Last week was a hard one. I feel that it was filled with a series of hard defeats after struggling to win many small battles.
While I could easily spend a lot of time thinking and rethinking each defeat and figuring out every possible thing I could have done to make things better, instead I’m just going to focus on the small positive steps I made last week because otherwise my exhaustion and the feelings of defeat will overwhelm me and I just don’t want to lay in bed for days recovering. Not that anything happened that was overall terrible; it was just a sum of many tough decisions that didn’t go the way I wanted them to. Those pile up and get to be too much after a while. anyways, since I worked all weekend, today is my sort of recovery day.
Anyone who thinks that entrepreneurs don’t work hard is really, really uninformed. We work really hard and in our spare time when we aren’t doing stuff that actually makes money, we have to work hard to promote ourselves so that we can continue to do work that will bring in money. And when I’m not doing either of those things, I’m worrying. I do some sort of work every day.
So some small accomplishments last week.
I went swimming last week for the first time in years, probably ten years or so. This is an accomplishment because I’ve psyched myself out of swimming and become afraid of it. Last week I decided it was time to get over that and we went swimming. He let me his snorkel mask, which has also been the source of a lot of fear because the time I tried a snorkel mask it really restricted my breathing and I couldn’t ever catch my breath. So my roommate Kris, who is like another brother to me, patiently sat with me in the hot tub while I worked up my courage and then swam in the same lane as me in case I needed help. I told him to go before me and I put on the dreaded snorkel mask then plunged my face in the water and started swimming. I noticed two things immediately: first, the panic.
I was filled with totally panic and was totally out of breath after only a second or two. But the other thing I noticed was how completely useless and unfounded my panic was. I decided to just do a short lap at first but kept my face in the water while I forced myself to calm down, catch my breath and breathe normally. I got back to the beginning of the lane, took a short break, then really started swimming. And it was wonderful. I miss swimming and remembered how much I used to love it. The only obstacle I have ever faced is learning the breathing rhythm for the front crawl. With the ask on, I can front crawl as long as my muscles work if I want. And swimming is an awesome workout! Fear: overcome. Win.
Another small win was at my new part-time job. I’ve been stuck in the back doing the online learning modules and it’s been terrible. It’s pretty much the worst learning environment I can imagine–the back of a warehouse where it’s cold and the computer is old and super slow and the graphics are bad and much of the initial information was terribly boring, rife with grammar and spelling errors and a lot of company propaganda. I moved into the product knowledge which was much more interesting, except that I’m being encouraged to fly through the learning modules, which makes me concerned that I won’t remember anything. I know my ideal learning style and techniques and none of them are available to me. But I’ve been doing my best.
So last week I was allowed out of the dungeon to shadow another sales associate, and low and behold I helped a customer and sold him some boots. It was kind of a triumphant moment because I am really new, don’t know where any of the products are stored and I have a lot of social agony. But I mastered all that and helped the fellow find what he was looking for, so it made me feel really good. Of course, I had follow-up anxieties, but I’m only concentrating on my wins here. I actually can do my job. Win.
This brings me to yesterday, which is still difficult to consider a win. I led my very first workshop presentation yesterday. I feel it did not go well for a number of reasons, which I am forbidding myself from discussing right now. Nothing sensational…in fact, the complete opposite. Suffice it to say, I was not perfect and I really really really wanted to be perfect.
However, I can consider this a (very small) win (small in the shadow of the mountain created by the things that didn’t go the way I wanted them to) because of one major thing. I am terrified of public speaking. I barely slept the night before, woke up exhausted, and a feeling of terror filled my stomach a few hours before I started speaking and didn’t leave until a few hours after I got home. The terror sapped my strength. But despite my terror, I did it. I stood in front of a less than eager group of people and talked to them about something they seemed less than interested in for 1.5 hours because I promised myself I would do it. There were definitely a few points when I wanted to just end my agony, turn around and leave but I didn’t. I sucked, I stayed, I lived. Not quite vini, vidi, vici, but as close as I could get for now.
So despite the sorrows of last week that keep pushing at me, wanting me to fall headlong into the pool of wallowing self-indulgent sulking, I’m ingorning all that and moving forward. I don’t have time for it and I want to put my energy to greater, more exciting, cooler things that will help me grow. Like swimming.
Personal growth and self-determination are not the easiest things in the world. I’ve devoted myself to a path of self-improvement and sometimes that path is just too damn hard. But over the years I’ve learned that if you try to run away and hide when things are hard, they just get harder and more painful. So if you stay, despite the difficulty, and just accept the fact that things suck, the suckiness will pass. This is a combination of advice from two sources: first, my grandma Peg, who used to listen to me talk about things that bothered me and tell me that ‘this too shall pass.’ As a teen it never really meant that much, but I’ve thought about that phrase a lot since y early 20’s and it helps me feel better every time.
The other source is writing by a woman named Oriah Mountain Dreamer. I can’t remember which book it comes from, either The Dance or The Call. But she describes a moment when she is sitting in her home and it suddenly dawns on her that, despite the fact that she is someone who writes esoteric self-help books that preach spiritual connection, etc, she realizes that she really doesn’t like her life at the moment and is doing her best to avoid it, avoid being present and trying to run away from the hardness and the pain of her life at the time she writes it. Once this dawns on her, she begins to make an effort to accept the hardship. She makes an effort to not jump up and try to fix things immediately, but to just sit there and be okay with the fact that her life sucks and that is okay because there are always going to be moments when life sucks, and instead of jumping wildly offcourse and running away to safety, instead of turning around and giving up, if you just keep going as you were, things eventually get better because change is inevitable. You just need to dog deep and find the strength to wait it out; you need to find the strength not to run from the agony but to accept it as something that is as valid and valuable in your life as ecstasy and joy. Or if you can’t do that, you need to find the strength to simply plod onwards.
One of my favourite quotes is by Winston Churchill:
I love this quote. The simplicity, the logic and the no-BS feel of it gets me every time. And of course there is the slogan used by the website The Chive–Keep Calm and Chive On–which was stolen/ripped/borrowed from the British war slogan that went “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
Origins aside, I like the slogan. It reminds me that there is no need to panic and if I just continue to breathe and put on foot in front of the other, stuff will work itself out to the point where I can handle it.
Happily, I finished my Sunday with dinner with my brother, his wife and my beloved little niece, Sage. Her smiles can move mountains and seeing certainly chased away some of the clouds.
I just want to finish with another quote I like. Hope you enjoy it.