“Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation … even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” Leonardo da Vinci
I’m using this quote from good ol’ Leo, today because it fits. And also because I visited his home at Chateau du Clos Lucé, and it just about sent me running for the hills and had me giving up on my life because I’m sorry but compared to that man, the rest of humanity has just squandered their lives and all their brains with it. It’s easy to feel that way when you’re seeing his lab, and his library and his journals and the paintings and the inventions and all the many many thinking and creating things and then his face on chocolate too which means he won at literally everything.
And do you leave there totally pumped and go think up a cool flying contraption of your own? No. Instead you think … Well, there you go. That’s what happens when you don’t have Netflix and the Internet. And yes, I am exaggerating, but also yes … only a little bit. I mean, how did he do all of that before Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits were even a thing, and how can I not do all of that even though I have totally read that book AND a bazillion other books just like it?
Yet, never one to leave a place uninspired, I came away with that good old fashioned sense of hope that one day I’ll get my crap together. That’s not a new hope, mind you. That’s the same old hope-gum I’ve been chewing on for a lifetime, and sometimes it loses its flavor and I still chew it any way (more so out of habit than determination) and then sometimes I add another piece and then sometimes I spit out the whole wad and start again with all new hope-gum. But the point is, it’s not new to me. (That metaphor is just the worst. I’m sorry.)
I bring up all of this because, once again, I am in transition. Truth be known, mentally, I’ve been there for some time, and as such the past 7or 8 or maybe even 14 years of my life have consisted of me rushing toward something, freaking out, and rushing back from whence I came. I’ve been busy being a mom. A stay-at-home, PTO, drive the kids to all the things, throw the Pinterest parties, clean the toilets kind of mom-in-yoga-pants, going about my day with my hands in the laundry and my head in the clouds—which happens to be where I exist as a writer and an entrepreneur and all the many things I figured I’d turn out to be, back when I was in my youth figuring on stuff.
But time is stubborn thing, the way it marches over you, ready or not. And I am not a stubborn thing. Well, let me rephrase that. I am quite a stubborn thing when I’m sure of myself. And I am a very flimsy thing when I am not. I wilt, whither and blow away if the wind is coming at me from a new direction. And I assume a lot of that has to do with the fact that I am, indeed and firstly and mostly and completely—a mom and moms, for better or worse, strive for clean, predictable and safe, because clean, predictable and safe are the tentpoles of responsibility.
But before I was ever a mom, I was just a girl. And I was one of those girls who dreamed way bigger than was ever really ok to say out loud. Because it consisted of things like “I’m gonna be the best writer in the whole wide world.” And we all know girls who claim to be the best or even want to be the best are big-headed bossy-pants hot-shots who think too much of themselves. And so like so many other girls who absolutely could be the best at something, I just quietly wished it could be true instead and stuck to the far more acceptable things. I’ll be an ok writer when and if I can and a good mom and a good enough housekeeper and I’ll live this life of mediocrity in perpetuity and all in the name of my family because that’s the noble thing. And I am nothing if not noble.
But it seems to me, the world is changing. There’s this energy bubbling and it seems to be bubbling everywhere. And it’s full of girls, just as it’s always been, but right now it’s full of girls who are gonna be the best and they’re even saying it out loud and everything. And it’s got me sitting over here at 42 years old, wondering if I, too, could maybe jump up on that bandwagon (and maybe they’d let me attach the laundry to back of it so it can just be wind blown dry.)
I’ve tried. Started a blog and abandoned it. Started another blog and abandoned it too. Started a novel and while I haven’t technically abandoned it, that’s only because it’s not on a website I had to keep up. It just rests on my hard drive and it’s taken me 7 years to get half way done and that’s because I ignore it and then go back to it and then ignore it and then go back to it and on and on and on.
For the longest time, I thought maybe that was just because I don’t really have what it takes. That’s sort of a nasty thing to say about yourself, but our selves are always the easiest people to be nasty to. I’d throw my hands up and say things like “Now is not the right time, I guess. I need to just focus on being a mom and I’ll work on the rest later, when the time feels right again.” And yet, that never once felt like something I could actually do. Be only a mom? No. Be only a writer? Obviously no. But be both? A mom AND a writer? As many times as I proved to myself I couldn’t do it, it was still the only thing that seemed at rest in my spirit.
Why is that? I asked myself that question a hundred if not a million times. There are so many other things in my life I’ve been able to jettison. Why not this? And over time, I’ve just come to accept what I hold to be solid universal and spiritual truth.
That which we are created to be, will never let go of us.
Did I start writing when I realized that? Oh man. I wish. Instead I did the next best thing. I started getting ready to write. I looked around and imagined myself a real writer. The kind that takes her notebook to a cafe or the kind that sits at a desk at the window or the kind that takes off for a couple of days to hole up in a hotel and write and then I spent an unspeakable amount of time trying to get my current state of existence ready for that state of existence. And by getting ready I mean a to-do list that literally peeled through reams of notebook paper. That to-do list consisted of things like “Redecorate my daughter’s room. Organize the legos. Make a three month menu and corresponding grocery lists and then put it all into a calendar.” (Among hundreds of other things.) And then, like any person committed to that sort of prep work, I set out to do it. And every time I’d tick something off the list, I’d add 8 more things. “Getting ready” was a lot more involved than I thought it would be. So you can imagine how liberated I feel, now that I realize that was a monster I put under my own bed and fed fear cookies I baked myself. (From scratch. #bossmom)
You see, fortunately, while I was eyelid deep in “getting ready,” I was also listening to podcasts, and I heard several podcasts in a row that kept bringing up the danger of the notion that you have to “be ready” in order to start tackling a dream and that way too many people stay in that place of “getting ready” because it feels better than not doing it and it’s not as scary as actually doing it. And I was listening to all of this as I was actively feeling better about not doing it but getting ready to do it, when this crazy bolt of lighting knocked me on my readying mom butt and said “Those people are spying on you and they think you’re being a big dum-dum right now.”
Now I don’t like being thought of as a big dum-dum, and so I actively quit getting ready. And then I actively began “just beginning.” And all of that happened just this past Monday.
I am unready as a person can be despite the fact that I’ve been getting ready for long about 14 years, and that’s the exhausting truth and it does not come without its share of challenges.
Full disclosure: This morning was sort of disaster, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to blog about, and I’m still not sure what I’m going to make for dinner tonight, and all the many things both professional and personal and everything in between feel very scattered and disorganized to me right now and that’s one of those things that flies in the face of that part of me that likes the predictable, clean thing in organized bins. And this morning, when all of that seemed to be evident all at one time, I had that urge … that same old familiar and powerful urge to run away. Chaos is like that. Grey area. Unknown things. Most of us don’t like those unstable, uncomfortable feelings of “well great, now I’m not going to be good at anything.” And so we run back to what we were doing rather well to begin with, even if it was starving us to death.
And yet chaos is EXACTLY what actual transition looks like. It’s that’s prickly, foggy, nauseating feeling of not really “nailing it” at any one thing. It’s leaving something that felt safe and figured out, and moving toward something that’s not figured out at all and it triggers that survival instinct in you which sends you running back to what you left.
I suppose it’s why people go back to damaging relationships or stay in dead end jobs or go on the same exact vacation to the same exact place every year. Even if they want more and want better and know that it exists out there, the murky water between where they are and where they want to be is too scary or too messy or too uncomfortable to wade through. Especially when the security of the “known” is right back there. And so we go back and sink back into what we do on autopilot while we bat away that thing were created to be, and sure it sucks but not as bad as murky water sucks.
Only that’s a filthy freaking lie.
Murky water does, in fact, suck. It’s dirty and when something touches your leg in there you’re gonna have a heart attack. But stagnant water? Well that’s straight up poison and if you want to avoid Dengue Fever, you’d better get out and brave the unknown and even the creepy things that touch your leg for a while.
Currently for me that means, “Well, crap. The laundry went sour in the washing machine again and we’re eating a late dinner tonight and the kids are eating cereal and I have to ask my husband to stop by the store and the kitchen counter is cluttered and …” And you know what? Oh well. I’ll pivot. I’ll tweak. I’ll fail and I’ll learn how to do it better. I’ll adjust and my kids will adjust and my husband will adjust and it will all end up working out. Because clear and fresh spring waters lie ahead.
So yeah. Time is a stubborn thing. It’s always been true. It will always be true. It will continue on in spite of you and march on over you and carry on without you, unaffected by your circumstance, feelings or fear. And yet it’s not personal. Time doesn’t pick out people it’s going to be good to and other people it’s going to leave in the dust. It just does what it does. It behaves the only way it can. And the very best thing we can do, is come to terms with how impersonal it is and learn to work with it.
Time is the one driving that bandwagon you want to get on, and it drives it by your house every single day. So run out there when you hear it coming and jump in with that mighty feeling of chance in your bones. Don’t overthink it. Take your laundry, leave your laundry, forget about your laundry and wash the same load 6 times, but don’t sit there with your laundry while that bandwagon drives off with your dreams again. Go on a joyride, make your adjustments and figure it out on the road, allowing yourself to be moved, dragged, pushed and inspired by Time … which moves on always … ready or not.