Sucky Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Time for another embarrassing confession.

I can’t say 2017 was entirely wasted.  I did learn a couple of very important things about myself that I’m still working to process.

I already talked about one of them:  The realization that I had spent pretty much the entire year in a state of passive suicidal ideation.  But when trying to work out how to move forward with that knowledge, I hit a road block that I realized is kind of a cornerstone of the big brick shithouse that is my lifetime’s worth of issues.

It’s something that I understand is really quite common, but as you know I am a special one-of-a-kind magical manatee whose issues have never been seen by humanity before, so it was a wild revelation for me.  

Basically:  I don’t know how to suck at things.

Hear me out.  I’m not saying I don’t suck at things.  I suck at plenty. 

I’m saying I never learned how to learn.

When I was a child I was in the “gifted” class.  Even in the higher level and honors courses in public school, I barely had to lift a finger to make As.  My hardest classes in high school, Calculus II and Chemistry, were “impossible” for me because they required occasionally cracking a book.  I sailed through elementary, junior high, and high school like some kind of child genius.

I am not a genius, however, and nowhere was that more apparent than college.

After all those years of being bored and unchallenged in school, I went to a university (on a National Merit Scholarship no less) where my freshman class was literally larger than my entire hometown.  I wasn’t just a little fish in a big pool, I was an ameba.  

And I had NO IDEA how to study.  I knew how to memorize, but I didn’t understand how to assimilate information in a way that would be useful later.  

Combine that with my depression finally having the opportunity to run riot in my brain, and my first real relationship with a boy (which was terrible, but I thought it was my only shot at “love”), and the result was predictable:  I failed.   Things started out okay, but went downhill fast.  The whole experience netted me student loan debt and my first suicidal episodes and not much else.  College was a humiliating experience I vowed not to repeat.    

The takeaway is that after that, I never got any better at being a beginner.  When I’d try something, if it didn’t come easily, I’d just quit.  I was denying myself a very important life lesson:

Sucking is important. 

Sucking is the first step toward awesomeness.  

I never took writing courses because I didn’t want anyone telling me how to write.  I already knew I was good and refused to be told otherwise.  In fact the one time I was told I was terrible, I up and quit writing for several years.  By the time I started again, my years of depression and hard-won emotional maturity helped made up for a lack of practice.  I’ve gotten better over time, but not because I’ve worked specifically to become better; it’s happened organically as I’ve kept writing and matured.  

Another problem:  Nothing pisses me off like being treated like I’m dumb or don’t know what I’m doing.  When I entered the Pagan community I found that’s exactly how people treated “newbie” Witches – like they were cute little idiots who couldn’t possibly know anything Llewellyn didn’t tell them.

As you can imagine I didn’t take well to that.  I was determined to be taken seriously, so much so that when established organizations dismissed me, I told them to fuck off and started my own.  

Meanwhile, I had yet another issue:  Whenever I get into something, I operate on the assumption that I’ll write about it.  Even from my earliest Pagan days I was asking myself, “How would I write about this?  What could I contribute?” 

That’s how I ended up writing a book on creating your own spiritual practice at age 26 – I barely had a practice of my own, but by Goddess I had THINGS TO SAY on the subject.  

At no point did I wonder if I was qualified or experienced enough to do this.  I just assumed – and I still find myself assuming – that if I’m interested in something, I’m going to write about it, and what I write will be useful and meaningful to people.  If I love it, if it matters to me, give me 200 pages and it’ll matter to you too. 

It’s not bullshitting – I honestly care, very intensely, about what I’m writing, and I believe strongly in what I’m saying.  It’s just that I tend to jump over the part where I personally learn to do what I’m writing about.  I want everyone else to know about it; I want them to try out my ideas and hopefully use what works and come up with their own as well.  I want the ideas and information to move through me to where it’s needed.  It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve always wanted to inspire people, whether through fiction or non.  

I wrote The Circle Within in what felt like a state of Divine inspiration; it flowed through my fingers like water and I never questioned it.   I was a conduit above all.  I had so much to share, but I kept none of it for myself.  

I’m laughing at how fakey-noble that statement sounds.  It wasn’t some sense of martyrdom at play so much as impostor syndrome gone bananas.  I’d taught myself to fly without learning to walk, which is all well and good until you need to land.

I have yet to manage to stay vegan for more than six months at a stretch, but I have SO MUCH TO SAY about veganism and spirituality and so many IDEAS…practices and poetry and food for the conscience and soul.  Never mind that I haven’t done any of them; never mind that there’s still something blocking me in my own practice.  I can’t think about that right now, I HAVE THINGS TO WRITE!

*pats herself on the head*  Oh my sweet summer child.

I’ve always considered myself a transformation junkie.  I collect self-help methods and spiritual practices and philosophies and ways to change one’s life the way some people collect comic books or ex-lovers.  Like most people I’ve tried a great many ways to “better” myself, most of which have petered out if they even got off the ground.  But also like most people I just figured that was because I was lazy and self-loathing rather than actually examining what might be keeping me stuck.

There are multiple factors (laziness and self-loathing cannot be fully dismissed), but a significant one is fear of sucking…fear of being a beginner.

Basics are boring.  There’s no glory in gradual.  Step by step just takes so damn long!

But if you ignore that part, if you plunge ahead assuming you know everything, you might inspire others, but what does that leave you, when it’s you alone at the end of the day?

It leaves me with a house built on a hollow foundation of matchsticks, and the only way forward is to burn the whole thing down and rebuild.

At least striking a match is something I know how to do.

 

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