Friday, September 2, 2016

Perspective

During the past two days I have not behaved nicely. I may have yelled at my husband and cussed mildly but loudly a few times during an afternoon phone conversation. I may have slammed down the phone receiver after speaking to my husband in the late morning the next day - and that after pronouncing that I loved him. I may have been a polite witch - but still somewhat of a witch - to the checker at the grocery store, because I was in a hurry, had to bag my own groceries and didn't get my coupons applied.

I call it Vincent Van Gogh syndrome. (I'm sorry, Vincent.) 

I threw a creativity tantrum.

Oh, my tantrum really wasn't creative. I didn't yell, complain and gesture wildly while standing on my head and juggling balls with my feet. I didn't write elegant couplets about my disappointments. And there was zero oil paint in this house with which to make a permanent statement - all in bold strokes and colors - about my raging discouragement to hang on the wall, reminding me of my artistic pain.

The tantrum was directly related to my creative endeavors, though. Here was the setup:

Last week I wrote a little post for this blog, just a little theme that had been percolating in my head and one I had been planning to expound here for some time. I didn't really think people would like it all that much, but it was from my heart.

When I saw the next day that it had gotten many hits quickly (very relative, I assure you), I was taken aback. The thought came to me again: I really have no clue what will engage people and entice them to like and share my work.

It was a pleasant and welcome surprise, mind you. I had not worked all that hard on the piece AND I had considered not finishing the post or ever publishing it, uncertain about its potential to say anything illuminating.

Then, this week, I had a post published at a wonderful site created in honor of the great humorist Erma Bombeck.

I had worked really hard on this second post periodically for two weeks: editing and revising, printing out in hard copy and reading silently and out loud, marking up, recycling old drafts and printing again in improved form. The idea was something I had written out a few years ago, but I thought it needed much polishing and there were new threads of experience to weave into the old idea, so I worked and worked and worked on this thing until I felt it was as good as I could make it.

Granted, I did wonder a few times whether it should take me that long to complete a work of such few words.

When the site published it, the lovely lady who founded and runs that site praised the post, telling me that it was very well written and right on the mark.

My hopes were high when I shared it on Facebook (Are there other forms of social media? I wish I cared.)

But this post over which I had labored so faithfully was not well-received at all. It got very few likes and only one share. (Thank you, Vinca. You support me a lot, and I appreciate it.)

Thus began the torture. Why didn't people like it? Was it too harsh? I'm just telling the truth with slight exaggeration, and I wouldn't really hit my kids with a rubber mallet, you know. Was it too similar to some of my other pieces? Is it that I selfishly utilize social media too rarely, usually only when dealing with aspects of my writing or posting pictures? Were people just sick of my writing, period, because that earlier post involving less effort had been shared and viewed just a few days previously?

But, then, if they liked that one, why wouldn't they want to read another from me? Why?

Well, that brought me back, you see, to the only answer: most people who read it just didn't like my newest humor post. I wish I knew why.

And so I came down from my creative high into the suffocating mud of self-doubt, discouragement and childish resentment.

Honestly, I am a writer. I'm not fooling here. (Never back down from proclaiming who you are, I say - even if you have no proof.) I know how to write. I just don't know how to be successful at it.

And the truth is, I may not be good enough to be successful.

And when I think of that, when I get into these foul moods, all I want to do - as I told my husband and kids yesterday evening - is crawl into a hole and carve wooden figures just so I can throw them at the wall.

I'm not going to lie here. I cried. I called out to God for direction in a silly manner. I drank wine and trembled. I made heartless jokes and comments at my own expense. Last night I threw a tantrum.

And I asked my husband some important stuff that's been bothering me. What if I never contribute financially to this family? What if I try and try and try for years, and I get nowhere; I never succeed in a worldly sense? What if he gets to retirement age, and I have not earned a single dime through my own efforts - won't he be disappointed in his wife, view her as a perpetual ball and chain around his ankles?

What if he continues to succeed and I'm just a big failure?

No.

He replied that he knew I would do anything to help our family monetarily if needed. I would work at McDonald's if necessary.

"Yes, I would," I acknowledged. "I would convince someone to give me a job. I'd probably just clean other people's houses. A job for which I am the most qualified," I moaned, burying my face in a paper towel.

My husband Matthew pointed around at our children sitting nearby and watching Mama's come apart. It's not about jobs, about my career or yours, my husband chided me yesterday.

"This is good," he stated firmly. And his finger pointed around again to our beautiful children's serious faces. "This is all good. So I don't ever want to hear the word failure come from your lips. Because this is all that matters. This is a success. As long as this is good, we're all good."

Yes, thank God. I know true, lasting meaning is all about giving and receiving love. I do understand this.

Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain, related in a CNN blog post just what people talk about before they die:

"...people talk to the chaplain about their families because that is how we talk about God. That is how we talk about the meaning of our lives."

If I found out I was going to die in a few weeks, I know my first thought would not be about what I did or did not accomplish with my writing. It would be about my incredible children and my loving, steady husband, about my mom and dad and siblings, about all the relatives and friends I didn't get to spend enough time with. That is who, not what, I would think about.

But I will continue writing. Matthew told me he wants me to do whatever will make me happy. Though sometimes I thank God for the desire and the gift and other times it makes me miserable to work for nothing, I can't stop doing it without some loss of identity.

So I'll keep writing, and maybe...just maybe...I'll start working on that mystery series I want so badly to create instead of waiting and longing for the perfect idea to come and perch on my brain in a supernatural way.

More importantly, I'll try. I will. I'll try very hard to keep my perspective.

Because my brilliant, kind husband, our four incredible children and all the love we have to give in this world is all that really, truly matters.




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