Yesterday I was winding my way around the question about why I can’t seem to enjoy life more. Why I put so much pressure on myself for stuff and why I continue to be down about the state of things.
But therein lies the problem. The questions are themselves nebulous. It’s about mood and stress yet, I’m using words like “stuff” and “things.” If I can’t pinpoint the actual reasons, I’ll never succeed in finding answers. So my aim today is to get to the bottom of “things and stuff.”
Perhaps a good place to start would be all the expectations I set for myself. I had a pretty well-defined list at the start of the year. Call them New Year’s resolutions or goals or whatever, but it was 10 “things” I was going to try and accomplish each day, week, or month.
One was about meditation. This is the second year in a row I’ve failed at incorporating a daily or weekly practice into my routine. I had a bit of a good run before I went on vacation but once I lost that streak, I’ve not been able to start again.
The truth is that I can’t see the value of it and really don’t feel better when I am or was doing it. Because of this, it feels like a waste of time or rather time that I could be doing something more productive. So I just stop. But then I don’t meet my goal and feel shitty about that.
It’s kind of the same with the reading of books. I want to, I start one, but then can’t get into it or I’m reading the wrong book. The books I’ve read in the last six months that I’ve been able to get through have been those purely for enjoyment. And I have to ask myself why do I continue to think I have to read literary work? Why am I down on myself for not being able to get into the dozens of anthologies at my disposal?
Again, it’s like I’m not being productive if I’m just reading YA fiction. I should be learning something or trying to get inspiration for my own work. And therein lies the rub.
I think “things and stuff” might ultimately all boil down to my not writing much lately. Lately like since 2020. Going on about two years, and though I have a few potentially good poems, it’s definitely been a struggle.
But why do I care so much? Why can’t I just enjoy life and not worry about how much I am or am not writing? It never used to matter, why does it now?
The answer, I think, is that that is a seed planted by the MFA program. Everyone talks about it. There are lectures on the topic of publishing and a huge push to nourish your writing community to stay connected as that will help with future endeavors. Which is all true. But I didn’t go through the MFA for that or to get published. I went because I wanted to be a better writer.
I believe I am. Actually, I know I am because I can see how my writing has improved (or at least my poetry).
Being a published author would be icing on the cake. And now I’ve done that. I mean, my forthcoming chapbook is a lovely little collection and I’m quite proud of it. I have learned a lot through the experience of revising my work, submitting it to publishers, getting poems published individually, and the chapbook adventure. Isn’t that enough?
Unlike the original nebulous questions, this one is pretty specific. But I don’t have an answer to it yet either.
When I was writing at 12, 17, 28, and 34 I didn’t have aspirations of being published and I just wrote poems for the satisfaction of creating something more artistic than my journals. And I enjoyed it. I loved those poems and didn’t care if anyone else ever saw them.
More importantly, all the years in between when I wasn’t writing anything, I didn’t care. I didn’t worry about not writing and I never put pressure on myself like I do now. That must mean something in the MFA changed me. Some switch was flipped and now I can’t not want that. I do want it. If I didn’t, I would not continue to work on my writing and I sure as heck would not continue to send it out to be rejected on a regular basis.
I think this is perhaps tied to my quitting my career in some way too. Now that I’m playing a supporting role in the household, I’m not contributing to society like I was before. For many, many years, my career was my purpose and people valued the work I did. I don’t have that anymore and I have no substitute “purpose.” So maybe I’m trying to make writing more my purpose. And then when I fail, I get down about it.
But what defines success and failure? I think because of the MFA, success is synonymous with publishing so if I quit trying to publish, then I’m a failure. That’s a mindset I think I need to change. I want to get back to the old me that wrote for me and not some other lofty purpose. Just like I’d like to get back to the old me that just enjoyed reading a book for the fun of it. Or the old me who didn’t set goals to meditate each day or walk 10K steps a day or <<insert any one of those ten New Years’ resolutions here>>.
Perhaps this post is a long-winded and sorry excuse for why I’m giving up my resolutions after two months. The question then becomes, will I be happier if I do? Because that’s the real goal right? To live and be satisfied with life. To make the most of every day by doing the things that make one happy?
I may not have all the answers, but I might be inching closer to some conclusions.
And with that, I need to turn my attention to said chapbook and finish the review/correction process. I’m giving myself exactly 1 hour to do that. And whatever that is, it will have to be good enough.
Inching along, day by day,