Monday, January 28, 2013

Moving Forward Despite the Fear

I closed the door with the smile still on my face, but it dropped off with a big sigh as soon as I was no longer visible.

It is one of the somewhat fascinating parts of being human: the ability to experience more than one emotion at the same time. A stranger just drove away in my car, a well-taken-care-of 2002 Subaru Outback that was my pride and joy. I watched it leave from inside the slatted blinds with a mixture of excitement and stomach-roiling fear.

The stack of cash on the table looks so small compared to the car, and yet it presents an opportunity: it presents a long time in a foreign country if I live frugally: it is my escape hatch.

For months, I have been agonizing over the steps to take to get to where my heart has yearned to go. It was doubly difficult because the place was not a specific destination, but an idea: somewhere quiet, inspirational, and cheap.

I say that I’m going to write a book. Somehow I think this gives me a certain amount of credence; that I seem less like a flake if I have a goal in mind. It is true that I want to write a book, but it is also true that the real reason I am going is because I have found it impossible lately to hear myself think.

For months, I have tried to work up the courage to explain over and over again why I am leaving. For months, I have thought about how I will be received by many of my well-meaning friends that love me, yet either don’t know the magic words I need to hear, or can’t come up with them because of the emotions a move like this inspires in their own systems. I cannot know what anyone else is really thinking, and yet I have spent far too long trying to figure out the way to present myself so that it will be palatable, acceptable, understandable. It is only recently – although not the first time I have had to come to this realization – that I remembered something important a great friend told me once: it is none of my business what other people think of me.

I am not doing this for the shock factor. I don’t want the attention. I am not trying to inspire others. I certainly don’t feel as courageous as I come across. It is hard to admit because it seems so whimsical, illogical and ridiculous, but I am leaving because, despite having no idea what is ahead or where I will ultimately end up because of this decision, I KNOW, beyond logic, deep into my bones, that I am making the right decision. I have never been in a relationship like this, but I would imagine it is how people feel when they realize that the person they are dating is the one they want to spend the rest of their life with: that despite the unknown, the unpredictability and even a small measure of fear, the right decision is to say yes.

Next week I leave for Panama. I go in search of a simpler lifestyle, that can be fed with less paid work and more time to write. I go in search of inspiration I have not been able to find lately, and in search of silence. I am not afraid of the adventure – in fact, I have had more energy since I booked my ticket than in the last six months combined. What I still fear, despite my best efforts, is the look on peoples’ faces when I tell them – the energy it takes to explain myself yet again, to pretend that their doubts about my sanity don’t matter. I fear losing my footing before I even begin, and yet I am stumbling forward, the spent runner not quite at the end of the race. I am almost there, and yet these last few days will definitely be the hardest part. Once I’m on that plane, the phone is turned off and the doors are shut, I know from experience that I will finally be at peace. Not because there has been a mountain of criticism rained down upon me, but because once again I am making a decision that does not fit with the norm; the path I am taking has not yet been broken. 

The fear comes not from my seemingly uncertain future, but from the reflection of others’ fears on my behalf. As soon as I’m on the plane and there is no one to reflect their fear back at me, I will remember my excitement. I will remember my sense of adventure; my ability to fully embrace living outside the box. For now, surviving the box for another week seems like a formidable task all by itself.  

Love and New Adventure Kisses

Monday, January 7, 2013

Baby Steps Still Propel You Forward

I can be an impatient person. I see an end goal, a final project, and all I want is to have it DONE. Although I have the ability to also foresee the many, many steps involved in getting to the end of something, it is often hard for me to calmly take each step, knowing that eventually what I want will materialize before me, not with a *POOF* as if out of nowhere, but instead out of the many small steps I have taken in the right direction.

This has been especially hard for me lately. I am planning a move, and the move requires many small steps that will eventually leave me in the new place where I desire to be. In turn, moving will give me some time and space to focus, which will then lead to more time to write, something I want so badly it leaves a lump in my throat.

I have been craving time to write for years. This craving is what led me to quit my job in Bellevue – it led me to make a decision to divert part of each paycheck into a savings account that I never touched; to stay at the job in Bellevue for a year, wanting to tear my hair out, as my baby steps eventually led to the day that I turned in my resignation and walked out with the money to start again.
I learned about publishing in baby steps: how the industry worked, the advantages of self-publishing, the slowly changing behemoth of traditional publishing, and the joy of learning of other like-minded individuals who want to breathe life into their words and share that life with others.

I wrote my cookbooks in baby steps. Talk to wineries and restaurants; create recipe templates, call, email and cajole contributors, make appointments to take pictures, test recipes one at a time, lay out pages, edit, edit, EDIT, print, sell, one Facebook post, one local retailer, one Amazon sale, one new friend at a time.

I have grown confident of my writing in baby steps. Regardless of how long I have called myself a writer, it has only been recently that I have started sending out essays to publications, no longer afraid of their rejection. Suddenly I realize that I have something important to say and all I need is to find the right place to say it. This is not to say that I will not continue to improve, but only through writing for the past four years have I finally gotten to the point where I can realize that I am actually a writer in a way that feels real and visceral.

I have found my way here through baby steps. I feel a book trying to emerge, and I want it to come out in one fell swoop, leaping out of my brow much like Athena leaped, fully formed and ready to fight, out of Zeus’ forehead. The task seems overwhelming. It seems like I will never finish, because it is so hard to start; because the baby steps seem so infinitely small.

More than a year ago, two writing friends and I decided to do the Artist’s Way. It is a 12-week program to help people rediscover their creativity, in whatever way, shape and form it may take. One of the essential parts of the course is the morning pages: first thing in the morning, you take a pen and a notebook and write. At first, I got up an hour early to do this. At first, I wrote the three pages suggested, but then I realized that I was taking on more than I could handle. I cut it down to a page, got up a half hour early, and found it was the most joyful part of my day. Fifteen months later, I look forward to waking up, making coffee and settling in with a cup in one hand and a pen in the other, a notebook resting on my lap. More often than not, I fill two or three pages before I realize what I’ve done. I have filled more than 500 pages – front and back – with my scrawling handwriting. 

I am impatient, and yet the mountains I have moved the farthest are the ones that I pushed a little at a time. Although the ones ahead seem daunting, all I have to do is look behind me to see how far I’ve already come, one baby step at a time.

Love and baby step kisses