A Look At Stumbling Blocks
“Aimless” “If I try I’ll Fail” “What to do With Myself”
This morning I’m pondering what to write about. You can see I’ve had some floating ideas but nothing concrete. I’m the first one to say “No, I’m not afraid of failure”. But earlier while on my facebook page I saw an ad with a quiz and finding one’s number one stumbling block – mine came up “If I try I’ll Fail”. Funny, I can relate to this. But when someone says to me “you are afraid of failure” I emphatically deny that. Perhaps it is because I don’t like to “be told” anything – I will always balk, defend, deny unless I am in a rare susceptible and vulnerable place and feel safe with the one doing the telling. So let me take a look at the 3 phrases in the title separately.
I am astonished to remember that I was well into adulthood before I knew what “a goal” was. I remember looking at the instructor in front of the room, feeling very blank in response to a question about listing goals. This must have been before I attended my first counselling session – or maybe not.
I think my family was not into making goals – I think they were into surviving and living as comfortably as possible. All of my 3 sets of grandparents were farmers, and none went past 9th grade with most not going that far. The next generation, my parents, were both high school graduates, and so was my stepfather, and all 3 spent their lives working in the labor force. In my generation there were only 5 of us, and only 2 got high school diplomas; I got a GED a decade after high school. In the next generation, my child and nieces and nephews, 7 of 8 went on to a higher level with most being college graduates and a couple going to a trade school. Only one was a high school dropout and later got a GED.
The day of my first ever counselling session. I was in my late 20s, and I went to see a counselor to find out how to get my husband to stop beating me up. Some questions the counselor asked me, “what are your goals in life?” – that was met with a blank stare; “are you angry?” – I had an answer for that – “no, nice girls don’t get angry.” I learned in that session that I have no control over anyone else’s behavior but my own and I cannot change anyone else. I learned that cognitively and could parrot it back, but I did not believe it. I believed if I could just find the “right thing” to do, say, help that I could make a difference. Well, in fact I did have a goal in life but never thought of it as one – I wanted to get married and have 8 children. Holy Mother! Thank God there is a god because I have one child and got divorced at age 27, and never married again or had any more children.
So, today at age 63 I still do not know what I want to do with my life. I did get a GED and pursued a career in nursing, doing it the hard way – first CNA, then LPN, finally RN. By nature I have an affinity for writing and I believe there is at least one book in me – “come out, come out, wherever you are!” My early life was filled with serious illnesses, trauma and drama. At age 43 I had a “nervous breakdown” which simply became the breaking open of the dam, and for 20 years after that my full time job has been taking care of my own health and wellness. I have a lot of interests and know a little about a lot of things. Learning and communicating are 2 of my natural strengths.
“If I Try I’ll Fail”
Well, let’s look at this one in particular to writing. When I think of myself as a published writer I see myself having a bestseller, making Oprah’s book list, and becoming a widely traveled teacher and lecturer. Lofty ideas, indeed. So of course I’m afraid to put myself out there with these as my desired outcomes. How many writers go on to achieve such things – a lot, it appears, but in the grand population of writers there really are very few “successes”. I’ve been researching writing online and reading and sometimes joining writers groups and pages – there are gazillions of writers.
I am plagued with perfectionism and I am a severe self-critic. I’m also impatient. Those are things I’ve been working to change in my personal life and have made some progress. I’m kinder and gentler with myself but it is hard work. I am the oldest child of 5 and typically had a lot of demands and expectations placed on me. I took them very seriously and any outcome less than perfect left me feeling shamed and humiliated. Every job evaluation I had was good and my “need to improve” was consistent – “needs more confidence”. That is something that still needs improving.
“What to do With Myself?”
Okay, well now I’ve come through my personal ‘dark night of the soul’ and I feel healed, whole and well most of the time in most areas of my life. I missed 20 years of working during the middle of my life when peers were excelling and preparing for retirement. Now I’m retirement age and I’m ready and willing to go back to work but what to do? I do have some physical and mental limitations re physical activity, stress, and wellness needs. I’m ready to work again, my peers are all retiring. What shall I do with myself? Further my education? Considered, tried, discarded, both via college and via technical and vocational education. Volunteer work? Considered, tried and mostly discarded.
(I drove a taxi for 2 months last summer and it was the funnest job ever – I was laid off in the fall when the tourists left and the company doesn’t wish to hire part time help again – I am limited and cannot work full time or long hours.) In the middle of my hiatus I learned computer skills and went on to volunteer teaching older adult basics at the local community college, and worked per diem at the adult ed computer basics program at the high school. But I am clearly not a techie. (Also, wearing the hat of teaching basic computer skills I was constantly terrified someone would ask me how to do something I didn’t know.) So I’ve started writing. Over a year ago I started both this blog, and also writing a book. The personal details I revealed in the private book reopened my own Pandora’s Box, and I suffered a writer’s block for many months. Recently I’ve started blogging again – have yet to attempt writing a book again.My wise advisors have adamantly suggested I not yet start writing where I left off.
Again I have a lot of interests and life experiences – so what do I write about? I have a lot of recovery to share with others that might bolster their own courage, strength and hope, but in the areas of addictions and recovery, mental health and trauma recovery there is so much written I think it’s all been said. I’ve survived breast cancer and a brain tumor – again, nothing new under the sun. My interests are nature, children’s stories, gourmet coffee, my poodle, music, art, photography (no camera), walking and hiking, women and women’s issues, and the Maine coast which has been infinitely written about. I’ve enlisted the help of a life coach who helped me determine I’m a natural at memoir writing – who wants to read memoirs?! Sigh!
Despite of sigh of resignation I do not feel resigned – just bewildered and confused. Feedback is always strongly desired by me on anything I’ve written – it doesn’t even have to be in agreement.