Where Does The Striving Go?
Trust? Fuck that! What do I do with the striving?
In recent years my highly structured, fully scheduled life has transformed. Most days it falls under the heading of—freeform flexibility.
And I’ve gotta tell ya, at first that terrified me! Like, monster in the basement, black nipple hair terrified!
Ima girl who likes me a little structure.
Actually, I’ve always been someone who thrived in a highly structured environment. I guess that should come as no surprise since I spent my formative years under my mother’s strict surveillance which was aided and abetted to by the nuns at my Catholic school.
As a child, I was a rule follower. Later, I viewed rules more like suggestions. I would cherry-pick them. I’d adhere to ones I liked—the ones that kept me safe, the ones that kept chaos at bay…and the rest I would break (because they were stupid—and superfluous—duh).
Even now I’m guilty of rolling stops at stop signs, jaywalking, walking my old dog without a leash and driving well over the speed limit; just to name a few. But if you give me a starting and an ending time I arrive early and get everything accomplished within that boundary.
That is a superpower I developed as a child.
And probably just like you, I became a striver.
1. Make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.
2. Struggle or fight vigorously
Check both of those boxes, please!
I would strive to get my work done.
I would strive to be the best.
I would strive to break new ground.
I strove and I strove and all of that striving became (or maybe was always) a part of my DNA.
After my life fell apart in 2009 (long story having to do with an epic urban flood) chaos reigned. My life no longer had any structure. I wasn’t expected anywhere at any time. And the grown-up rules like working hard, buying insurance, and seeming to do everything right—had failed me.
I fell into a funk and lived in smelly, unwashed sweats for months.
Luckily, (thank gawd) my inner striver kicked in. It self-motivated me to treat every day like a job. I got up, showered, did my hair and make-up and attempted to restructure my life. Eventually, I became a writer, and writers, I came to find out, function under mostly self-imposed deadlines.
Writers also rely on inspiration, and as I would slowly learn, striving and inspiration aren’t even in the same zip code. One requires trust, the other, grit, and effort.
You cannot “try” to get a good idea. That’s like “trying” to get turned on. It’s a losing proposition.
I learned that you have to develop flexibility in creativity. Inspiration comes when it’s god damn good and ready to show up and not one second sooner! So, those times when it’s not flowing are great opportunities to clean out your closet, research health insurance, take a walk or read a magazine. Anything but strive.
I felt like I’d gotten pretty good at this the last five years or so (the first nine I sucked). I would even go so far as to say I got so chill that it often made me wonder where on earth my striving went.
I’m not-so-pleased to report that I have found it lurking in the most unlikely of places—my jaw.
So, even though I could easily say that this is the least stressful time of my life—by a long shot—I clench my jaw every night as if my life depended on it. I wake up every morning with jaw pain so severe it feels as if I’ve spent my night with the circus, holding the weight of ten men with only my teeth while spinning upside down thirty feet in the air (while wearing no underwear).
One morning, in meditation, I asked about the source of my jaw pain.
What did you do with all of that striving? Where do you think it went? They answered.
Back to the drawing board! Apparently, old habits die hard and my striving may be out-of-sight but it certainly isn’t out-of-mind. (Cue the dramatic battle music—and the British accent) I must vanquish it completely or suffer the consequences!
What to do? What to do?…Any suggestions?