They say that each project we undertake has an energy, a soul of its own. A bit like marriage. There is me, there is you, and there is Us.
As I start on this journey, this new project of mine, I can feel the energy bubbling, the ideas flowing effortlessly. I can’t wait to get up each morning to start on the next aspect of it. As I take a walk in the afternoons and have to stop every so often to jot down notes, I delight they are coming fast and furious. It has felt like quite a drought.
Of course, as we all know, there are also those surges of panic, that slight nausea, especially on Monday mornings. We tumble down the rabbit hole of doubt and fear and the voices begin. “This project is short-lived. I’ll give up on it in a week. All those ideas are stupid. I have nothing new to say. No one is interested. I will fail.”
And that gives me pause. Because I find at 59 years of age, with the past few years I’ve had, the concept of failing doesn’t hold nearly as much weight as it used to.
My husband and I used to go camping. Those trips are some of my most cherished memories. I remember the first time he took me camping up to Zaca lake. I had never been camping and he wanted to make it as wonderful an experience as possible. But though he did everything he could, the trip was not without its challenges.
The first part of the trip was lovely. We hiked, went out on a rowboat, cooked over an open fire, and I dropped off to sleep as soon as I hit the sack.
However, I was pregnant. And though he’d brought a bunch of foam and blankets so I would be comfortable, he selected a site that was in the valley of two hills. At about midnight, the wind came up and started howling up and down that valley, rattling the tent as it went. A few times I thought I heard something rustling outside.
Of course, being pregnant, I had to pee at least 5 times during the night. Each time I woke up, I had to find my flashlight, crawl up and out of the cozy sleeping bag, out into the cold windy night, listen for any bears or coyotes, and then find a place I could squat not too far away, but not too close and do my business. Then I’d drip dry, a little shimmy shake, and stumble back into the tent. Eventually, I’d drop off to sleep as the wind buffeted us about, before waking up and doing it all over again.
On one of those outings, as I was squatting in my now familiar spot, I actually looked up at the night sky and caught my breath. It was astonishing. Deep dark blue, with those stars twinkling from a billion miles away. The air smelled so clean, a hint of pine, the last drifts of smoke. As I rose, I could feel the cool air against the curve of my belly, the shivers running along my arms. At that moment, I felt so extremely alive.
The next day, I was cranky and a bit queasy. My eyes were squinty from the long night and all I wanted to do was go home, take a shower, and sleep in my own bed.
I am remembering that trip this morning as I noodle on this new undertaking and the prospect of failure. I come to this conclusion (again). How can I possibly fail? Maybe I don’t finish, give it up after two weeks. Maybe no one buys the book. Maybe no one comes to any of the workshops. Maybe I put it out there and it gets terrible reviews. But that’s about expectations and ego. That is about approval and seeking validity. That is all about what’s ‘out there’ instead of ‘in here.’
When I recall my trip to Zaca Lake, I could call it a failure, or at least, unpleasant.
Life is so much about the journey, not so much about the destination. On any journey, we see what we see, experience what we experience. Sometimes we get bitten by mosquitoes or twist an ankle on the trail. Sometimes we spend sleepless nights on the cold ground, with rocks digging into our shoulder and wake up cranky and irritable.
But sometimes, in the wee hours of the night, we stand out in the middle of a dark night with the stars blazing all around us, feeling the cold wind kissing the new life growing inside of us, and we feel it to our depths. We are alive.
So, come what may, as we step out onto any journey worth taking, there will be good times and bad times. We may rise and we may fall. We may exceed our expectations or find ourselves at a loss. But there will be no doubt about it, we will feel alive.
To your journey!