Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Gauntlet

Hello Invisible Audience,


In my last therapy session, I talked to my therapist about something that I know quite well about myself that drives me nuts: it takes a lot for me to connect what I want over others’ voices and needs. It’s as if I need to run a gauntlet of others’ needs and expectations before—exhausted and gasping for breath—I finally reach my own.


I’m so much better at this than I used to be, but it’s still incredibly difficult to separate out what I need with what someone else needs, or even what they think I should do. And it drives me absolutely insane sometimes.


I have been thinking a lot about what my business looks like lately. I’ve been thinking about how to make it sustainable long-term. And one of my biggest pain points is having employees.


This clearly isn’t true for everyone. And even though it’s supposed to be a very logical way to grow your business—more people to do the work, therefore more work can be taken on—I have struggled with it for as long as I’ve had them, which is awhile now.


I’ve told several people about it lately, as I think through this summer and into what my lineup will be for next school year. And after discussing it with several different people, I found myself saying to a friend, “I feel like I’m just asking for permission to not have employees.”


I said it out loud and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it, Invisible Audience. So then I took it to my therapist, and that’s part of what sparked our conversation about the gauntlet.


And—like a good therapist—she asked me a very insightful question.


“Who exactly are you waiting for permission from?”


God damn it, Invisible Audience.


When I was in high school, someone told me that my brother would be a CEO and run a company, and I would struggle for the rest of my life, being self-employed.


Without realizing it, I’ve been trying to prove that person wrong for decades now. And the way I was trying to do that was by having employees, even if I will ultimately be happier and a better business owner if I don’t have them. Because wouldn’t that mean I’d be proving that person right?


My therapist had another question for me that she assigned as homework:


Who and what do I want to be?


Sometimes I think the answer to that question is buried so deep I’ll never find it, Invisible Audience. Underneath mountains of norms and expectations and medical debt and logistics. Under people-pleasing and fatigue-filled days and a lot of fear. Under pathologizing every single part of me that’s ever brought me joy and made me tick. Under the biggest pile of shit that can only be described as self-doubt.


And sometimes it’s readily apparent who I really am. When I take 2 hours to walk through the woods, stopping under the cottonwoods as their leaves unfurl to smell their scent. When I wade into ice-cold water and can’t stand not going further and have to dive in fully. When I stay up late finishing a book that feels as satisfying as drinking water in the desert. When I rise from bed when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night and find solace in my journal; that the simple act of writing to myself will inevitably send me back to sleep. When I write to you about things others would keep to themselves.


One of my favorite poems has a stanza that I think about a lot. It’s called The Invitation and the stanza goes like this:


It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.


You know what, Invisible Audience? I’m not always sure what sustains me. I think it’s likely that it changes. But there’s something there. There’s someone there, underneath all these other pieces, and she gets louder and more solid every day.


She is me, and I don’t quite know her yet. She is me, and she stands on the other side of the gauntlet, waiting for me, as exhausted and gasping as I am when I reach her.


Love and breathless kisses,



P.S. Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons. When I can't find time to post both here and on Patreon, I prioritize posts on Patreon--there's more to read there. 

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