Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

I need to learn how to fail

The last two weeks have been a trial of patience.  I have been empty and in the winter without something to ACHIEVE and it’s taken me to some weird places.

Oh my gosh I’ve never missed the gym so much in my life…

Typically, I have coping mechanisms for that, but with coach’s orders to not engage in physical activity more intense than walking, I couldn’t go chase my tail for a few hours and reach that blessed state of blissfully spent.  I had a brief respite after hours of riding back to back roller coasters on Saturday, and it was like balm to a wound – THIS was the feeling I was missing!  Obviously, I hadn’t really *achieved* anything besides getting strapped into a seat and whirled around, trusting that metal harnesses would save me from certain death, but the aftereffects of the adrenaline rush rivaled those of a race or great speed workout.  Brain chemicals are wacky, man.

Fifteen days have passed since Waco.  It feels like an eternity, but I’ve made it through the required waiting period without either breaking down and sneaking in a sweet, sweet endorphin hit or going *completely* insane.  Last night, I got to go lift and I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more excited to go push a bar with very little weight up and down over and over.  It’s time to start tracking my food again and eat at least 80% healthy food again, and I’m oddly stoked about it.  In both cases, I need to make sure I don’t take this new, shiny mega-maniacal drive I’ve found and completely overdo it as is my typical tendency when I find some enthusiasm about a thing.  A thousand miles an hour or collapsed on the floor are the only two states I find myself in lately.

This offseason break has been VERY different than others.  Usually, I’m mostly fine doing nothing for two weeks.  Honestly, it usually takes me a kick in the pants to get back to it, contrasted this time with counting the hours until the embargo on gym-related activities were lifted.  I’ve never felt so much difficulty turning OFF, and though I stuck to it in terms of athletics, wanting to be ON seeped out in many other different facets of my life.  For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to put my finger on what are these heckin’ things in my head?  I mean, feelings, obviously, but why do I care so much about bizarre things ALL OF A SUDDEN? 

Over the last few sessions, I had this odd compulsion to WIN at at Dungeons&Dragons, a cooperative storytelling game, aka – a game that doesn’t really have a true victory condition. I thought I had been REALLY clever at some things, and instead multiple times, I either mildly or spectacularly fucked things up after spending all sorts of time preparing and it really affected me for a moment.  What the-?  All of a sudden this really fun thing became about being great at it, and then when I wasn’t, it kind of stung instead of being HILARIOUS (which it absolutely was).

Feeling the feelings again sucks sometimes. I’m really, really rusty at it.  When nothing needed a feeling it was much easier than when everything has a dice roll at being a feeling whether it is deserving or not.

The feelings go up, the feelings go down…

It was really fun when those feelings were confidence, courage, power, elation, and worthiness, when I was building up my race persona before Cozumel.  It’s decidedly less fun when they are shame, inadequacy, disappointment, and despair (and especially less fun when THERE’S NOTHING REALLY WRONG AND YOU’RE JUST BEING DRAMATIC).  With the peaks come the valleys, I know.  It’s inevitable, but that when you’re used to riding the flats for a long time, the rolling hills feel like mountains.

As a perpetual student of psychology, I tend to step outside of my head a LOT into that overhead third person over-the-shoulder view.  It’s entirely obvious that that the gross overreaction in my head isn’t about a game at all, and even in the moment when I’m experiencing these things, I know I’m projecting.  I’ve spent the last few months under extremely high stress conditions at work.  Tapering for a big race is crazy-making already, tapering twice in a row was enough to endanger a non-consensual trip to the funny farm.  Pressure makes diamonds, and under pressure I do thrive, but one can’t push on forever without consequences.  The cracks from 2018 have finally let the light in, which I am ultimately grateful for, but I need to be careful they don’t cause me to crumble.

This is complicated by the fact that I actually kind of like myself right now.  Weird sentiment, I know.  Bear with me.  Minor fumbles aside, I’ve had quite the banner year – my first triathlon season gracing the podium multiple times, hitting personal records that have stood for many years, qualifying for Nationals, losing a noticeable amount of weight for the first time in forever, my first brand ambassadorship, success at work.  Great, right?  But what’s clanking around in my brainpan right now isn’t pride in my accomplishments, it’s that evil villainess voice shouting loudly at me – HEY DUMMY GOOD FOR YOU THAT YOU DID SOMETHING GREAT NOW YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO LOSE DON’T SCREW IT UP (you’re going to screw it up you’re going to screw it up you’re going to screw it up).

As the reigning queen of Ye Olde Village of Self-Sabotage, this is not an unfounded fear.  I’m hoping that this is the moment, the year, the age that I break that cycle, but I’m already doing stupid crap to the contrary.  Case in point, falling on my knee and twisting my ankle, which turned out okay THIS time because it’s almost all the way better two weeks later, but I could have EASILY broken something and derailed my spring season.  I haven’t gained any weight, frankly, I’ve seen some new lows on the scale this month, but I’m not doing myself any favors with the lack of tracking and any attention to diet quality lately.  I’m hobby hopping instead of actually pursuing excellence at things I care about which means I’m avoiding the uncomfortable nature of having to actually TRY at something beyond the jack-of-all-trades level. 

I’m shying away from delving into the dark place true mastery of a craft demands, when that’s all my little heart desires.  Screw you very much, brain.

My brain personified, being eely, eely annoying.

I want to be an author with a published book.  It’s been a dream of mine since I was sixteen, probably even longer, and I’m the closest I’ve ever been in my life.  However, I’ve spent months ignoring my completed first draft.  Thinking about editing it actively pains me.  I realize now that my Pavlovian block here has very little to do with my perceived capability as a weaver of words, or the work necessary to arrange approximately 90,000 of them into a state of coherence.  I live for that stuff.  It’s the other parts that I didn’t really think about when I wrote some sentences and saved the draft for the first time fourteen months ago.

The truth is, I’m sharing a real and raw story about myself and seeking approval.  I do the first part all the time on this blog, but it’s because I know no one really reads this that I know in real life (minus a few of you… hello!) and I’ve convinced myself I don’t care about the paltry few hundred views very few comments compared to the alternative.  I hit a big mental block when I considered trying to promote AR.com and see if I could make it popular as an exercise to learn about marketing.  Not because I care what the world at large thinks, but because I didn’t find myself very comfortable sharing that stuff with the people represented on Facebook, collections of coworkers, family, friends, people I knew from high school, etc.  I’m great at the stage, but I’m terrible when I have to look people in the eyeballs.  Instagram feels like a stage.  Facebook feels like eyeballs.

I knew I would also hit that same conditioned response about my book, which is a HUGE issue.  As an unknown author, I need to leverage every avenue I can to build an audience if I really want to have a go at this thing.   I need to believe in myself and my product wholeheartedly and have ZERO shame or hesitation shouting about it from the rooftops.

Which feels just about like… this… right now.

In the last two months, some switch flipped where I got brave and shared some things in a similar vein of what I’m sharing in my novel on the Book of Face, and at first I got a lot of positive responses!  That was awesome!  Then, I think I pushed it a little far and continued to write stories and I think people were like, “ugh, we get it, you are having insecurities about triathlon, and you lost some weight this year and you’re using big words GOSH”.  I’m trying to pull back on the sharing a little bit –  simply because I think I’ve proved my point to myself that I am worthy of self-promotion and also brave enough to open up to people I encounter in real life instead of being an enigma, and I don’t want to continue gilding the lily too often.

The truth was that I got to the point where I was having fun with it.  The likes and the comments were actually making my day instead of being WHATEVS, someone noticed me on the internet, and then, the LACK of them on some posts were making me feel like I failed somehow.  From that third person perspective, I know this is stupid, it feels like regression to care about public opinion.  Not everything I write is going to resonate with everyone.  But there I was, feeling like I might as well take my ball and go home if not enough people wanted to play my game with me. 

Let’s lay it all bare and dig further.  I’m honestly terrified I’ll write this book and maybe it will be well-written, interesting, witty, and amazing, but I’ll fail every charisma check trying to promote it.  I can’t care this much about what people think about ME, but the product of my work, when I’ve actually dedicated myself to it, that has the potential to actually crush me and I’m worried that being that vulnerable could actually hurt my heart.

Just like the lionfish could hurt my body if I touch it.

The romance of taking the leap, going into the dark place, being brave is so alluring to me, but the problem is… it doesn’t always come up roses.  Just being confident and courageous isn’t going to finally lead to all my dreams coming true all of a sudden.  It does mean the OPPORTUNITY to pursue my dreams instead of being frozen with fear and forced into inaction, which is a step in the right direction.  I may find that I’ll never have the skill to have award winning photographs, and maybe no publisher will ever touch my writing with a ten foot pole, and maybe first place in my age group twice in 2018 is the best I’ll ever do in triathlon.  I have to accept that just because I’m willing something into existence doesn’t mean it’s inevitable.  I’m not a wizard even though I play one on the internet sometimes.

The one thing I know is that there’s something about this anxiety from which I don’t want to run.  I can solve this easily – stop caring.  I’m pretty sure I can quit anytime I want – log out of social media, stop looking for avenues to share my photos and writing and other creative work, stop actively searching out things that grow my comfort zone, give myself permission to just… exist – for a while, or forever.  The problem is I don’t think I want it to go away.  It feels like there’s something worthwhile underneath all these growing pains, so instead of turning it off I’m going to see it through and follow this where it goes.

One thing has become clear to me: I am not accustomed to failure, and it’s darn uncomfortable.  Let’s be clear, I’m not perfect, I don’t do everything right, but WHEN I fail, most often it’s because I blow it off or don’t really put much effort into it.  Bright student, lacks initiative.  Then I can truthfully say, “well, if I *really* wanted it and dedicated the time, I could totally do it”.  To further protect my psyche, the dark place in my brain keeps me from actually trying hard because I’m terrified beyond belief that my highest capability at said thing isn’t enough.

I need to spend some time there, actually leaping with every fiber of my leg muscles, and still falling flat on my face enough times to desensitize myself to the experience.  I’ve spent a lifetime this year convincing myself that I was enough, and now I’m pretty much there.  I kind of think that I’m worthy, finally, but it feels very fragile to say it still, I can whisper it but not *too* loud.  The next step is shouting it out and convincing the world because this is the lot I’ve chosen in this life.  The challenge is to maintain that confidence while having the courage to willingly put myself in these positions where someone will tell me that no, indeed, I am NOT enough for this particular opportunity.  And then, I need to pick myself up, spend a minimal amount of time licking my wounds, and throw myself off the next chasm of opportunity with reckless abandon.

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5 Comments

  1. The self is a terrible monster. There are many ways to keep it away, I wish I knew more of them.
    Joel recently posted…I am a person not a brandMy Profile

    • Honestly, working through this piece of writing helped me figure out what exactly was wrong and I feel more at peace now. It makes sense. Now I can work on strategies to get what I want for the things that matter versus lashing out at other random things in my life.
      Quix recently posted…I need to learn how to failMy Profile

  2. Definitely take that leap. Failing is way, WAY better than not trying at all. But it’s hard, I know. So much easier to give that advise than follow it and feel the sting of a failure. Oh and I would totally read your book!!

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence! 🙂 Logically I know all this and it’s exactly the advice I’d give to someone else (and obviously myself), it’s sometimes hard to break the mental blocks and follow through. But I’m working on it.
      Quix recently posted…I need to learn how to failMy Profile

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    led headlights with dust cover recently posted…led headlights with dust coverMy Profile

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