The Enviable Art of Letting Go

Let go

(Photo credit: Brandon Doran)

Several months back I was given a stellar piece of advice from a friend who has, throughout the years, given me many stellar pieces of advice. I was attempting to write a submission for a travel writing scholarship that I badly wanted and was having a lot of difficulty with it. When I would write casually, words would come easily, and I’d enjoy the process. But, in striving towards perfection with this submission on which so much was riding, I found myself staring at the screen of my computer with a head full of useless static. Words blurred, sentences ceased to make sense and the harder I tried to focus the more my brain responded with a chorus of ‘no no no no CAN’T’. I was upset and disheartened that the times I most needed my fancy wording skills seemed to be the times they saw fit to wage a surly strike.

My friend, a writer herself, sympathized. She knew the feeling of wanting to polish the shit out of something, to do the absolute best you could with it and, in putting that pressure on yourself, ironically strip yourself of the confidence and focus necessary to do so. The trick, she pointed out, was to relax, and to accept the fine art of ‘good enough’. Which boiled down to her very quotable conclusion – “Care deeply. Then let it go.

I am not good at letting things go. I am good at wanting things. Fiercely.

But there is a wide gap of disconnect between the idea of wanting and the reality of having. Enter this blog project, which hasn’t exactly manifested into what I had conceived during it’s initial planning phases.

It would be fine if there was a single clear flaw in the theory-to-practice implementation process. I’d go ‘right, here’s the thing: I tried to do this, but instead got this and here was why and here’s what I’m going to do to rectify it.’ Unfortunately, I am lacking that sort of linear clarity in this instance.

Instead I’m left with this: a mind’s eye image of how I envisioned the project going that contrasts rather sharply against the actual present day taste and feel of working on it. Attempting to analyze the gap between the two, and create a plan for rectifying it, has proved to be an exercise in frustration.

Because there ain’t one problem. There’s many. And they don’t form a simple bullet-point list of things to be trouble-shot. They’re inter-linked and messy and often a little abstract.

Though one of them is straightforward enough: I am bad with computers.

Unsurprisingly, this is an issue that comes up fairly frequently when one is working on a web project. 8 months later I’ve realized I’ve been linking the photos from my Flickr feed incorrectly, the links are starting to break and I still don’t know what the correct way is. A couple weeks back I spent 3 hours trying to resolve an issue with Lightroom’s ability to sync with Facebook.

I am bad with digital tasks in general. I am a meatspace person. My brain works in 3 dimensions. I have a very limited window of time I am able to spend doing anything on a screen before my brain begins to protest and starts nagging at me to go outside. But when I try to bring my laptop outside I can’t really see the screen. And even when I try anyway I eventually run out of battery power and trees are decidedly lacking in outlets.

In all seriousness, this gets me down. The same said friend mentioned above, when in need of information on HOW TO DO A THING, is a whiz at jumping into the internets and finding exactly what she needs in a very short amount of time and leaping back out to complete the task she needed the information for. I, in contrast, will meander around the dark back alleys of the web for stupidly long amounts of time without locating the information I need until I become disheartened by my own failure and, with a sense of self-loathing, depart to youtube land to watch kittens interact with dolphins in an attempt to cheer myself up which will actually have the counter-effect of intensifying the self-loathing because kitten/dolphin interaction was NOT WHAT I CAME HERE FOR DAMMIT.

I do not know how to take video footage and edit it into something shiny to watch. Shit, I don’t even know how to upload a video to youtube (seriously. I tried once and it didn’t work). I don’t know shit about SEO. I don’t have any patience for self marketing, and even less patience for reading about the different processes of self marketing and how to master them.

What this all boils down to is this: I am trying to do a thing I don’t actually want to do. Yes, I want the desired end result (i.e. shiny blog with all the bells, whistles and readership numbers), but I lack the will and desire to put the time into all the behind-the-curtain digital magic (and research of how to perform said magic) that maintaining that product requires.

I just want to write words.

Sometimes when we’re bad at a thing we can roll our sleeves up, buckle down and go ‘right, I’m going to get better at this thing’. And we do, and that’s awesome. Other times, we work our little butts off and result only in beating our head off a wall to the point of concussion until we’re simply forced to admit ‘you know what? I am just not great with this.’

And it’s pretty damn likely I never will be. It just ain’t where my talents lie. I’m working on accepting that.

Unfortunately this was not the only instance of an ‘I want this but am getting this instead’ roadblock I came up against. Far from it.

I have issues with obsession. Which isn’t a new realization for me by any means, but working on this project definitely drove the problem home for me. I’d obsess about the appearance of the blog. Do things. Re-do things. Change the background color by several degrees. Change it back again. I’d obsess about my public image, with what of me was being presented via the site, twitter, Facebook. I’d hoard information and ideas, become paranoid about losing a good thought, obsessively file scribbles away so they’d be exactly where I needed them to be when the day came that I needed to access them. My sense of self hinged on how I perceived my internet identity was being presented. Not good.

And writing about my own life was weird. I felt it all needed to be chronological and seamless, even when it wasn’t. There were things vital to the ‘plot’ that I’m just not quite brave enough to put out there in a public forum. I worried about the legal repercussions of writing about instances in the past when I might have, say, worked without a proper visa (not that I’ve ever done that, government).

What I wanted to do seemed simple in my mind. I cared about things and liked writing so I would write about the things I cared about and that would be cool. But what I care about is not linear, though it deceptively seems so in my head. I would begin writing about travel, then segue into self-actualization then take a detour over to gender equality and it would all seem linked and cohesive and each point seemed so vital and important to me and how could I possibly leave off writing about that now that the point had been raised.

I’m encountering it now, this very instance. There is a longing to take each point of trouble I’ve encountered with this blog and write about it in depth. To write about obsession and the way in which it can rule us. About the disconnect between the lives we lead and the way we present ourselves online and how it can wreck our head to dwell on how others perceive us, how that colors our perception of ourselves.

And before I know it I’d have a novel, and I still wouldn’t have said half the things I wanted to.

There was one thing above all else I wanted to say, one motivation that drove me above all others. And I thought it would be possible to write a series of blogs that all tied into that point, creating a nice, neat package that sent out the message: If you are unhappy, there are things you can do about it.

 I used to be painfully discontent. With myself, my life, the world. And I’d dwell on that discontent, poison myself with it to the point of it manifesting itself as repeated physical illness. Instead of acknowledging the things I was unhappy with and making an effort to rectify them I’d pull them closer, surrounding myself with them until they were all I saw. This distorted perception of myself and my existence became my reality and prevented me from being able to acknowledge the possibility of a different, happier one.

A lot has happened since then. It took a lot to break out of that trap and others since but, years later, I find myself in a significantly better place. So when I now see someone else drowning in their own discontent or lack of confidence it pulls at my heartstrings something fierce. I’ll see someone I love moving through life with that dead shark look in their eyes, running on automatic to just get through it and it kills me. Because I know it doesn’t have to be that way and, egotistically, I feel like I can help. I still remember how hard that wall was to tear down, how strongly I believed that my situation couldn’t change, that no one understood. . .But if I could just somehow tear open my head and heart and show them the evidence of how much I used to hurt and how much better it can get, I could. I know I could.

To wit – I used to be miserable and now I am not and so when I see other people who still are I feel compelled to try and help.

But here’s the truth I’m (attempting to) force myself to acknowledge: I just don’t know how to do that yet, if indeed there is any way I can.

Sometimes we try something and it doesn’t work out the way we hoped or imagined. Sometimes it just needs adjustment. To be honest, I’m not sure which one this blog is yet.

I know what didn’t work. Attempting to adhere to the mold of the travel writer = no. Attempting to build a cohesive ‘brand’ of myself to egotistically present to the world = no. Writing about my life chronologically as a story to be followed = no. Etc.

So I’m moving on to my next experiment, keeping in mind the sage words of wisdom from Steph. I have cared deeply, so deeply about this. And now I am letting it go.

I’m going to attempt to live in present tense meatspace. To focus on my training, and my friendships and my life out here in the real world. I’m going to work on letting go of some of the obsessions that are ruling me more than I’d like and accept that caring about something does not mean I need to feel guilty for every moment I spend doing something unrelated to it.

Oh, I imagine I will continue to be passionate about all of the issues I longed to write about. Hell, maybe I’ll even find myself motivated to write a couple posts about them.

I’m going to leave the blog up for now. It’s probably going to contain a fuck of a lot less pics because organizing that shit takes longer than I’m willing to spend. I’m not going to try and keep it on any sort of schedule and I make no apologies for that. I’ll probably start throwing up a lot of links to articles I’ve enjoyed on other sites. It’s going to lack cohesion. I might well be writing about ways to reduce stress one day, and books I dig the next. Oh, it’s going to be fucking chaos. It will wreck every fibre of my OCD being. Which is good for me.

And in some indeterminate number of months from now I’ll take a look at the monster I’ve created and see if it’s something of any perceivable value that I want to keep going or just some unholy mess of brain vomit better aborted from this world. Maybe, if I find some great success with the whole ‘letting shit go’ goal I’ll write about that. Or maybe I won’t. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m excited about this. I’ve spent years living with the nagging sensation that I should be doing something to CONTRIBUTE to the issues I am passionate about. I have tried the way that seemed most logical to me and given it my all and it didn’t work out quite how I’d hoped. Now I get to try other things, like seeing if the energy I’d previously spent obsessively filing away ideas would be better spent on being a good friend to the people around me. I get to find out if I’m able to pull a sense of inner pride from living my life without posting evidence of it for online validation.

And, to anyone who IS feeling a crushing weight of discontent hanging over them in the meantime, my heart still goes out to you, man. I do wish I’d been able to more cohesively write to you, to offer support and advice for climbing out of the mental traps we set for ourselves.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on climbing out of the most recent one I’ve set for myself.

With all my love, – K

4 thoughts on “The Enviable Art of Letting Go

  1. You and I are so alike on this that cloning may be involved. I’ve got a blog and some posts that I’ve re-done so many times that it looks downright raw from all the changes. I’ve gotton pissed and buried the damn thing then gone out at two AM, dug it up, rinced it off, then started all over again so many times that there ain’t no more hide on it. And my computer skills suck. But then I always did enjoy a good scrap.

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