|This essay was published by Elephant Journal on June 30, 2020 titled, “I Am Digging into My Fears and Desires (It’s Humbling as F*ck)” at https://bit.ly/3guTv42|
I believe we can choose any path for our lives. I also believe that if we commit ourselves to doing work that makes us feel good (which is different for every person), it’s likely we’ll see rewards in some form or other for our efforts. I believe we often fail to measure success outside of fame and wealth, and I believe that putting in the work does not guarantee us any rewards or specific outcomes other than having done the work that fuels us.
An example of this is I wanted to see my book in bookstores, and it came to be. This fact makes me happy to think about, but achieving goals that we set, I learned, does not necessarily promise any deeper satisfaction on an emotional or spiritual level like we may have hoped. As a result, I found myself at a crossroads with my writing. Somewhere along the way, I became confused and wanted something other than the satisfaction of having done my work in exchange for my output. I believe this is why writing became exceptionally difficult for me and I went through a prolonged period of writer’s block–because it was no longer about writing. I had confused writing with Being A Writer. And there’s quite a difference.
Recently, I sat down to think about what I truly want to spend my time doing and I realized that yes, I do in fact want to write. As in, regardless of the outcome, I would feel like I spent my time here on earth well if I spent my life writing. When I then tried to imagine where I want writing to take me, I realized I want my life to be about learning and my writing to be about those lessons. So then why wasn’t I writing? When I then tried to imagine that life coming into fruition and what that would feel like, I panicked.
Multiple days in a row I sat with the idea of this life coming to be for me, I’d try to embody the feeling of such a life, and day after day, all I’d see were my fears about such a dream coming true. When I did this, all kinds of blocks came up for me. “What if too many people see me! and know me! and judge me! What if I succeed and become too visible! or vulnerable! or known! What if everyone then hates me!! What if I’m meant to be small! and unseen!! What if I am asking for things I don’t deserve or am not good enough to have or would embarrass my family if I got!!”
Whoa. I truly had no idea these thoughts were in me.
“Ah,” I thought, “My dreams and wants aren’t motivating me, my fears are.” Because I hadn’t admitted what I actually wanted, I was living in a sort of Limbo Land dictated by my fears–the fear of being known prevented me from doing too much but the inability in me to just let go of writing, kept me from doing too little. I was praying for something (success as a writer), but deep down very afraid of that becoming a reality. This made a lot of sense when I looked at my patterns of throwing myself into writing and then backing off when I started to see some success from it; or when I’d start to be published a lot, and then react by feeling that if I asked my network to read what I had written — even passively, by simply sharing a link — I’d feel ashamed and like a burden to those that know me.
Writing is just one example in my life of refusing to admit what I want and the reasons I was afraid to have it. I could see this pattern in my romantic life as well. I was saying I wanted a different situation than I had, but then when I would try to imagine having it’s opposite, I’d feel trapped and scared and resentful. Oh, again, my wants aren’t aligning with my beliefs, and my beliefs are the stronger force of the two. I can see that I have exactly what is possible given what I am most afraid of in every single area of my life.
Once I could see the internal struggle in myself by watching what came up when I imagined actually having what I wanted, I saw the literal representation of that struggle in my physical reality. It’s not magic, it’s just physics (readers note: I am not a magician or a physicist, so apologies if I am mis-representing facts about either one’s reality). If I am pushing something away, or running from something, then my words about wanting it are irrelevant. And if I don’t get to the root of my fears, then it doesn’t matter how hard I work or want or pray, I will never be in alignment with myself and thus always just living out variations of the same struggle.
When I realized I wanted to write because of how good it makes me feel, the end results of wherever that took me stopped mattering. But when I wasn’t writing but wanted to “Be A Writer,” that had nothing to do with actually writing, that was about fear and control and validation. And I was battling with myself (and The God of Writing), saying that I wasn’t going to write if there wasn’t some promise of reward at the end. Well the God of Writing called my bluff, I stopped writing, and lo and behold, no rewards came.
That moment was humbling as fuck. “Oh, so you mean nobody cares if I write or not? You mean nobody is going to beg me to do it?” I thought, “Ok… well, I guess I’ll do it anyways.” I felt about 6 years old and 3 feet high but also ready to write and badly if I needed to, but I was finally ready to write for no other reason than it felt right and good to do so.
We can have an idea in mind of where we would like our life and our work to take us, but when we fail to show up daily for the experience of our life and our work, then what we are after most (intimacy, satisfaction, joy), become elusive to us and we end up missing our lives. Knowing what I want, doing my daily work with joy, and releasing any entitlement to the outcome — that is where I am at, and it feels wonderful, but I had to get really, really clear on what I wanted, why I wanted it, and what were my underlying fears about achieving it were.