On giving up too easily and coincidental subject clusters

The universe likes to cluster information into simple groups for our simple brains.

If you’re a parent, this is something you quickly find out when you choose a name for your child. What seemed like a true original, a unique-but-not-crazy name that you have only heard in real life once or twice, is suddenly everywhere. It’s the name chosen by the supermarket checker’s daughter-in-law. It’s the name of your best friend’s childhood cat and your aunt’s sworn enemy. It’s on TV. It is a law of the universe that once you choose a name for your child, not matter how unusual that name is, you will instantly notice it everywhere. I called my spotty dog Dot when we got her in the summer, and then noticed that half the vendors on Etsy use …&Dot in their names.

A few subjects have been neatly clustered for my attention in the past few weeks. I’ve been struggling a bit with my business model and a few early set-backs. Although I’m constantly telling my kids not to worry, that mistakes are part of learning, I find it hard to follow my own advice. I was tempted to give up and was surfing job boards all day instead of working on my business. If the perfect job was hiding in there, I’d surely find it, and it would be a sign that I wasn’t cut out for self-employment. Of course, my logical, adult brain knows perfectly well that no one is going to discover me and lift me out of these struggles into a perfect job. Mostly because perfect jobs don’t exist, and because life is rarely that random, and frankly I’m not that special.

I came across this article by Mark Manson that sums up the futility of spending our lives hunting for the perfect job. He suggests asking different questions to move away from a focus on fulfilling one’s destiny, and asking more specific ones, like “What’s your favourite flavour of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?”

This next bit is my favourite: “Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.”

There were so many good reasons why I choose the path I’m on; why did I let a few bad days freak me out? Next, I saw a video on my Facebook feed that has since been swallowed by a tide of kittens being adorable and cute babies learning to walk. In the video, a fitness expert and motivational speaker gave some very specific examples of her own fear-based negative self-talk, and how she overcomes it.

What resonated with me was her idea that if she was feeling unqualified to give a talk because her audience wouldn’t think she was smart enough, she’d shut it down by telling herself, “That’s not true.”  It’s not anything ground-breaking, but  was a timely reminder to me to be careful about the self-defeating “truths” I tell myself.

The truth is that it’s way too soon to call it on my baby business. I haven’t given it a chance to walk yet. I rounded out my subject cluster for the week spending a lovely evening with a group of new friends, hosted by a friend that I’ve known for 20 years. A tarot card reader was upstairs giving readings to those who wanted them. I’d been to see the reader before but skipped it this year because most days I just want to put my head under my pillow while this whole future thing sorts itself out.

Many of the women spent some time talking about the arching narratives of their lives with the card reader, lending the entire evening a warm intimacy and story-telling aspect that usually only happens with really old friends around a campfire. I was asked a few times what sort of work I did. I ducked and weaved. Finally they gently called me out, asking what do you do exactly? I said, I’m a writer. Of course then they wanted to know what do I write? The embarrassing truth is that almost all of what I write is for others and nothing is attributed to me. I’m a private person, but muting my own microphone for two years really isn’t cool.

I left feeling like someone had filled up my energy tank, but there were a few more interventions coming my way. A wonderful résumé consultant who was helping me apply for an I-give-up-I’ll-just-go-back-to-the-corporate-world job generously listened to my long-winded career rant and also gently called me out for staying silent. He was human and heartfelt and I’m sure what I paid him didn’t begin to cover what he provided.

Another sweet friend lectured me about taking my vitamin D. It registered in my brain as part of a larger lesson about self-care. It’s well-known that these last days of January, bitterly cold here in Ottawa, bring on the most dangerous and depressing days for those suffering from mental health challenges. As a family we quietly acknowledged the anniversary of a beloved family member lost two years ago.

So here I am, writing my first public blog, in what is likely the coldest week of the year, armed with my vitamin D, the belief and support of my family and friends old and new, and the words of my sweet husband, who answered my question of “why even bother writing when there’s so many words already, many of them better than mine? Why add to that? Isn’t it just more noise?” He said, “there’s so much music in the world, so many songs that have been written, and yet music never ceases to make us happy. No one ever says, ‘oh music? Again? I already heard a song today.’ There’s always room for one more song.” Sometimes he gets it exactly right. There’s always room for one more song is my new self-talk.

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