Within the container of this post is an older post. At the end of the year, I sit down and reflect on the highlights, the lowlights, and the mid-lights of the prior 12 months, and I put them into three buckets: professional (all the things that involve my work in the world, paid and unpaid), household (all the logistics and demands of managing a home), and personal (the relationships with myself and others). In doing so, I look for how those experiences or observations will inform my vision for the year to come.
I don’t make resolutions, and I don’t make demands of the universe.
What I do is acknowledge what my life is: easy and magical, and how I am: powerful, unconventional, and outside the rules. It’s Big over here. I am honest about my preferences and desires, and I lay out strategies and systems in full recognition that the point of parameters is to have something to push against.
What I don’t do is say, “I’m going to muscle myself into xyz reality by forcing new patterns and habits that have never succeeded in the past.”
This is not because patterns and habits don’t need to change; often they do.
It is because I’ve come to realize that any habit, be it large or small, reflects a larger dynamic in me that is rooted in something way bigger than simple logistics. If it weren’t, it would already be changed. Until I identify the why, I will not be able to see the way.
So when I sat down to look at the past and think about how it might inform the future, I realized that my fear of failure was not just the fear that something might not work, but that, if I really committed, and it didn’t work, I would be exposed in my own limits, and laid bare besides those that had tried and succeeded. I would have to admit I was at my edge.
Which is what brings me to this piece from 2019:
There are posts that are hard for me to write because I don’t want to expose myself to people’s pity. Those are the posts about things I’m ashamed of, afraid of; the posts that I write that I’m sure people are going to read and think, “Sucks to be her. Glad I’m not.” That kind of vulnerability is really difficult.
Then there are posts like today’s. These are hard for me to write because they are embarrassing. I think, “I can’t believe I’m admitting this to people. How can I offer myself as a conduit for someone else’s healing process when I’m such a loser?” But I don’t really choose what to write about – the topics choose me. I ask for guidance and then I meditate, and if I ignore the message that comes through, it just keeps me up at night until it gets written.
Tim Ferriss and I are about the same age. We have similar family and socio-economic backgrounds. We’ve both had access to exceptional educational opportunities (we were even classmates in high school). But Tim is a wealthy and beloved entrepreneur and author, with multiple best-selling books and a hugely popular podcast. He’s a household name and has complete financial freedom. I, on the other hand, am nobody.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. But you know what I mean.
What I mean is, if only everyone loved me and I could buy all the things, I would have arrived. I would be successful. Add all that to the current stock of everything-that-money-can’t-buy-that-I-already-have, and life would be perfect.
I’m comparing myself to him, and feeling envious. What I envy is not the stuff – it’s the actual person. I’ve listened to many of Tim’s interviews and conversations, and I never think, “It could have been me, it’s not fair, he got all the breaks.” No. I think, “I could never do that! How did he know to think that, what made him so enterprising, so driven, so insightful about which questions to ask, how to ask them, and who to ask them of? How come he was born so much better than I am?” I don’t get resentful of the life he has made for himself. I get resentful that I don’t have all those natural abilities. “If only I were smarter, more motivated, more single-minded in my focus, more disciplined; I’d have everything I think I want that I don’t have.”
It’s like being mad at Michael Jordan for being good at basketball.
Which is ridiculous, I know. See why I’m embarrassed to write this?
Ten years ago, I was pregnant with my second child. The house that I no longer wanted or could afford had been on the market for a year with no real interest. My husband’s new business was in its infancy and winter was approaching. All my cards were on the table; nothing was left in reserve. All I could do was trust.
A story: in 1883, a Gloucester fisherman named Howard Blackburn got lost in a storm. When his mittens washed overboard, he knew that he would lose the use of his hands in minutes. He curled them around the oars and let them freeze so that he would still be able to row.
That's only the beginning of the ordeal. You should read the whole tale.
Perhaps there will come a time when I don’t have to stretch the life rope so taught that it vibrates, when I don’t have to freeze my fists onto the deck rails and white-knuckle the storm of doubt. I didn’t know back then sitting in that old house how much harder things were about to get, how what I thought was the weather breaking was only the eye of the storm.
I was about to find myself much more deeply in the maelstrom of fear, clinging desperately to the belief that a benevolent wind was guiding my little vessel through the troubled seas. When blind trust was the only option, other than death, I learned to practice it.
So maybe I can just acknowledge the envy. Maybe I can just say to myself, “Those feel like real desires, real things you need and can’t have, real balances in which you are weighed and found wanting, but they’re an illusion. They’re a distraction. They’re a movie put on by the ego in a bid for attention from the I-that-is-before, while you trust until your teeth rattle because you are on your right path, and that’s super power enough.”
Back to now. The fear that was holding me back was the fear of comparison; a comparison that I, alone, was creating. That stuck, envious place was causing me so much shame that I couldn’t look at it and recognize its usefulness, which is the power of recognizing what it is that I aspire to, and whom I might sit beside and learn from. I can hide and hold back and never be exposed, but I cannot both do that and discover what is possible.
To recognize that I was feeling, at year’s end, that I wished to be more like somebody else (sometimes), was to realize that I am doing exactly the right thing with that shadow. Rather than allowing it to become the jealousy of destruction, either of myself or of others, I am putting myself in its path as a means of growth. In that way, I am receiving all the benefits of the wisdom and talents of the very people I am admiring, and learning to emulate the inspiration and approaches that are right for me while experimenting and discovering where my talents and passions are not.
The word “janitor,” comes from the Roman god of gates, Janus. In January, when we tend to the hallways and trash cans of our minds at the gateway of the season, as the lean and brittle light of the northern hemisphere lengthens by a breath each day, look for the answers in the dark places of yourself. Before you ask, how can I do it differently? Ask, why have I done it this way? How can the answers to that question lead me to the solution I seek?
You contain all the rivers and streams that run to the waters of healing within you. An enviable state, indeed.