If you ever wonder why it is you do what you do, I just gave you the answer in two words:
My husband said that to me as he and the troupe left this morning for the first real day of powder in Lake Tahoe. “Feel better, honey.”
Which made me wonder exactly how grumpy I looked as they made tracks out the cabin, leaving me here with a full walking boot, a blank page, and my thoughts.
It came to mind that most people, including me, do what we do to “feel better.”
And we don’t just want to feel better, we want to feel better NOW.
Without doing the work.
Growing up, I remember hearing stories about certain supermodels who were browsing a bookstore or surfing the subway when POW! They were “discovered.”
Overnight sensation, instant fame and fortune.
I think many of us have this idea about the American dream. I know I did.
I’ll write a story and someone will discover it and POW! I’ll be a #1 NYT-bestseller.
Those stories are the rare exception, like 1 in a 1,000,000,000 (that’s 1 billion if you’re counting).
The vast majority of us are not the exception.
Steve Jobs was not the exception.
Bill Gates was not the exception.
J.K. Rawling was not the exception.
Stephen King was not the exception.
You think you are?
Instead of doing the work required, we go for the instant feel better fix:
Fall in love
Fall in love with someone else
Upgrade – car, house, job, spouse
Geographics: Move, move, move
If it makes you feel better, I’ve done it all. And it wasn’t until I realized that “feel better” was not going to be an instant fix that the rudder on the Titanic that was my life began to turn.
Running always clears my head and makes me feel better but I can’t run. I can’t surf either. In fact, the past six months I’ve been limping around like an injured gazelle ever since my niece had her birthday at our local trampoline park, Big Air.
Ever the perpetual child, I accompanied my 9-year-old bestie on all the rides. Rode the mechanical bull like a rodeo champ, rang the bell on the climbing wall *DING DING* and accepted the ultimate trampoline double jump challenge from my husband.
Within seconds we were out of sync and wham! I experienced the TFP:
Trampoline Face Plant.
Now, in order to understand how this could happen let’s refer to the physics of the TFP.
According to Canada’s Astrojump, the heavier the person on the trampoline, the longer the springs extend. Trampolines get their bounce in the way that Hooke’s law interacts with Newton’s third law of motion. When you exert force on the springs, causing them to extend, then you have an “equal and opposite reaction” coming from the springs themselves.
Which means when my husband was just lifting off, the springs snapped back with equal the amount of force he exerted just as I was landing.
That force of energy shot up through my arch, tearing the Lisfranc ligament like tissue paper.
Hence, the Trampoline Face Plant.
“It’s an athlete’s injury,” my husband declared proudly.
This little ligament has been a career ender for football players and baseball players alike.
It took 3 months to diagnose, 5 screws and a metal plate to fix, 6 weeks in a cast, followed by 4 weeks in a full walking boot.
It was either that or the future possibility of crippling arthritis and/or a fallen arch.
In other words, pain now or pain later.
So here I sit without the instant fix of endorphins, drinking my joint juice and knowing bit by bit, day by day my foot is healing and growing stronger.
When I finally run again, it’s going to hurt. My foot is going to hurt and my lungs are going to burn from sucking wind.
But I will run again. And I will surf again. And the delayed gratification will be worth it.
FEEL BETTER TAKES WORK
In the meantime, I’m carving this white space on the page instead of up on the mountain.
Not that I could keep up with this troupe anyway, hell no.
Thanks to my husband, I’ve found myself hanging with an elite group of athletes who defy conventional boundaries in pretty much every area of their lives.
Today they’re taking the lift to the top of Squaw and hiking up back country to board down virgin territory.
These folks are the dream makers and the risk takers which is why none of us live in a house with weeds choking out the flowers and satellite TV choking out our thoughts.
When we gather at the end of the day, it’s like a Tahoe Think Tank. I generally sit with big eyes and listen to the banter of brilliant wit. Last night, I received an impromptu lecture from one of the guys that disrupted my sleep as much as my stomach.
It was the “When are you gonna take yourself seriously as a writer? Cuz I ain’t seeing it” speech.
You know, the one we give ourselves. But people don’t usually talk to me like I talk to myself.
And I felt my face turn hot and my stomach tighten and the defiant little girl in me stamped her foot and said, “Who the fuck are you to say that to me?!”
But I know who he is. He was a multi-millionaire before he was out of college and to date he’s worked as a consultant with the smartest guys in the room at Amazon, Google and top Hollywood agency CAA.
And he’s a friend.
So I listened.
It didn’t feel good.
Which is why this morning my husband said, “Feel better.”
The only reason it didn’t feel good is because there was truth in what he said. It wouldn’t have hit me the way it did otherwise.
So I thought about how I was going to feel better without a shot of tequila, a box of frozen Junior Mints or cheering on trailer park bitches on Jerry Springer.
And the only conclusion I came away with is an equation that weighs words against action.
What does taking myself seriously as a writer look like?
And I realized it looks exactly like this.
Sitting in a winter cabin alone with my laptop and a little 90s STP while everyone else is out playing in the snow (bastards).
There will always be more I could be doing.
More, more, more is the basis of our society after all.
But more isn’t always better, especially when it comes to art and Tequila shots.
Artists, more than anyone, must balance reality with creativity, business with art and
self-doubt with faith.
Today, I showed up on the page. It was enough.
And just for having the guts to do that, I feel better.