Friday, March 5, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love. Overeat, Procrastinate, Sleep.

Okay, so this is what I've been avoiding, but I'll write it because I just got a sign: I'm at Panera, and a woman just sat in front of me with a copy of Eat Pray Love. If you're not familiar with it (and even if you are, I guess), it's the memoir of a writer who ditches her current life in favor of discovering what she wants to do next. She writes about her triumphs, her tribulations, her doubts and her happiness. Not surprisingly for an Oprah's book list entry, the book is profoundly personal and very inspirational.

Then there's my story.

I don't say that to be flip or dramatic. It's just occurred to me that I haven't been true to my commitment to this blog. When I started, my intention was to chronicle my full range of emotions and experiences as I explore the big abyss of possibility. I'm really good with the positive stuff: the connections I'm making, the affirmations and such. I'm not so good with the more challenging stuff. There are probably dozens of reasons for that, but the big one for me is that I always feel the need to solve a problem when I bring it up. My take (right or wrong) is that when you complain or raise an issue, you either fix it or don't bring it up again. The irony is that you're at your most human when you're open about your vulnerabilities. I'm not talking about spilling your fears to everyone who says hello to you, and I'm not talking about constantly sharing sob stories. I'm talking about being honest about who you are with the people who care about you.

January and February are always tough months for me. I suffer from seasonal depression. While I've learned some coping mechanisms over the years and do get treatment for it, it can still be a bitch. I'm kinder to myself than I once was, and I'm not beating myself up for cocooning and being unproductive, but the truth is that I don't have a lot going on, and the anxiety is building. While I couldn't remember having a dream for over four months, I've started having them virtually every night for the past two weeks. And the first one was a recurring dream I thought I'd left behind years ago: finding a hungry baby for whom I somehow felt responsible. In the past, that baby was usually pretty quiet, but this time, he/she was crying in the back of a parked car.

Not hard to read into that one, right? There's something inside me that's definitely still hungry and needs to be satisfied. That brings a little more sense to the free-floating anxiety, but it doesn't point in a specific direction.

That's me: always looking for a direction from outside myself. I can talk a good game about wanting to create something new for myself, to run it for myself, to be the boss. I can get people enthusiastic about what I want to do. However, I don't have the charisma to drive them to action on my behalf, or to keep myself motivated and committed. I don't seem to have the drive to get past the fear of failure. Or maybe it's that I lack the commitment gene when it comes to hard work on my own behalf. Maybe I need affirmation. I certainly could use some accountability, but I hesitate to ask for it, probably because of that inability to be seen as something less than a success. It's funny, because my biggest heroes (i.e. Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.) got past the fear and actually embraced failure as a positive and necessary step toward achievement.

Part of it may be that I just haven't found my purpose yet. The historic stuff and tour business is great and a lot of fun, but I'm not convinced it's where I need to be. I think I held onto that as THE answer for so long that I've forgotten to keep looking elsewhere, too.

The odd thing is that while I love writing, I haven't done much of it of late, probably a product of the winter blahs. I forced myself to sign up for a freelance course at NYU, the same one that got cancelled last fall. And a friend sent me a link to a travel site that could potentially pay cash for brief writeups of quirky destinations. Writing a compelling piece in under 250 words is a challenge for me, but something I can do. I just have to do it.

When I'm fair with myself, I do see that I've made some progress:
  • I'm more myself again. I'm back to being the authentic me. People respond to me favorably, and some are even drawn to me.
  • My work at Ellis Island has given me great experience. It's helped me suss out that I am better/more comfortable with larger group tours and would have to work a lot harder to forge my persona as a host to a small group or one-on-one.
  • I'm building a professional relationship that might bear fruit over the long haul. I'm still talking with Mimi the Princeton lady about her business and will even be helping her out with a huge tour she's running in May. She's a good egg and a savvy marketer, and I have no doubt that if we both want it, we'll end up working together in some form or another.
  • And, very importantly, I'm building a strong relationship with the boyfriend. We've had our challenges, and neither of us is anywhere near perfect, but we're both committed to seeing where it goes, and to doing the things that are needed to get there. I'm profoundly grateful for the things that make it possible: the lessons I've learned by trial and error over the years, the patience and the ability to see beyond myself and think of us rather than just me.
That's all good, and I know I haven't been a total slacker over the past six months. All the same, I know I need to be more disciplined and to be tougher on myself while still being kind. That means not beating myself up for not making progress, but still holding myself accountable for doing the things I need to do to make progress.

I'm not alone in this, and it would do me good to get involved with others who are in the same situation, but that also would require me to fess up. I wonder if there's a 12 step program for procrastinators and accountability-phobes?