Updated: Jan 3, 2022
When I interviewed Suzanne Kingsbury last week, she said she felt like writing was like falling in love with the boy next door. She’d always felt a pull towards the arts and eventually, she admitted it and allowed herself to follow her heart. Her comment made me ask myself, “what do I keep coming back to over and over? What’s my “boy next door?”
What about you? What’s pulling you towards it time and time again? What’s causing the nagging feeling at the back of your mind? What was your first love, the first time you felt “in the zone?”
When I interviewed Sarah Jones, she told me how she’d loved horses her entire life. She’d wanted to be a vet, but like many college students, her social life took precedence over grades, and she decided to major in something requiring less school and less rigorous grades. Sarah got a job at a desk, a good job, but not a job with animals or horses. Life got busy, and she went to and from work without a lot of thought about fulfillment. She told herself competing in rodeo competitions was good enough. And it was. For a while. Until it wasn’t. Sarah described how she was sitting at her job in the city courthouse and staring at the floor and thinking, “I don’t want to spend the next 20 years doing this.” Spoiler alert if you haven’t listened to her interview. Sarah decided to apply to vet school, or, in the words of Suzanne, to go back and marry the “boy next door.”
I have another friend who always wanted to be a lawyer, but she told me how she applied to law school three times and finally got accepted, but her husband had other plans for their life together, and law school wasn’t part of it, so she declined the acceptance. Eventually, they got a divorce. She’s slowly figuring out who she is and who she wants to be. Suzanne talked about how an injury, life change, or disease can be a portal leading to a new you.
I listened to Martha Beck on a podcast yesterday; she was being interviewed about her new book on integrity. She said when you’re not living a life lined up with your integrity, it’s like being in hell. Your body will revolt. You’ll develop physical symptoms; you’ll feel not well mentally and emotionally. Taking even one step towards your authentic self, making that one call, or sending one email can start you on the path to living with integrity.
What if you don’t know who the boy next door is? Ask your friends and family, they’ll know. Ask your childhood self, she’ll know. You may say you don’t know, but deep down, you do. And he’ll keep knocking on your door until you finally answer.
Mine is writing. I can’t stop doing it. Ever. The words must come out on or I feel emotionally constipated. I wrote poems as soon as I learned to write; the first one was about a squirrel and a nut. Later, when I was 10, I wrote my first novella about twins getting kidnapped (I clearly didn’t think through the plot logistics of a kidnapper taking two ten-year-old girls).
So if you know who your boy next door is, why don’t you follow through? Life gets in the way. Rather, we let life get in the way. We have jobs; we have kids, we have to survive. Suzanne’s advice was to focus on survival first but to make sure there’s enough energy leftover to allow curiosity and wonder to have some space in your life.
I get it; you don’t have time to think about the boy next door. You’re in survival mode; you’re exhausted when you get home from work, you can’t imagine adding one more thing to your plate. It takes you half a vacation to feel like you’re on vacation, then you spend the other half dreading your return to real life. If you’re living this kind of existence with no release hatch, don’t give up. I was talking to a friend who told me she doesn’t even get actual time off from her job because she’s still receiving texts and emails on her day off. When she’s home, she feels overwhelmed by the amount of clutter and chores piled up. She feels like she’s drowning in to-do’s and trapped in her job. She can’t focus on her first love or what she might be interested in because she’s in a constant cortisol state. Suzanne taught us how cortisol shuts down our motivation and creativity.
Is this you?
Slow down. Let’s focus on how you feel. The first step is to notice what you’re feeling. Bring awareness to your feelings and emotions. Like, “I feel anxious about all the work demands.” Where do you notice this in your body? Eventually, you’ll be able to name the emotion and state where you feel it. Anxiety: Belly
You may be thinking, “How is this going to help me be less anxious? I’m drawing more attention to it. Great. Now I know I feel anxious.”
Hang on. The point is to get you out of your head and into your body. To practice noticing. You have to slow down before you can get off the freeway.
This is your first of three homework tasks for the week. Set a reminder on your phone three times a day. Notice.
Notice what brings you joy or what you’re grateful for. Write it down. There’s power in writing something down. Even if you have to sit at your desk and compose an email to yourself
Write yourself a letter from your childhood self. What did she love doing that she misses? Pay attention to what you keep coming back to over and over in your life. What’s pulling you, tugging on you over the years?