Yesterday, as I rewrote a chapter in a novel I’ve been working on for a while, I said to myself, “I hate this fucking shit, I’ve been working on it for years, I just want it done right so I can move on to other things!” That thought was loud. The frustration it held wasn’t just spoken, it’s a frustration that had swelled as anxieties for years, swelled so much that it had to amplify itself on the routes of my thoughts. Those words—that thought—came from a gathering of anxieties. Yesterday I decided anxieties should no longer be allowed to linger to gather to place demands upon my thoughts and life.
My body speeds up to position anxieties’ demands into action. The results of actions become modes of resolutions—what we call work, ambition in progress, doing to fulfill dreams. Since dreams ground my life, I understood why anxieties continuously harvested frustration while producing dreams (“success”?). But why should anxiety transformed into frustration transformed into dreams patrol or control or guide the lights of my life? I now wonder. Isn’t peacefulness unsettled if dream fulfillment continues to arrive from anxieties growing and cluttering thoughts and dragging bodies into labor zones where work isn’t about enjoying a process because enjoyment is delayed on the premise that enjoyment will surface when production is completed?
Indeed, I do enjoy writing and laboring on other life goals, but I’m now concerned about what happens when labor cannot meet its many timelines. I’m concerned about how my existing notions about timeline-failures produce anxieties. I’m concerned about how anxieties cluster like muck against my peacefulness. I’m concerned about how the production process’s prioritization of the prize—labor with the eyes on the prize and the determination to reach goals with the eyes on the prize—delays enjoyment and overall personal wellbeing. I’m concerned about how healthiness—enjoyment—living well—is anticipated based upon the assumption that immense pleasure will arrive once goals are finally acquired, once hands hold the prize. For when goals drag out for years, how do I embrace pleasure and inner peace?
See the genealogy of my thoughts:
“I’ll be successful when I grow up.”
I grew up.
“I’ll be successful when I come to America.”
I came to America.
“I’ll be successful when I get a Bachelors.”
I earned a Bachelor’s.
“I’ll be successful when I get a Master’s.”
I earned a Masters.
“I’ll be successful when I get into a Ph.D. program.”
I’m in a Ph.D. program.
“I’ll be successful when I publish a novel—but—but—but when that happens, will I? Will I really feel successful given that I still struggle to acknowledge my successes?”
How do I claim success as time moves, as anticipation lingers, as goals continue to dream as labor continues? I am trying to resolve that question to ensure I can live in life’s moments and live powerfully. My power should no longer be anticipated. Thus, I’ve made a decision: I must live in the moment, my thoughts will begin chant, I’m successful, I have always been successful.
Hopefully, speaking and chanting to myself in this way will disrupt the tradition anxieties used to dominate the languages of my thoughts. If problematic anxieties come from ongoing acknowledgements that my efforts and productions are unsuccessful and need to find success, anxieties will continue to locate roots that destabilize my peacefulness. Therefore, I have to eliminate the roots from which anxieties feed. I set out to do that by nurturing new roots—not roots of longings but roots of acknowledgement. No more, I want to be successful. More, more, I’m successful.