Let Your Frustration Be Your Fuel
I want to tell you a true story. As the manager of the content and community pieces for Stratejoy, I’ve known for weeks (months!) that on this day, I’d publish my own essay and begin what will become a monthly series of real talk from my desk to yours.
Yet, the truth of this is that what I was writing felt a little too enthusiastic and a little too forced and I knew that there was a reason I wasn’t feeling it. The process or the piece I had written, that is.
Because it didn’t touch upon what’s been going on in my head space and heart space; the stuff that I most want to share with you here.
So, yesterday evening at 7 pm, I decided that I wanted to tell you, my people, what is really going on in my world.
And I deleted the 1,200 words I had so carefully written and edited to begin again with what feels more urgent.
I’m having a moment a moment of deep frustration with myself.
Here’s the deal: I’m undoubtedly right in the heart of a Year of Growth. Molly describes the Cycle of Years very clearly and where I’m at now couldn’t be more in sync with the description of Growth.
Coming off of Unrest (2014) and Destruction (2015) set me up for what I know deep down is going to be a year of building and finding the rhythm that complements my big dreams and goals for myself.
This is the year that my little budding business fully supports my lifestyle, I complete a triathlon (!), embrace my amazing coastal home, and fall into a cycle of loving communication, openness and playfulnesswith my partner, among other things. Big, I’ve-dreamt-of-this-for-a-long-time type of things that are actually happening to me.
But where Molly and I seem to differ in our feelings about the Cycle of Years is that I am not yet loving my year of growth.
I do find hope and optimism in it all. I am inspired and I am confident about this rebuilding process. My life is starting to truly feel like my own, yes.
Lately, I’m anxiously frustrated with the process. I’m feeling lost, confused and paralyzed. As I inch closer to my best self, I’m comparing her to my current self and feeling disheartened sometimes at the ache of not quite being able to embody her just yet.
Stretching and learning and growing is painful and frustrating.
It can even be debilitating, I’m finding. I’ve never experienced more physical stress and anxiety than over the last few months. If I’m being honest, it’s been moments of waking startled in the middle of the night, finding my heart racing during the day and tear-soaked conversations with friends over (too much) wine.
In a way, it feels as if I’m letting go of my former self. Although I know that it’s all happening in order for me to step into my future self, it has been a weird and uncomfortable place to be.
Maybe you’ve been there. If you’re like me, you know you’re on the right track, you know you’re evolving and growing and moving towards that teeny light you can see at the end of the tunnel, but you also aren’t loving the journey.
Your current self can so clearly see your best self but you’re just not quite there yet and it’s making you a little nuts.
You’re desperately holding onto the old you out of a sense of uncertainty. You’re scared of the improved but unfamiliar you that you’re about to meet.
At least that’s where I’m at.
And for me, it’s felt like a lot of pressure. Sometimes, the pressure manifests itself as crippling anxiety and leads me to hide under a blanket in the middle of the day with the curtains drawn. Or eat 400 chicken fingers. Or binge watch How To Get Away With Murder. Or all of the above.
It is painful, this growth thing.
Oh yeah – there’s even a name for it: growing pains.
As I consider how I’m going to work through all of this and snap out of this funk, I’m remembering a specific moment in time last summer when my current self met my best self for maybe the first time.
I was on a cycling trip through Provence, celebrating a milestone birthday with my boyfriend. The trip of a lifetime. We were four days into the cycling tour and on this particular day, the itinerary called for a monster climb up the majestic Gorges de la Nesque.
Mind you, I’m an amateur cyclist. In decent shape, sure, but four days of riding had my crotch burning and my legs maxed out. My mental reserves were low as I started the ride and looked up to see the jaw-dropping feat that I’d have to accomplish to get to the top.
In that moment, my current self wanted to fake an injury, call the support van and hitch a ride to the top to meet the rest of the riders. But it was then that my best self showed up and bitch slapped my current self.
“Get your ass up this fucking hill. There’s a killer view and then the rest of the day you’ll be coasting down with the wind to your back.”
Remembering what a fellow cyclist had said about climbing, I began adjusting my breathing so that my (exhausted) lungs could take in more air. In, in, out. In, in out.
I focused on the feeling in my feet each time it sunk to the bottom of the pedal.
And I envisioned tasting that peach iced tea that I knew was waiting for me in a cooler at the top. Ice cold, baby.
Knowing that I wouldn’t get to the top unless I just kept going one pedal at a time, through the pain. Knowing that I wouldn’t get to where I wanted to be, with that sense of accomplishment and relief, without staying in motion, one breath at a time, through the pain.
That’s how I did it.
The climb of a lifetime, one miserable breath at a time.
The photo that accompanies this essay is me making the final push up, taken by my proud boyfriend who was waiting for me at the crest. I think I’m actually smiling.
So isn’t that life, really? Working one day at a time, and sometimes even one breath at a time to get our asses up this fucking hill that is called growth, one (sometimes) painful step at time?
(And, isn’t there a Miley Cyrus song about this?)
It really doesn’t all have to be amazing and exciting. It can really suck but we can do things that suck. We can find ways to work through the parts that suck. We can stay in motion with our tiny sparks still lit.
Just like on my epic mountain ride, the actions that can fuel me through this frustration to the other side are simple.
Like going to bed early and making time for a walk in the sunshine every day.
Like taking the time to write down my feelings or cry in the bathtub.
Like allowing myself the afternoon nap when I need it and the power-through-late-night editing session when I need it.
Like acknowledging the fear I have of my own power and sitting with the scary feeling that maybe I can actually have everything I ever wanted.
Specific actions that keep my fire lit through this time of growing pain.
Today, I’m inviting my frustration to propel me rather than to squelch my desires, excitement and confidence for what’s to come.
Turning my confusion into curiosity and inviting my current self to lovingly follow the lead of my best self with grace and understanding that it doesn’t all have to be lovely and thrilling as I grow.
Plugging away and believing in myself and my own process. And when I meet my best self, soon, allowing myself to feel the payoff of years of hard work and personal development.
My best self is giving my current self a swift bitch slap to the face and saying, “Dee, get your ass up this fucking hill. The views are killer and then you can coast for a while with the wind at your back.”
In, in, out.