I was drawn down the rabbit hole of the internet after getting up with my baby for a night-time feeding and coming back to bed to discover a very loudly snoring husband. A very cute and loving husband, but very loud none the less. Since sleeping was no longer an option, I thought I'd take a peek into my friends' lives and pretty soon I stumbled upon a blog belonging to Marico Fayre with this quote by Jack Gilbert: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” And it hit me like a frying pan over the head - in a good, maybe-a-mild-concussion-is-the-only-way-to-snap-out-of-this kind of way.
Recently I've been questioning everything. Which I think can be a wonderful practice. I watch my two and a half year old niece say "why mummy? why mummy?" to pretty much everything my sister tells her. Which makes me grin. I love the spirit of curiosity and the I-totally-want-to-know-more-about-everything-so-I-can-understand-the-universe why.
And I'm a big advocate of the what-am-I-doing-with-my-life why...exploring why we are doing all the things we fill up our days with and whether these things feel like they are serving us, whether they are helping us live the kinds of lives we want to live.
But then there is the insidious why should-I-even-bother why...This is the one that's been lurking in my brain far too much these past few weeks. Why should I even attempt it - someone else could do it better. Why should I try - no one is going to notice. Why should I spend all my time working on this - it's not even going to come out well and I'm never going to finish. Why should I even start when I know it's not going to work out...
I've been wrestling and wrangling with these thoughts. Telling them to take a hike, which they do, but it's more like a short walk rather than an Appalachian trail kind of hike that would give me 3 months of peace. I've tried befriending these thoughts...reaching out to them with my understanding and empathy...Hello, negative thoughts holding me back - can't we be friends? Or at least agree to disagree? I'll take your points into account and maybe we can find a middle road...I was exploring the possibility of giving them up for adoption when I came across that one line and everything changed in an instant.
"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly."
Normally we are taught the opposite - if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Put your whole heart into it. Make it perfect, or at least as close as you can get. I suddenly realized that these ideals were paralyzing me instead of inspiring me to do my best. Perfect just feels impossible - as soon as I finish one single project, I grow and improve and suddenly my older work seems even less perfect. Or I read something else online and engage in the hideous, un-admittable act of comparison. Doing it right just feels so far away, like I'll never reach it. As for putting my whole heart into it, my whole heart can't go into any one thing I create, partly because I want to create many things, but mostly because I have this sweet little baby who takes up a large amount of that heart space. And rightly so - I want to give her everything I have to give.
Which leaves me feeling like this writing dream is only going to happen in the small amounts of extra time I have, potentially growing at a very slow rate, and it's not going to be perfect or maybe even decently half good. Ouch. That hurts to write that sentence. So why even bother?
Marico's blog had an answer for me in the form of another quote...
“In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy."
~ Ted Orland and David Bayles, Art & Fear
Not following my heart's calling into this crazy tangle of unknown, of potential disappointment and frustration, of failure and risk, of sleepless nights, of saying who knows if this is any good but here's my truth today...of at least cracking open the door and letting a little bit of the real me spill out into the world...I can't not do it. I think I'd shrivel up and wither away to nothing. I'd rather wrestle in the mud with my thoughts, I'd rather take the long hike with them, even if we disagree the whole time and the conversation is horrible. Even if what I write is complete rubbish and no one reads it, I still need to do it, just to feel alive.
So maybe it's not always about convincing ourselves that it's all going to work out, that we need to be brave and believe we can succeed - maybe we just do it anyway because we have to...because the option of not doing it just isn't an option. I'd rather take this dream and live it out, do it even if I muck it all up and do it badly. At least at the end of my life I've done something, I've let the world see me. I've shared what I have to give. I've said yes to the adventure. And who knows what I'll learn in the process - I might even be able to have a bit of fun.