I was walking with some friends last week and we had to walk over a small patch of large, rounded stones that surrounded a drainage ditch. It reminded me of just a little bit ago when I walked on the shore of Lake Erie – a shore that was made of the same rounded rocks. When I was at the lake I had the unfortunate lack of foresight to bring appropriate footwear. As a result, I was left stumbling along this rocky shoreline, my feet feeling like a dozen… well a dozen really hot, really hard rocks jabbing into my feet. I almost fell more than once during this trial by rock.
So crossing over this ditch was my chance for redemption. This time I was wearing a nice, comfy pair of shoes. It was dusk, so everything was cool, if a bit humid. I crossed over those rocks without the slightest of hesitation, a veritable Mount Everest of accomplishment. Waiting for the slower ones in the group, I turned and saw one of my friends not face this foe with the attention it needed. He stumbled, too, quickly righting himself to the snickers of everyone else.
“Careful,” I had teased, “there are rocks hidden in those rocks”. Not the best joke I had ever made, but it did its job. Soon our friend had joined the pack once again and all was well. His dignity was slowly back on the rise.
The stories share a few similarities. Yes, they both have rocks and, yes, they both involved more pain to our respective egos than physical pain, but that is not what I want to focus on. In both stories, my friend and I stumbled.
I stumbled last week, too.
When I began this blog and portfolio of writing, I began a handful of other things, too. I started actively networking with other indie authors. I started exercising every other day. I started eating nothing but meat and vegetables, completely cutting out carbs and the ecstasy that goes along with eating them. Everything was going extremely well! I was in an amazing place. I refused to listen to the voice in the back of my mind that warned me that I had taken too much on at once. That voice whispered that I had built this beautiful archway of success. The thing about arches is that they are fragile – if one piece is removed, the whole thing comes tumbling down. I shut that voice out. I was too happy to think that it might go away. I refused to believe that failing in one thing would collapse the whole system. I refused to believe that I would fail at all!
But last week was not so good; I slept in too late, the days at work dragged, I had pasta for dinner twice, and I indulged in desserts more than I would like to admit. I missed the first workout in the six weeks I had been doing them almost religiously. I had a fantastic time at a wedding on the weekend – I am not going to torture myself by not having a good time – but when the dust had settled, I realized exactly how much I had fallen off the wagon last week.
And I worried. That voice that was a whisper before had become a thundering roar, deafening in its negativity. It told me that I had failed and that everything in that arch will come crashing down on top of me. What was the point in writing a blog for today? Why bother finishing up the short story for Friday? That manuscript that is gathering virtual dust in your hard drive? Might as well delete it. And don’t even bother with your physical health, all that work is gone now.
Part of me wanted to believe it. A part of me wanted to embrace the self-pity and loathing and just wallow in it all. That would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? The carb-filled foods would be back, no more push-ups or pull-ups or sore muscles. I can return to my writing and thoughts being mine and mine alone, so far away from any kind of criticism that they will develop a vitamin D deficiency.
Then I remembered something: I have been killing it.
I have always loved writing, and being forced to write and edit consistently, to know that people are actually reading my work, has made me beyond happy. I remembered saying to my partner on the weekend, “I can’t stop blogging, I am actually really enjoying it”. And I am! I actually look forward to making blogs and meeting new people, even if it is only virtually. I may prefer eating pasta and cake to chicken and vegetables, and I may not particularly enjoy exercising, but do you know what I do enjoy? Seeing the progress I have made. When I can see myself making a better me, I get excited. When I used the next notch in my belt last week, I almost jumped for joy. And happiness is a drug and I am most definitely an addict.
So to that voice in my head I shout back a resounding No. It is wrong in every way. I will not fail, I refuse to fail. And though I had a bad week, I have not failed. Like when I was walking on those searing, painful rocks on the shore of Lake Erie, I have merely stumbled. But I never fell on those rocks. I never stopped and said that I can’t make it to the blissful cooling touch of the grass. I kept going.
A stumble is not a fall. A stumble is something that we can choose to correct, to stand back up before we land on our face. I stumbled last week, but I am finishing this blog just after finishing my Monday workout. I am choosing to stand back up again.
To that little voice, now barely a sound in my head: Sorry to disappoint.