it needs to be written. Commit to doing something creative regardless of where you’re at.
Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow and sometimes we rest.
The resistance is part of this too. And yes, it’s different than Steven Pressfield.
When faced with difficult decisions it’s important to know your role.
Recommended Reading:The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
The point is always to do the work. Not everyone is going to understand it. Sometimes you won’t even understand it. You get better with it over time.
Too often we stop ourselves too short. We give up before we’ve even begun.
Keep going. Something good is bound to happen.