My friend Bonnie emailed me at work, “I am re-listening to “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), and the Universe just shouted to me to make sure you knew about this book.” I thanked her for the recommendation knowing that my reading time is pretty limited, and that I probably wouldn’t add it to my already full list. Two days later, the book showed up at my desk. When I saw her, I thanked her for the book and she told me that for some reason the Universe was really urging her to give it to me. That got my attention. Up to the top of my list it went, and I started reading it this week.
I’m in the process of getting off my ass to start writing with some goal in mind. It’s not easy. My tendency is to just enjoy where I am and not push myself to do something that may or may not lead to some kind of failure – or, even worse – success. My high school English teacher is not so gently nudging me to get started, and now this book shows up. Ms. Gilbert writes about creativity and the magic that brings us creative ideas. She says ideas are wandering around all the time looking for someone to take them and create something. We can say no, but the idea will find someone else more willing to play. And more ideas will come our way until one day we decide to jump on one…. or not.
A card I drew in the coffee shop today…. maybe the best case scenario is the prayer.
I feel like I’m in an in-between place. I know that I’m ready for something new, but I’m not yet feeling sure what that is. Could I be meant to write a book? Short stories seem nice and doable. What if I go on an adventure and teach overseas or drive an RV around the country doing odd jobs? Maybe I’ll stay where I am and start teaching The Artists’ Way or lead a writing group? I’ve always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Maybe there’s a long walk in my future. I just feel confused about the next step, but I know that I’m not in my final destination. I know enough to know that when the time is right, I will be compelled to act. I just have to get fear off my back long enough to say “yes”.
I had my monthly facial scheduled for this morning. This spa here in St. Joseph is my happy place. I love Kelly, my aesthetician and the manager of the spa. She makes me feel like I’m the most special client they have, and I always leave feeling better than when I arrived. This morning, I had the place to myself. They waited on me hand and foot, and I hung around for about 3 hours, ordering lunch from the restaurant, chatting with Kelly and reading in the relaxation room.
Kelly and I talked about anxiety. I told her that I had this tendency to worry about the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario rarely ever happens. It’s usually something in-between or something I totally didn’t expect to happen. She asked me what I could do when I start going down that path of no return. Hmmmm … I thought about it. “What if I made myself think about the best possible scenario along with the one I’m worried about?” I said. “What if when I start worrying, I made myself write down the best case scenario. Then I have two scenarios that are possibilities.” That thought made me smile.
Imagining the worst case scenario….
What keeps me from starting a writing project is a fear of not being good enough. What if I spend a lot of time learning and writing and interviewing people and marketing something, and I just end up wasting years of my life on something meaningless? That scenario tramples on my confidence. Not only would that make me feel bad about myself, but it would be embarrassing, and I will have wasted some of the few short years I have left to work. The worst case scenario – now that I have it out in the open – is laughable. Learning is never a waste of time, and what if I live to be 100? I’d have plenty of time for 3 more careers! And if I died next week, how much time would I waste anyway?
The best case scenario would be that I begin a writing project, and I actually enjoy it. I get consumed with the process, and I realize that I was born to write. I spend lots of time writing and meeting new people and gathering information. In my journey, I run across some other writers who love the project idea so much that they refer me to an editor, and I get a book published. It’s a bestseller, and I spend the next 10 years teaching and writing and loving my life. I look back and wonder why I never started that sooner but I realize happily that it all turned out perfectly.
Or, what if I decide to start writing articles, and I actually have a knack for it. My childhood dream was to be a journalist, and I kick myself every day for not doing it. I’d be at the height of my career now. So what if I start a freelance writing career, and I can work where I want. I take off with my menagerie and travel the country writing articles for publications all over the country. I never even think about retiring because I love my work and my life. I build a community of like-minded travelers who are all following their dreams, too. Oh yeah, and I get to live in beautiful places where I can take my morning coffee onto a mountaintop every … damn … day.
The “best case scenario” feels like a prayer. The worst case scenario rarely ever comes true, and maybe the best case won’t either. But it certainly expands my thinking much more than my depression does. Maybe Gilbert is right. I have the choice to jump on this idea or not. But I have to let the Universe know that I’m open to listening to ideas that might scare me. I suppose it’s okay to be scared. I just don’t want to say “no” until I actually mean “no”.
What scares you? What would be the best case scenario instead of the worst that keeps running through your mind? What if the best case scenario is your future, and you are wasting time running from it? What step could you take to say “yes”?