Some epic journeys start with a stumble.
[aka one writer’s recipe for lemonade]
‘Some epic journeys start with a stumble’ is the tagline for Book 1 in my Rahki Chronicles series and for my author website. It doesn’t just apply to my characters though. If you’ve checked out previous blogs (Failure, Jack), you may already see where this post is going.
My mom shares a particular story from childhood – I’ll report an abbreviated version. She and my dad attended a parents/ teacher conference when I was in third grade. The teacher told them I gave her a death glare whenever she marked an answer wrong on my paper. Even at 7 years old, I was a perfectionist and had a few control issues.
That didn’t change until many years later…and, if I’m brutally honest, it is still a battle for me. It wasn’t until I started training in Aikido over a decade ago that I made improvements. One black belt had to repeatedly tell me it wasn’t about the destination but the journey. I was also told (frequently) – if you fall down seven times, get up eight. Both lessons have many applications ‘on the mats’. There are some aikido techniques we are told take twenty years to even understand. We are also instructed to hit specific points with precision and control from our initial response to an attack through to the pin. I won’t bore non-aikidoka with further details, but if you train please feel free to contact me to discuss.
We’ll just continue the journey of this discussion.
‘Off the mats’, I still struggled to apply my aikido lessons. I like to do things perfectly the first time. I also like for others to do the same. I would research, plan, instruct, and hold to a rigid view of the correct path to achieve my goal. I will also confess that I judged others for how they pursued their goals and their successes/ failures. Have I mentioned that I’m a perfectionist with a few control issues?!
It was never about the journey, only the destination. Success was easily measured as pass or fail. Black or white. Win or lose. Now, not only can I see areas of gray but also a rainbow of colors. Stumbling is no longer cause for embarrassment or shame.
Stumbling is a chance to learn. The lessons may not even help me achieve an immediate goal. However, one of my favorite definitions of learning is a change in behavior. Whenever I learn a lesson, my behavior changes – I change.
This is something I view as a success now. I’m no longer the rigid oak tree uprooted by unexpected winds of change or the howling attack of others. To again channel my aikido, I try to be more like the water than the rock, more like bamboo than oak. I flow, adjust, learn, and grow. Perhaps even more importantly, I find success and control in these choices.
I can’t control the world or others. I will never do everything perfectly the first time. I can relax, breathe, and move. I can stay rooted in my beliefs but still bend. I can move forward despite obstacles in my path. I can also enjoy my life – I can smile, laugh, and dance in the rain and in the sun.
And yes, I know it sounds trite and cliché…but it is still true. It’s the ‘life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ thought process. However, people typically only share the saying and not their lemonade recipe.
Finding our path through life is intensely personal. That’s doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others. In light of that, here’s my own lemonade recipe:
- Get outside and move. As a writer, I’ve solved some of my plot holes when mowing the grass and shoveling snow. Monotonous outdoor activity seems to allow my brain to get beyond the blocks.
- Indulge your feelings. Take this with a grain of salt (in your margarita). It is okay to cry and be angry so allow the feelings. Don’t allow the feelings to become hurtful actions toward yourself or others.
- Separate yourself from the activity/task/ goal. Failing at a sport, contest, training, whatever isn’t a mark against you as a person. Writers are told to ignore reviews for this very reason. However, you can’t always avoid such judgments freely offered in our society. You have to be able to see yourself and the task individually.
- Find some mentors and stalk them. Most writers quickly note that J.K. Rowling received numerous rejections before success. Look for successful people in your field – I’m sure they have stumbled and been knocked down. How did they handle it?
- Play a game/ watch an episode/ read a book. Sometimes, you just need a little escapism, and that’s okay. Unless you are the person disarming the bomb, most of us can take a step back before acting.
The lessons haven’t always been easy. I am glad I’ve learned some options to put things into perspective and still enjoy my life. I do know there are more lessons to learn. I also know some may be painful, and I may get more than a skinned knee when I fall. That’s okay, though. I’m going to keep trying to pick myself up and move forward. I’m going to keep trying to find the goodness and beauty in life and myself as I go.
I hope you too find more beauty, goodness, and enjoyment along your life’s path. So, my friends, how do you make yourself get up that 8th time? What helps you to remember to enjoy the journey? Do you have your own lemonade recipe?