true success

miguel-bruna-704166-unsplash

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

I had my weekly coaching session with my business coach yesterday, and it was a humbling experience because I felt like I had run out of runway to take my life in the direction that I have wanted to for so long.

My writing business has taken a while to recover from losing an anchor client back in April. So for going on five months now, I’ve been trying my best to get a new one. Technically, this anchor client would be my coach: we barter writing services for coaching services.

But I have tunnel vision–no, myopia, about this goal.

And that’s a typical Capricorn–get that money!

But I am miserable.

And it’s not just because of limited funds. It’s that life has become about this one thing, and the rest of me is resisting–and rightfully so.

my precious

Last week, my coach and I talked about scheduling my time better (something that came up around this time last year). And I didn’t do anything about it last week because somehow time got away from me. 🙄

I dealt with the pressure of time pretty well last year. I was having these low-key panic attacks over writing, waiting until the last minute to get things done. I sought out an astrologer, we worked on those issues, and then I had more structure.

But then I slowly got out of the habit of having structured time to do the things I want and need to do.

Being so driven for one thing has made me dull. What am I outside of this one goal, outside of what is, or isn’t in my bank account?

I’ve quoted Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club before, but this quote really reminds me of what I am.

You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

This individuation from old coping mechanisms–chiefly delaying gratification to the point that I never get any when tasks are done–it’s painful, but it’s also one that makes me laugh because this is when I feel like the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

Coping mechanisms work until they don’t. I’m not sure how long I’ve been running on fumes, but I’ve reached the point that effort alone isn’t enough. Working hard isn’t getting me anywhere because I feel terrible and self-defeated about it. It’s an inescapable ouroboros of misery, a leminscate of terror.

When I reach out to people about business opportunities, it almost feels like I am tossing coins in a fountain, just wishing for something to come back. But I’m putting in much more effort and intention in every email and contact request I make.

Why can’t I give myself any credit for that skillful effort?

Sure, I can rewind back to how my parents were hypercritical of me, how they rarely gave me praise for any good I did. Their brittle view of their little girl and firstborn was one that already interfaced with my unyielding, intense, and, at times, cruel way I looked at myself.

Yet my “inner mean girl” never seems to be hurling insults and epithets at me–well, not that often. It’s more that she withholds any credit, any praise, any celebration of success. If I do celebrate, it seems stupid because it’s not the big win. That’s all that matters to me.

And what an empty life that is. It’s not self-discipline. It’s self-deprivation.

No carrots, just sticks.

Business is actually picking up, but I am acting like I’m going to go through my own personal recession again. The fear keeps me on this treadmill of terror. I keep running, running, running…and getting nowhere. I’m lost in a labyrinth of longing and loss.

I’m just tired, sweaty, and sore–and for all the wrong reasons.

And to my credit–having a successful business isn’t for some deep personal reason. I’m still doing this because there aren’t any other options right now. This is it. This is about survival. I am committed, whether I want to be or not–but I want to be.

What’s interesting about all this, too–this is all happening in the background. It’s subliminal messaging I’ve given myself probably for my whole life. It worked for a while, being this driven and merciless to myself.

But not anymore.

My coach asked me what success looks like–without this big win that I’m obsessed with.

It was laughable but ultimately sad because I didn’t think I was that successful.

My coach pressed back with questions: well, what about finishing your client work on time? What about following up on emails from prospective clients? How many people did you reach out to last week?

The problem is a lot of what I do just ends up disappearing into the ether of time. I don’t keep track. They are just tasks or events that occur, and I move onto the next.

I can only seem to congratulate myself for tough wins, like when I finished this project over the weekend that seemed to be mired in doubt and confusion from the client. So I just decided to finish it and hope for the best.

The client accepted the work and gave me a 5-star review. And here’s the GIF I used to celebrate:

YES

I celebrated that win on Twitter today, but according to my coach, I should be celebrating much more often.

And back to how I grew up–we didn’t really celebrate much of anything, not even my birthday after a while.

But I am tired of feeling like life is a slog when it comes to my everyday life. If life is about the journey, not the destination, then it’s time to start acting like that. It’s time to start embracing the bulk of my life.

So my homework for this week is to schedule my time so I can start doing more of the other things I love–like tarot and astrology professional development, writing professional development, and journal about my work day.

Astrologically, I realized today that there’s a lot of restructuring (Saturn) and healing (Chiron) that has been going on in my life for the past few months. It’s uncomfortable, painful, and even embarrassing sometimes.

A lot of old hurts and wounds are being drawn to the surface for healing. But the timing isn’t quite right yet. But that’s OK. Healing is still in progress.

What’s funny is that so many times as I’ve been working to get to a place of OK to better, I always think–now the real healing is going to begin. I’ve finally arrived! But there are always layers, layers which have served as protection for a battered and weary heart.

The healing journey is never-ending, but it does get easier, because eventually there are less layers, even if we accumulate new hurts and wounds along the way. And also–we accumulate wisdom and other therapeutic tools to keep us safe and to help us heal more quickly.

This time, I’ll say again that this seems like I’m in the inner chambers of all that I’ve endured and what’s befallen me…and letting the weight of all the years just all fall off of me. I wish it was some dramatic reveal, like a slinky evening gown that I could shrug off.

And that’s because I’m impatient. And rightfully so. It’s been a constricting time–not only by circumstances, but my own almost grandiose ambitions and expectations I have for myself.

I hate to glorify suffering, but I can at least see some semblance of sanity woven through the last six years of my life. It’s like what I said last time, how my heart has expanded with empathy. I feel so much more connected to my fellow human beings because I’ve been so much closer to my dusty existence than the loftier life of the mind.

I didn’t have to choose that empathy, though. And I didn’t all the time. Sometimes I chose bitterness and entitlement–and sometimes I felt those choices were unavoidable and inevitable. Even still–choice or no choice–I want to choose differently now.

And failing over and over, but still rebounding and trying again after each failure–sure, that’s part of my journey as a double Capricorn, trudging up and sometimes falling down the mountain. But so is triumph, the mountaintop view.

That brings me back to what I believe success is. It’s not the just the glittery, glorious triumphs, the accolades, the praise and the parades.

It’s the gritty rebound.

It’s picking yourself up out of the mud and trying again. It’s letting people help you get up again. It’s helping others get up and keep going.

So it brings tears to my eyes to admit this to myself for the first time: my time in Florida has been extremely successful, that my life is a glittering, glorious success.

It’s time to feel good, and proud, about that.

feel good SOM

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. I blog about things that I don’t post here.

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human after all

Well, it’s been a minute.

I owe you, and me, three blog posts.

Today, I finished writing this fantastically long post for my $10+/month patrons on Patreon. It took days, throwing away drafts, revising–what I call real writing. So I’m glad. It’s about some really good things that have happened to me last month, which explains some of my absence.

What I can say about that is holding space for something that may or may never happen is never as good as letting go and opening up space for greater opportunities.

Unfortunately, you get the really bad things that have happened to me story. But there’s still a lot of growth, and it won’t be as down in the mouth as I have been historically.

And, for once, I will make this short.

Last month was really busy with a client doing work I used to do back in the day in my research days.

But since June, I had been consistently screwing up with data fidelity. I’m a recovering perfectionist, but this was becoming an expensive issue for my client and a perplexing situation for me.

I’m used to not only doing a good job–I’m used to excelling. I didn’t go through living in a hypercritical household with two narcissists as parents for nothing.

So when I kept trying to correct this problem, but getting the same result, I was in a state of insanity.

Admittedly, my client threw me in the deep end of their operation, and I thought I was swimming well, with some instruction, but not that much.

I thought I didn’t need it, and I didn’t even know what to ask to solve the problem.

As I started to sinking under continual screw-ups, including one that they didn’t catch for weeks, I realized that this wasn’t entirely my fault. And I’m used to taking on too much blame.

The client is super smart, the kind of smart that will skip over steps because they assume everyone knows what they know.

Last week, after I screwed up for umpteenth time, we had a terse conversation which I was still so confused why things were still a mess.

I was told that they would be in touch.

It took me two hours of my own time to figure out why things were a mess. It was something that would have taken less than 2 minutes to explain.

I told the client what I had discovered, apologized for the frustration, appreciated their patience and understanding.

I believe that phrase “I appreciate your patience and understanding” is what set them off, because it seemed like this wasn’t a big deal.

The ultimate consequences was hours and hours of work I did had to be redone (this was an error that my client didn’t catch after spending weeks with the data) and that I was constantly pinging people twice.

And that was spelled out in an email in reply to mine, 8 days ago, as if I didn’t know those things. That felt a bit insulting because I had spent the weekend before feeling terrible about the errors because of those very things listed.

I left the email laying there until last night. I knew I needed to sleep on it when I read it, because I felt like the client emotionally vomited all over me.

You’re to blame, you’re to blame, you’re to blame.

But I knew this wasn’t completely true.

I also knew I didn’t want to work with someone who couldn’t rightly see their own fault in the matter, that they were too busy to be bothered to look over my work, that they wanted me to take on more responsibility than I had been trained to take.

I talked to a friend about what to do, and he wisely advised me not to burn bridges–which I was ready to do.

He gently told me about how football (soccer) coaches will bring on some hotshot player for millions of dollars, but then he doesn’t perform. And then that player is sold to another team for less than what they had originally purchased.

I don’t think I’ve ever screwed up, knowingly or unknowingly, for so long and cost people time and money.

But it’s not unusual. It happens all the time, just like that football example. It just doesn’t happen to me–until this summer. First time for everything, right?

And I had been relying on that income to help as I grow my own writing business.

I then talked to my business coach who told me to not even address all the heated emotions.

She told me to offer a solution which I would be paid to create: a standard operation procedure manual (SOP) for what I had to do.

So going back and forth between my friend and my coach, I came up with a pithy email that was sent at midnight last night. I know it was read, but it hasn’t been responded to.

Whether I get a reply or not,  wheter the I know I did the right thing.

  • I took responsibility for my part.
  • I didn’t reply immediately with a blowtorch email.
  • I consulted wise counsel.
  • I offered a solution.

While writing this post, the client emailed their reply. They said thanks for the offer, they were trying to get a report out which has gone through some changes, but it doesn’t make sense to them at this point.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

iTried.

I haven’t worked with that client going on two weeks, and I feel a lot better. And more writing work has started to trickle in.

I feel supported and I feel at peace.

The growth of accepting when I’m wrong, but consistently wrong–it was such a huge, painful growth spurt for me.

And my identity as some perfect android shattered. I couldn’t get myself out of this mess that I had help in creating. I found the limits to my alleged perfection.

I became human last month. And I’m grateful.

I feel emboldened to ask even more questions than usual.

I feel freed, period. I am free to be fallible, to be imperfect, to not ace it at first try.

I’ve always been the reliable one, the smart one, the strong one, the resilient one.

But this summer, I became pretty ordinary. And the humility was so necessary.

Who can live under such pressure to perform flawlessly every day? I thought I thrived under pressure, but not sorta kinda set up to fail pressure.

At the very least, I learned that although I did gain some pleasure from doing work I used to do years ago, I’m much happier writing and reading astrology and tarot.

It was and is so great to have two people in my life support me, take the flamethrower out of my hands, and give me some options that didn’t involve tearing myself or my client down.

I don’t have to villainize myself into a complete failure. I can forgive myself instead.

So now, I think of my inner child who has gotten so much succor and strength from being “the one,” the star, the leader, the brain, the local Old Faithful. But now, she can finally find her rest and comfort in being her full and fallible self.

She doesn’t had to be it all and do it all for anyone, and especially for herself.

 

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. I blog about things that I don’t post here.

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support!  💘

 

 

 

Ankle-Grabbed

mom pulling me back

A GIF of my adolescence

Usually I’m not this late with my blog post, but I’ve been doing some major “change my life” sort of work (it’s going to be months of this, to basically be better able to get what I want from life).

This week, it required me to dig into my life for my greatest successes and failures.

Even though I don’t want to dwell on this part, I need to state that I do not feel at all successful, at least in the ways I desire to. Some of my successes were about friendships and relationships. One of them was learning how to swim at age 26. One of them should have been that I kept myself from sleeping in my car while I was homeless.

Coming up with a list of failures was harder than I thought it would be, but through examining those failures (losing cars and housing and jobs), I saw a theme underneath of constriction.

It was something I had focused on as a teenager. I had been turned down three times to go travel with my classmates or youth group members. Every rejection from my parents was heartbreaking.  And then it was waiting to go to college. Then I tried to figure out study abroad when I was in the throes of a deep depression.

Although I have since traveled to Montreal and Puerto Rico, my passport remains unstamped, and I only got one in 2014 when I thought I’d be traveling to Vancouver while I was in Seattle.

Going through this process got really painful when I got to my last failure, which was my forced gap year. It may be unfair to call it a failure–it was out of my control. But I recalled talking to the Dean of Admissions who personally called me to ask me where I was.

I remember taking the call in the kitchen, listening to the Dean’s deep and well, sexy, voice, and having to ask for a delay in admission. I don’t remember if I explained that I was living with a crazy paranoid father. But I did remember the shame and heartbreak of that moment. I felt myself shrinking into an abyss that seemed escapable.

But from my most painful “failure,” came my most meaningful success so far. Graduating college took 8 years, door-to-door.

If I could make it through that, I thought, I could make it through anything.

And then I made it through a lot more of “anything.” I’m sitting in the middle of “anything” right now.

It was sobering to remind myself of what I have accomplished as successes and have overcome as “failures.” I was able to reframe the failures, but the past two days of doing this, I feel very emotionally raw and spent. Couple that with being 40 and already feeling a bit underutilized for my talents, unseen, and generally misunderstood, there’s a lot of tenderness that my soul is experiencing right now.

And I honor it completely. I earned the compassion and grace that I’m giving myself.

So as a teenager, and definitely now, I feel like this above GIF. At first it was my parents grabbing my ankle when I was desiring to explore my world. And I will never fully know why.

Trips to New Orleans and Paris were allegedly too expensive, and a missions trip with my youth group and our youth pastor before he moved away–that came at the same time as my mother’s trip back to Ghana. So I was forced to be the lady of the house without much thanks or compensation.

But now it’s…”circumstances.” I’ve probably said this before, but I’m a problem that you could throw money at and I’d be solved. I’m sure many of us feel that way.

This current frustration of constriction could eat me alive if I allowed it to. I have to make my world very small so I can get through the day–fight constriction with constriction! It’s one of the sad side effects of living in the moment.

Tonight, astrologically, and astronomically, we’re going to have a new moon (at 9:57 pm EDT). It’s in enterprising Aries, the zodiac sign who definitely know what “I am” feels like.

my whole life

I am this GIF

This new moon will be in my 4th house of family and home. It’s serendipitous and timely that I am exploring my past and how a lot of it does relate to how my parents held me back for so long, even after I left home.

I’ve been through my therapeutic paces for most of my adult. And I’m grateful that I’m not sitting here stewing in anger. There are the occasional burps of pain, like what I’m experiencing tonight, but I don’t even hold them in contempt…or much of anything at all.

I’m not holding this over my parents anymore, yet I can’t say I’ve forgiven them, either. Forgiving narcissists seems like a waste of energy. I’m not seeking justice from them, though–or anyone, really.

There’s a steely acceptance of my life, which includes not having a family that really supports me, a lack of a local community, and a very tenuous housing situation. All of this I’ve had to embrace over the past 4 years which has pulverized me into a pile of humbled dust.

But what if what is really holding me back is the fear is that my miserable situation, in this unholy house, is permanent?

Is this all there is? Subsistence?

Maybe my family of origin is pretty much set. But what about the rest of my life?

I was watching Beyonce’s Coachella this afternoon and I remembered how much I wanted to go to Coachella and other music festivals in my 20s. I wish I had made my whole life devoted to the enjoyment of music so I could have put all my extra money towards going to those shows.

And I’ve gone to a lot of shows. But I wanted to go to so many more.

I had also wanted to become a doctor for most of my life. That was my obsession. My 30s involved a major course correction of my whole life, which included stopping trying to pick up a stethoscope and picking up the pen.

So now, my whole life seems to be about embracing the numinous, which is wonderful. I actually have no regrets about this development, per se. Spiritually, I feel like it’s miraculous that I ended up here at all, but I am 100% in the right place.

My parents may have been able to curtail my travels, but they weren’t able to stand in the way of my soul growth. Many times, they aided in it, for better and for worse.

So what now?

For this new moon, I want to plant seeds for a new home and family. My life seems to be pointing towards that, even if I have no idea of how I will get there and who will be there waiting for me.

There’s also this urgency to shed these old skins of shame and disappointment, to stand firmly within my truest self, to own all parts of my ragamuffin raconteur’s life.

I am whole.

It’s true–I have missed out on some amazing experiences, especially ones with my friends. And they were denied for the pettiest, most selfish reasons. It’s been a phantom pain I’ve carried for decades, my souvenirs of shame that I’m sure more people don’t even know I have.

There have been so many delays and setbacks for rites of passage that should have been straight shots–all wrapped up in bewilderment and frustration.

Why does everything take so fucking long?

So now, I desperately want to start over, and not carry any of the heartache and suffering I’ve accumulated for the past 40 years.

I moved from Birmingham to Chicago and brought my family issues.

I moved from Chicago to Orlando and brought my community issues.

Wherever I end up next, I don’t want to bring any latent issues.

Instead, I want to bring the gifts I’ve been cultivating my whole life: perseverance, wisdom, kindness, gratitude, curiosity, mirth, wonder, warmth, and an unyielding, penetrating love.

I want my life to be radically different than it’s been.

Uranus is conjunct, or right next to, the moon in Aries tonight, so I am feeling the urgency to be unconventional.

Part of that unconventionality is looking back at the good and the bad and seeing those threads of redemption that have held my seemingly disparate parts together.

So for now, I hold myself in a loose and cool shawl of gratitude. I’ve made it this far and that’s nothing to take for granted.

I have a lot of hope for this week and this year, that I can finally have my little monkey paw released so I can explore the rest of the tree and the rest of this world.

Ah, but still, that nagging fear that I’ll be stuck again…it’s nipping at my heel…and I’m not sure if my fears are founded anymore.

So all I can do is try, and keep trying, until I’m set free.

Here’s a song from Sarah McLachlan that seems to be my anthem for this year and maybe my life. It’s from her latest album, Shine On.

And here is the chorus, which really sums it all up for me.

If this is love beside me
I’m working on forgiveness
Laying the past down behind me
Letting go the ways that I’ve been hurt
Let the rivers rise and rage
I’ll try to stand with grace
If everything is love

As Aries season comes to a close this week, I hope you have been able to find your “I am.”

I hope with this new moon tonight and throughout this week, you can plant seeds of truer self-expression and self-care, that you can also shed your old, withered skins of shame, that you can more fully embrace, with a deep confidence, the fierceness and beauty who you are.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘