failing at acceptance

Wondering about the mundane parts of life and how best to cope with them.

failing at acceptance
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

The thing I truly suck at the most is accepting the fact that life sucks, more often than not. There is often more monotony than excitement, more pain and challenges than ease, and way more failures than successes. I've seen this as a writer, as a parent, no matter what the current pop culture on positive psychology would have us believe.

Instead of accepting this is how it is, I resist this with all my might. I keep thinking that there must have been another route, another path, that would have led me to a better place. I keep thinking I didn't try hard enough, that I should have tried harder. All those days I slept in, I should have woken up in the wee hours of the morning to write. All those nights I lay in bed, sleepless, one hand on the body of my little child to keep me grounded even as anxiety pulled me this way and that endlessly, I should have gotten up and written a few words.

And then what?

I don't know.

Maybe I'd have more wealth and status, more friends, more acceptance into society's circles, more peace of mind, more fame? Maybe my words would mean a little more than they do now? Maybe my existence would be a little more significant than it is now?

Or maybe I'd have written and published more books but not seen an increase in sales or readership? Who knows?

I don't know ... but this constant feeling that I'm not doing enough, that I should be doing a whole lot more, that I should have done a whole lot more has been haunting me more than any ghost possibly has the power to.

Sarra Cannon over at Heart Breathings says that when we make plans, we often end up planning for our fantasy self — the one that doesn't fall sick, that can work without distraction, that can complete tasks in half the time they really take, that doesn't need to rest or sleep well, the one whose plans never get derailed — instead of planning for our real, messy selves — the one that needs a day or two off to manage low energy and low mood, the one who has sick kids to deal with, the one who needs a full 8-hour sleep at night in order to function properly and sanely the next day.

I wonder ... when I get into the self-critical mode about the past, berating myself for all that I think I ought to have accomplished by now but haven't, I wonder if I'm holding my past self up to standards that only my fantasy self could have possibly hoped of meeting or exceeding.

I also wonder ... when I direct this criticism inwards, is it my way of safeguarding myself from the truth that life is messy and unpredictable, and that the consequences I'm facing today for choices I made yesterday were also influenced by a lot of factors not under my control?

Because, if I were to accept this, then I'd also have to accept that this is the nature of life — to be messy and unpredictable and utterly random — which means that I could do a whole lot of things today for a better tomorrow but still not be guaranteed those outcomes ... because no one can.

That would completely shake me, wouldn't it? Because I'm writing and publishing without any guarantee of an audience.

That knowledge has plagued me for a long, long time. Even now, if I stop to think about it, my mind can easily psyche me into quitting writing if I allow it to do so.

The only thing I know for certain is this: if I don't write, I won't have works to sell.

If I have no books, I have no chance of making any money selling products that don't exist. Unless I'm trying to run a scam.

Conversely, if I do write, I may have more than a 0% chance of earning a livelihood by means of writing. I could still make zero money, but I also have a chance of making more than zero money.

This uncertainty plagues me a lot.

I look up to people who are ahead of me in the game, hoping to learn something from them ... but the market is changing so rapidly that their lessons and insights from the vantage point of their success may not really be relevant to me.

I wish there were more people at my stage of this career talking about their challenges and what they're doing to overcome those rather than already-successful authors touting their insights to relative newbies. Still valuable, but sometimes that advice becomes irrelevant very quickly simply because of how quickly and unpredictably the market continues to change.

Or maybe I'm simply looking outwards because alone, I feel I'm unable to continue persisting without support.

Or maybe this is the normal ebb and flow of feelings we go through in any pursuit and not great cause for alarm or concern. Except, being in the throes of these feelings leaves me helpless. I look for a way out, but only time decides when respite would be made available to me.

Now that I feel as if I've tried everything I possibly could today to lift my mood — going for a long walk, taking a bath, spending time with little D, writing, taking an afternoon nap — I give myself permission to continue watching The Vampire Diaries! I'm nearing the end of Season 4 and I've been constantly amazed at how many stories have spun out of what started as a single love triangle between a girl and two brothers.

I guess what I need to accept the most is that life is not as constantly exciting and adventurous as fiction is.