2016 is off to an interesting start. Challenging, but not bad. It’s the wisdom to see the difference – how difficulty can be a positive thing – that has inspired this blog post, as well as how I view my struggles as a writer.
It’s our first winter in our new house; two Floridians living in a snowy mountain valley in New Hampshire. Although we did our best to prepare and take preventative measures, I had a sneaking suspicion that there would be a few surprises in store for us. Like waking up after a night where the temperature plunged to -11 to find no water running to part of the house.
Obviously, some of the pipes had frozen, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. We still had some running water, unlike a few months ago when the well pump went. Well issues are one of those things that most people can’t fix themselves. One of those expensive homeowner headaches that make you cringe when you hear about it – unless it’s happened to you, in which case you get a knot deep in the pit of your stomach and bile creeps up the back of your throat while your checkbook scurries to hide from the pain.
Frozen pipes don’t have to be a big, scary problem. The question is whether or not the pipes have burst, in which case both a plumber and the checkbook would need to be hunted down. The only issue was that, in order to reach the pipes in question, I’d have to make my way through the somewhat scary basement and worm my way into the absolutely terrifying crawl space. I’ve written about this dungeon under my house before. It’s not a place where one would choose to spend their time.
When we first we moved in, when we thought we had money (before we learned that the house feeds on cash like candy), we were determined to make the basement a friendlier place. We called several specialists who came and took a look to make recommendations and give us an estimate. The issue was that once they saw the place, we could never get them to call us back. And now it was up to me to go in there. Alone.
I didn’t want to do it. As in, can’t I go get my teeth drilled instead? But I didn’t really have a choice. So I womaned up and climbed into the hole, a flashlight in one hand, a hairdryer on an extension cord (my safety line) in the other. And I thawed the pipes, which luckily had not burst. And I saved the day. And I didn’t even get a parade (but I did get a cookie).
The point is, life is filled with things that you don’t want to do.
Speed bumps are meant to slow us down. Traffic keeps us from getting where we want to go as fast as we want to get there. Detours make us take the long way to get where we are going. These aren’t just a part of life – they’re an important part of life. These are our opportunities to learn and grow and build character. And I’ve just learned that instead of fighting against these things, that if I accept them, embrace them and go with them, my life is happier.
Speed bumps slow you down. I had other plans for my day. I intended to finish a short story, make final edits and submit another, and work on edits on my novel in progress. I did none of those things. Instead, I learned to conquer my fear. I learned that tasks done without a struggle are finished quicker. I learned that it doesn’t hurt me to put off what I want to do until another day.
Traffic keeps us from getting where we want to go as fast as we want to get there. I gave myself the goal of a year to write a novel, get an agent, and get a book deal. HA. Double HA. Turns out, the world doesn’t work that way. No amount of hard work and determination are going to get you where you’re going until it’s your time to arrive. The lesson here is to keep trying. If you want something, don’t give up. But don’t make your goal the only thing you can see, either. You’ll get there when it’s time. And you may be an entirely different person by then, because you’ll be who you’re supposed to be when you arrive.
Detours make us take the long way to get where we are going. Inconvenient, yes, but sometimes these detours teach us a new route that we can use. Sometimes we pass unfamiliar territory . We see and learn new things on the way, so that when we finally get to our intended destination, we are better prepared to be there.
I’m one of those people who is always in a rush. There aren’t enough hours in each day. There may not be enough time in life to do and experience everything that I want. I make goals and set timelines and experience frustration when I don’t meet them. But it isn’t failure. It’s the learning process that will help me to be the best me.
What do I want? A career as a novelist with a major publishing house. When do I want it? Now. But later is okay, too.