Everything is Bad

Yesterday was one of those days.

Unable to get any traction with my book, I decided to reread the first 100 pages to check the flow, maybe work on taking out the 20 pages of cardboard I know are in there.

My bane tends to be unfocused conversations—when the characters take 3 pages to sort of hint at something, instead of 1 page to actually say something. Well, unfocused conversations and repeated conversations. I found my heroine wandering off to shoot billiards twice with the same person to have fairly similar, team building conversations, and I think my twins must have sat in their upstairs bedroom half a dozen times to powwow.

Foolish children.

I cut out 20 pages no problem, but then I was right back to staring blankly at my draft. So I tinkered with the opening paragraphs for 2 hours.

Yes. 2 hours on less than half a page.

And then it was 4 o’clock, so time to fold the laundry, get in a work out, shower, pull together some dinner (meatloaf, carrots, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. Wintertime comfort), leaving me all evening to feel morose about my lack of progress.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m performance driven.

And I loathe it. I know it makes me miserable, this way of setting standards by clocking my best time EVER and then expecting every day to be similarly triumphant. It’s like dominos set too close together: push over just one and suddenly your whole sense of worth and well-being collapses. Then you fight the feeling of panic by lecturing yourself and demanding better.

The funny thing is that the very attempt to change this behavior is just an extension of the same pattern: I hate being performance driven because it makes me unhappy. I will change my behavior patterns, thereby resolving this unhappiness; I will perform better at not being performance driven.

The irony, it stings.

“You should take a break,” Carl says. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

I say I’m not trying to build Rome, I was aiming for a modest shack in the swamp, but even that’s looking pretty jacked up, and every time it rains the roof leaks and—

“Refill the tank,” he says. “Read some books. Relax.”

EVERYTHING IS BAD, I say.

We both have our phrases of self-deprecating misery when the final straw has been reached. Carl says THE UNIVERSE IS AGAINST ME. Usually when his coat falls off the hanger after a terrible day at work. I say EVERYTHING IS BAD, but it means the same thing.

Just one of those days when you have no answers.

Also known as being human.

When I was really little, I remember devoting a significant amount of my prayer life to asking God to turn me into an animal—preferably a shapeshifter, so I could keep my options open. Now I mostly want to be a super hero. Ideal powers would be laser insight into any situation, regenerating self-esteem, stretchy compassion that could cover any situation, and the ability to turn clay into gold.

Weirdly, these prayers aren’t being answered either.

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3 thoughts on “Everything is Bad

  1. I love how super-hero-esque Carl’s defeatist phrase is. I tell A “Life sucks.” and then I take a deep breath and say (as many times as seems appropriate, say two hundred and five…) “It’s all going to be okay.” Because really, that’s all I need to know after a reasonable amount of downward spiraling…it no longer matters whether I will be a raging success. I just want to know if it will all “be okay.”

    Thank you so much for the card. I keep reading it again. You’re amazing.

  2. I’m performance-driven, too. And I make myself miserable, too. But there is the bright side that being performance-driven means that you can get stuff done without someone else’s telling you to do it. This is a very necessary skill for anyone working on their own, like a writer, for instance. I’m struggling hard with this one because I get really ungodly when I can’t make things happen the way I plan. But I think being performance-driven isn’t all bad, it’s just something that has to be brought under control. I *try* to see the unproductive days as practice sessions from the Lord in bringing my ferocious drive into obedience so I can learn to let go of my plans without losing my joy. I think this is one of the biggest areas for growth in my life right now. In other words, I still really stink at this. In the end, I think that God wants us to be busy, creating, tending, producing. He created us for work even before the fall. But ultimately it is His plan that gets accomplished, not ours. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 6:19).

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